By Steve Agbota
Freight forwarders under the aegis of the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) have cried out to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly over the persistent Customs server failure being experienced at the various Customs commands.
APFFLON in a statement signed by its President, Frank Ogunojemite, said the protracted server failure, which has lingered for a couple of weeks, has added to the hardships freight forwarders and their importers are currently going through at the nation’s ports to clear their goods.
Ogunojemite urged the Federal Government to either sack the Nigeria Customs internet service provider, Webb Fontaine for gross incompetence and for jeopardizing its policy on Ease of Doing Business or urgently engage another service provider so as to bring to an end the national embarrassment.
“Recall that this same problem occurred some time ago prompting mass protestations against Messrs Webb Fontaine as freight forwarders accused them of incompetence and called for revocation of their contract as the Nigeria Customs Internet Service Provider.
“During that same period, the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria -APFFLON threatened to file a lawsuit against the duo of Nigeria Customs Service and Messrs Webb Fontaine if nothing was done urgently to ameliorate the situation.
“Today, with the total shutdown of the Customs server for over a week now, clearing agents and their importers have been trying so hard to stay in business coupled with the 90% increase in Customs duty which has brought the industry and by extension, the national economy to its knees,” he said.
According to him, despite the server breakdown, shipping companies and terminal operators will still insist on collecting their charges without considering the unfortunate situation.
“It is high time we called upon the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shipper’s Council (NSC), Chairman, CRFFN and Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to rise up and address this unpalatable situation. And we continue to ask, why is such a case peculiar to Nigeria? Stakeholders must come together to address this issue once and for all as we suggest that the Federal Government engages another internet service provider to backup Messrs Webb Fountain to guarantee consistency.
“As a matter of urgency, APFFLON is calling upon the Chairman, Governing Board of Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria -CRFFN, Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni, to meet with relevant stakeholders and deliberate on this issue so as to forestall possible breakdown of law and order in the industry. Enough is enough, we can’t continue folding our hands while Messrs Webb Fontaine keeps sabotaging our national economy, something urgent needs to be done.
“We hereby appeal to all the associations in this very profession to officially notify shipping companies and terminal operators of the appalling situation therein appealing for waiver for all members.
“APFFLON is using this opportunity to plead to all shipping companies and terminal owners to look into the current situation and use their good offices to grant waivers to importers and their agents so as to reduce the heavy financial burden being hauled on them due to Customs server breakdown.
“And to professional colleagues and leaders, you are thereby expected to play a professional role by informing your importers about the current situation, they need to be carried along to avoid misinformation from wrong quarters,” he pleaded.
He said for the overall interest of the nation, the presidency and the National Assembly should make haste to address this avoidable economic sabotage.