Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) has said that importers are finding it tough to pay freight charges on their cargoes as the approved foreign exchange had been limited to $5,000 for 30 days. It noted that the restrictions on foreign exchange would affect imports into the country this year. Also, the association explained that the restrictions would be counterproductive, saying that a lot of manufacturing companies would be grossly affected by the policy. President of the association, Rev. Jonathan Nicole, urged the port economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), to be more pro-active in curtailing and eliminating the causes of maritime backwardness in the country. Nicole said that importers were expecting a more conducive trade environment in 2022. He noted that the restrictions on foreign exchange would be counterproductive as many industries would be grossly affected by the policy.
Nicole said: “Freight above $5,000 will be held up until freight charges have been fully prepaid upfront. Goods will attract storage charges abroad for as long as the freight is pending and this type of restriction is counterproductive. “However, it is encouraging that President Buhari promised to provide foreign exchange for industries and manufactures in 2022 because of the importance of local production of essential materials and for exports.” The president explained that the other major challenge was that 82 per cent of the country’s agro-allied products were either seized or rejected by the Eupean Union countries. According to him, this has grossly affected farmers directly or indirectly as there was no export proceeds from the receivers abroad. Nicole noted that some of the goods were illegally exported without certification of government agencies. He stressed that to have a good trading environment, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)’s Customs and Excise management Act (CEMA) should be amended to meet the current realities in the World Trade Agreements.
Nicole urged shipping lines and terminal operators to induce development of the maritime systems and not just increasing costs as a major target. Also, he urged freight forwarders to be closer to cargo owners who provide them with jobs rather than becoming spies to government agencies in the name of getting rich quick. “We expect reduction of cost of doing business in Nigeria and encourage entrepreneurship through direct investments from proceeds from our imports. “The security of our waterways must be guaranteed. Fishing vessels should be protected to enable Nigerians supply fish into our various markets. This is local content. “The Gulf of Guinea has to be protected from invading pirates. Nigeria waters should be safe enough for ourselves as stakeholders in Nigeria. “We do not want anyone or group of people to take laws into their hands in the guise of compliance to ravage the sector in 2022,” he said.