Following recent calls from the major stakeholders in the maritime industry for the harmonization of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act 2007 and the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) for a more virile freight forwarding profession, the Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SAL) has described the call as a welcomed development.
Speaking in a chat with Primetime Reporters in Lagos last weekend, the President of SAL, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol observed that the seeming segregation that had existed between the freight forwarders and the customs licensed agents should not be encouraged since Licensed Customs Agents are a sub-sect of the freight forwarding as a profession.
Nicol frowned at a situation where the Nigeria Customs service viewed the licensed customs agents as its own thereby having nothing to do with the freight forwarders and where CRFFN viewed the freight forwarders as dear to it describing the trend as unhealthy for the industry.
According to him,” if you say freight forwarders, they are under the CRFFN, Customs agents are under the customs and the customs say, I will deal with the people I licensed, the freight forwarding industry say, they have trained them, so they don’t need your license to operate”.
“We are shippers and we bring in cargo, we engage the services of the freight forwarders, whether you call them customs agents, there is no difference. So, you either call them customs agents because they are licensed by the customs or customs brokers. They are speaking the same language from different angles”.
He however suggested that effort should be made to find a way of harmonizing the two sides with a view to bringing them under one freight forwarding umbrella as according to him, CRFFN was established for that purpose.
“So, there should be a kind of harmony between the Nigeria Customs service and CRFFN. CRFFN was established to train and retrain freight forwarders and the freight forwarders are the ones that actually go out to look for customers to pay duty”.
“So, what is the duty of the customs agents? Because the Licensed Customs agents doesn’t introduce customs to them except they have to go out and do the work of freight forwarders, so it becomes a matter of nomenclature, how you put it”.
“And once it is understood, there will be no disparity, there will not be any misunderstanding between the two because now, you are creating dissension into a family. They all belong to one family, all of them are licensed by the CRFFN because they go through the same process”, he stated.