The Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) has demanded that compensation be paid to shippers who lost their cargoes worth over five hundred million naira in the March 6, 2021 Barge accident in Lagos, where several loaded containers slipped off the barge into the water.
Speaking on the issue, President of SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, blamed the sector’s regulatory agencies for not showing adequate commitment to the operations of barges, as he noted that some of the barges were not meant for operations they were engaged in.
He said: “Compensation has to be paid for the inaction of the agencies involved.
“We expected the maritime government agencies to accept that there is a problem. Over #500,000,000.00 worth of cargo is lost.
“Some of the barges on our waters were not built to handle containers. Those barges were used for bunkering purposes in those days! So, they do not have facilities to strap containers incase of high tides during local voyages, and apply the balancing process during offloading. These are issues that the regulators should have corrected before licensing.
“Certain positions attract grave responsibilities. In a sane situation, the regulators should have shown enough concerns over the avoidable loses to those concerned.”
Nicol expressed further concerns, saying “Our fear is that this accident may not be the last. How long are we going to pass through uncertainties? This is just one of the many accidents we encounter almost every month.
“Shippers are choked by the prevailing port system, bad roads across the country and can no longer fold hands and watch a continuous loss of investment and heightened extortions in the system.”
He said that there would have been no need for transfer of the lost containers if the facilities at the Apapa Port were functional, as he lamented that shippers’ choice had also been violated in the contract entered into by the shipping lines.
Addressing the condemnation of agitations from some quarters against the regulatory agencies, the SALS President said right agitations were in order as instruments to checkmate laxities and failures in economic regulatory policies.
He said that trading platforms must be protected and properly regulated, and that businesses ought to be taken seriously as they sustain government finances through their tax payments.
“It is from the collective taxes paid to Government that funding of the various institutions are sustained. Where the main objectives of the purpose of setting up institutions are threatened it becomes a major threat to human existence, ”Nicol said.
He highlighted the fact that trading as their source of livelihood enabled employment of millions of Nigerians as well as building of communities, establishing of factories, cities and towns, which supports government in all sphere of economic prosperity.
“We build markets, for instance, the Ariaria market in Aba, the Onitsha market at Onitsha, the Alaba Electronics market, Trade Fair markets, Balogun Market and others, yet, we lack Government protection. Imagine the huge employment opportunities within these markets. Cargo move from Lagos to the North. The Railway is re-introduced into the Ports. To do what, move cargo to the hinterland,” he added.
He called attention against politising of the issue by dragging in traditional rulers from Onne in Rivers, when the accident happened in Lagos, and urged all concerned in that regard to note that it is traders and cargoes that would sustain the Africa Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) market.