Customs agents and freight forwarders on Friday July,11th 2014 shut down the cargo terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, over alleged arbitrary charges by foreign airlines.
This came a few days after the Customs agents and freight forwarders had staged series of protests to express their grievances over the alleged illegal charges.
The agents, it was learnt, had vowed not to resume operations at the terminal until foreign airlines and their representatives stopped the collection of the charges.
However, the Nigerian Customs Service and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority have intervened in the matter with a view to resolving it soon.
A member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent, Lagos Airport Chapter, Mr. Alloysious Igwe, who confirmed this, however, said the cargo terminal would remain shut until the foreign airlines and their cargo agents withdrew the controversial charges.
He explained that the arbitrary charges recently introduced by the airlines were not consistent with the standard operating procedures of cargo operations at the airport.
He said, “We were very surprised that these foreign airlines had introduced arbitrary charges for importers, which we feel is very illegal. We insist that the airlines must explain the rationale for collecting such illegal money.
“But at the moment, the NCAA and the Nigerian Customs Service are intervening to resolve the matter. The Acting Director-General, NCAA, Mr. Benedict Adeyileka, has called for an urgent meeting with the affected parties to resolve the feud.”
A leader of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Lagos Airport Chapter, Mr. Segun Musa, said the arbitrary charges had added to the high cost of doing business, which he said was becoming alarming.
He said the association would seek legal redress and force the airlines to refund the charges they illegally collected over time from importers.
While calling on the Federal Government to intervene in order to resolve the matter, he insisted that the arbitrary charges must be scrapped.
The President, Association of Foreign Airlines in Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma, however, said the licensed agents and freight forwarders were complaining over an issue that they had no jurisdiction, adding that cargo importers directly affected by the charges were not complaining.
Nwokoma, who faulted the allegations by the licensed agents and freight forwarders, pointed out that various airlines had pricing policies.
He denied allegations by the agents that the NCAA had written a letter to the airlines stopping them from collecting the new charges.
He said the airlines and the handling companies were ready for work, despite the agents’ refusal to show up for payment to process cargoes at the terminal.
He also alleged that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria had benefitted from some of the charges paid by the importers.