At last, the protracted strike that was embarked upon by truck drivers and which has paralyzed movement of cargoes out of the port for about eight days has finally been called off at the intervention of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
A closed down meeting summoned by Barrister Hassan Bello of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council held at the Council’s head office in Apapa and attended by the Nigerian Ports Authority, Shippers’ council, Nigerian Navy and leaders of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO) and others succeeded at bringing the striking drivers back to work.
Also in attendance was the Commander, NNS Beecroft, Commander Okon Eyo and NPA’s General Manager, Marine and Operations, Mr. Joshua Asanga.
Confirming the resolution of the strike to National Daily correspondent, after the meeting, the Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello said the truckers have agreed to call off the strike action, stressing that the truckers’ grievances were being look into and that the Navy which had earlier withdrawn its personnel from traffic control into and out of Apapa has also agreed to rescind the decision.
The chairman of AMARTO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi while confirming to National Daily, the resolution of the strike, said the meeting was initiated by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the Economic Regulator of the ports.
However, he could not give the details of the outcome of the meeting as the meeting was still in progress when he sneaked out of the venue of the meeting to speak to the press.
He confirmed that another meeting was already initiated by the chairman of Dry Cargo Section of NARTO, Alhaji Abdul Inuwa and that those who attended the meeting agreed to call off the strike.
He also confirmed that both the Shippers’ Council and the NPA have promised to address their grievances.
However, while the peace meeting was in progress, Licensed Customs Agents and all the Freight Forwarders also threatened to stop paying Customs duties and other charges to terminal operators and shipping companies on account of the strike.
However, when National Daily contacted some of the Customs agents, some of which spoke under anonymity, said it was wrong for Customs to keep collecting duty while demurrage and vent kept accruing for agents and importers to pay.
Expatiating further, a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) called for mutual understanding between terminal operators and the need to waive some demurrage being incurred by them, stressing that “that have given sufficient notice for NPA to address the situation and the alleged extortion.”
He declared that “Government is collecting duty and that is why they don’t want to intervene and we are the cause of it, if we stop paying duty for two weeks and no money is going anywhere, they will seat up.”
The Deputy Comptroller in-charge of Administration at Apapa Customs Command, Igbita J.B noted that though customs is working presently, but that if care is not taken, the strike might lead to a major port congestion.
In another development, another licensed Customs agents warned that if not promptly brought under control, the strike action might affect all operations in the port as it might end up in total congestion in the port even though as the Customs Service continues to collect their revenue and the terminal operations are dropping their containers for examinations and ready for the delivery of their cargoes.
He finally warned that if not swiftly resolved, the congestion is already building up to port congestion because there is no space to put the containers.