NAGAFF faulted for demanding return of SON to port

Matthew Otoijagha

The Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) has condemned the call by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), urging the Federal government to return the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to the seaports.

Founder of NAGAFF, Boniface Aniebonam, had last week in Lagos called for the return of SON to the seaports to ostensibly to curtail the importation of substandard goods into the country.

Aniebonam argued that the presence of SON was more important than that of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which lays claim on unverified Federal Government directive to return to the nation’s seaports.

But speaking in a chat in Lagos, the President of SALS, Jonathan Nicol, said it was unfortunate that freight forwarding associations that were supposed to protect shippers are the ones calling for the return of SON to the ports.

He said, “We don’t want that kind of advocacy in the system. We expect freight forwarders to protect shippers, not for them to advocate for Standards Organization of Nigeria to come to the port because SON has all the mechanism to stop substandard products from abroad and they should do so.

‘‘We don’t know what they left behind that they did not take when they were leaving the port. So we expect freight forwarders to protect shippers and if we are not getting that from them, it is unfortunate.

“The executive committee of shippers’ association was so surprised to hear NAGAFF come out emphatically to change government policy all because of interest. We don’t want that. If they feel they don’t want to work with shippers, we will understand, but not to create more problems for us.

“We cannot be fighting for reduction of cost of doing business and some group is saying SON should come. Whether they come in or not, we are still paying them their charges, so we don’t see any need for such a call.”

Nicol said that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), being the lead agency in the port, is well equipped to handle the functions of SON. “The Nigeria Customs Service has all the facilities to stem down whatever you call infraction or substandard products. More so they are the ones to call on SON to check the products when required.

“Already, the government has taken a decision about that, and that certain agencies are no longer required at the port and SON is one of them. So I think we should respect government for that,” he said.

At various times over the past two decades, the Federal Government had sacked NAFDAC, SON and some other agencies from the port as a way of enhancing efficient cargo clearance. The officials of the agencies have been accused of corruption and of being clogs to the wheel of progress at the port.

However, each time they were sacked, the agencies lobbied their way back into the port under the guise of fighting the importation of substandard and dangerous goods. The latest sack was announced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on June 7, 2017.

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