COVID-19 LOCKDOWN: APPFLON ACCUSES NAHCO & SAHCOL OF INDIRECTLY AIDING SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS
By Mcanthony Onuoha :
African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), has accused Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) and Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc of indirectly aiding spread of Covid-19, by making callous demand for storage charges for the period of compulsory lockdown ordered by the Federal Government, as one of the prime measures to curb spread of Covid-19 in the country.
On Wednesday the 6th of May, 2020, Freight Agents took to the streets in their numbers protesting against the decision of the cargo handling companies describing it as a high level of insensitivity.
The Federal Government had earlier directed that airport operations be halted completely as a measure to curtail the spread of the pandemic in the country, but contrary to the instruction that kept agents away from clearing operations at the cargo section of the Lagos Airport, these two companies went ahead with their normal operations ; and to the amazement of everyone,they came out with the decision to collect storage charges for the very period of lockdown.
In a press conference in Lagos recently,the National President of APPFLON,Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, lambasted the two companies for non compliance with the Federal Government order for their selfish reasons, saying that their decision succeeded in sparking off avoidable protest that resulted to the assemblage of weird crowd of protesters thereby violating the social distancing order which is one of the prioritized measures of curbing the spread of the virus.
He went ahead to say that the protest wouldn’t have been considered in the first place had it been the cargo handling companies did not come up with such callous decision. He went further to accuse NAHCO and SAHCOL of creating artificial monopoly in cargo handling business thereby making cargo clearing business very difficult for agents, adding that for the fact that agents have no other choice than to patronize either of the two companies, now made them to hinge on that to punish them at their whims and caprices.
The National President of APPFLON hinted the press on the measures his Association has taken so far to draw the attention of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC), being the Nation’s Ports Economic Regulator, and Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), to this lingering issue, he vehemently kicked against such exploitation saying that the rash decision taken by the duo will not stand, insisting that agents are not supposed to pay such imposed rents.
However, APPFLON advised the handling companies to work out a rebate with Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), by tendering a proof of the consignments they gave waivers to in order to get similar compensation that will be given to shipping companies and Terminal operators at sea port by the Federal Government for same waiver from Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
He pointed out that since President Buhari’s directive suspending airport operations, there has not been any other circular or statement directing airports to reopen. questioning the possibility of freight forwarders to have gone for the clearing of these cargoes, without such instructions.
Above all, APFFLON on behalf of all freight forwarders beckoned on the Federal Government, the Minister Of Aviation, Minister of Transportation, and concerned stakeholders to urgently intervene and save Nigerians from being exploited by the duo ( SAHCOL and NAHCO).