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60% of members now okada riders, others – Customs Agents

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Indications have emerged that 60 per cent of licensed Customs agents operating in the nation’s maritime industry have dumped the profession for commercial motorcycling (okada riders) and other menial jobs due to the biting effects of the floating exchange rate.

The operators, in a separate chat with believed that the Central Bank of Nigeria achieved more stability during the time of Godwin Emefiele as the governor of the apex bank than happenings in the current dispensation.

Founder of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero, admitted that although Emefiele’s administration at CBN affected the maritime sector, but not up to what the sector was currently passing through in the new administration.

“Emefiele’s administration affected the maritime sector but not as much as what the sector is facing now. The sector is more affected. Almost 30 per cent of licensed customs agents have left the job because of the floating exchange rate. They have all gone into okada riding and all other businesses,” he said.

Amiwero explained that during Emefiele, the push-up in the exchange rate was not as drastic as it is now.

“But during the time of Emefiele, the forex was perfectly stabilised for a very long time before you see a push-up. And then, a push-up is not as drastic as it is now. The push-up now is affecting both import and export because when you talk about export, you’re talking about production within.

“The production level within the country has gone down drastically because of the cost of diesel and fuel. And when you look at the floating exchange rate, it is hitting hard on the economy. During Emefiele’s time, the maritime sector was crawling, but now it is bleeding.

“What concerns the maritime sector is just the exchange rate. If they have a stable exchange rate people can import for a very long time, they will be consistent, predictable, and transparent.

“This is almost a week to December and there is no sign to show that December is coming. In the past, when you come to the maritime sector, the exchange rate was stabilised at some point unlike what we have now and it is affecting everyone. It is affecting the import; look at how everything is skyrocketing. So, the impact is high and people are losing their jobs, purchasing power of people is dropping,” he said.

Also speaking, the Deputy President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Nnadi Ugochukwu, said over 60 per cent of licensed agents had dumped the job to look for other things to do.

“The maritime industry under Emefiele was stifled with excessive taxation and you know over-taxation is not a good economic policy. Even as we are talking now the current system is still suffering under the policy.

“The Nigerian import prohibition list is very long. We should encourage local production and export. You also look at areas where you have a cooperative advantage to produce and export, not where you don’t have a comparative advantage,” Ugochukwu said.

Meanwhile, the youth leader of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Tincan Island Chapter, Sikiru Remilekun, said that many licensed agents had also gone hire purchase.

“They are not only into okada business; the majority has gone into some menial jobs just for them to put food on their table. If you visit Mile 2 to Apapa, a lot of them are driving mini-buses on hire purchase. I won’t blame them; it is what the country presents to them.

“A lot of importers have refused to bring in goods and when you ask the agents, they will tell you that the importers refuse to bring in jobs and they don’t have any jobs. So, when the clearing work stops, they need to go into an alternative business. I can categorically tell you that between 50 and 60 per cent of licensed agents are not coming to work again, they have changed their jobs,” he said.

Sikiru who is the Chief Executive Officer of Sikremaster Logistics Limited, pleaded with the government to come to their assistance by ensuring the right policies were put in place.

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