Evangelist David Chuks Kanikwu is the Secretary, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tincan Island Ports Chapter, Lagos. In this interview with our correspondent, he bares his mind on the Practitioners’ Operating Fees, the first election into the Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) as well as the crisis rocking the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents amongst other salient issues bothering in the nation’s maritime industry. Excerpts:
The Practitioners’ Operating Fees has been an issue that refused to be gotten over with by the freight forwarding association in the maritime sector. What is the expected role of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council towards the resolution of this crisis?
Shippers’ Council is under the Ministry of Transport, the CRFFN is under the Ministry of Transport, I am going to give you the Act which empowers the Shippers’ Council as the Economic Regulator in the port. It listed a number of government agencies it is regulating, about 9 of them and then the No. 7 on the list is the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria.
Now, the Council was supposed to prepare the ground, that is the foundational ground to enable shippers’ Council oversee them and do their primary function of regulating the Council and even the other people.
The idea for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria is number 1, to stem the tide of proliferation of association where any man can get up, register an association and get any form of accreditation in the Council. It is because of this rise that they give conditions that you must meet to be duly accredited. Most of these so-called Presidents going up and down are not yet accredited because they have not meet up the requirements. It is only ANLCA (Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents) that have met the requirement for full accreditation.
I was just coming out from Dr. Frank Ukor’s Office where he showed me a letter from the CRFFN confirming the full accreditation of AREFFN with effect from 27th August, 2012 thus contradicting your position that what they have is a provisional accreditation. How do you explain that?
I want to tell you, who gave them that full accreditation? There was no Council in place as at August 2012, there was no Governing Council.
Are you saying that the CRFFN Registrar cannot give accreditation for any freight forwarding association as the Chief Executive Officer of the Council?
He has no powers to do that, you know to admit people as accredited members of the Council. The Board decides on it. First, who verified if they have gotten the geographical spread as contained in the Act? Ask those people, AREFFN and co where they have their offices in Lagos here, in this Tincan, do you see them have any office? Have you seen AREFFN office in Apapa? Have you seen their office in the airport? They are not in Port-Harcourt, they are not anywhere.
So, what I am saying this, who confirmed after 6 months that they have meet up with requirements. Anybody can issue accreditation that is based on this illegality that they are doing or the hobnobbing they are doing with the Registrar with a view of collecting this money, they can get a letter from the back door. Is it a letter approved by the Council?
But according to them, it was the same person that signed the accreditation certificate of ANLCA and NAGAFF that signed theirs?
It doesn’t matter. Who is the person? Jukwe? As at the time ANLCA was accredited, the Council was there. Let them bring out the resolution of the Governing Council to fully accredit them. ANLCA was accredited when the Governing Council was there and it was based on the recommendation of the Council that the Registrar signed the letter. It is just like letters going out from the Council as directed by the Governing Council, then the Registrar will do his work. Who directed him to sign their own? This where I am coming from.
Are you still insinuating that without the presence of members of the Governing Council, that he cannot carry out any such accreditation?
Anything he does outside the Governing Council is ultra vires. Go to the Act and you see it. That is why the letter that came from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation which they were contesting is false, the Police, you can go to the CP (Commissioner of Police) and so they have done their investigations and found out that the letter emanated from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
But from the little information at my disposal, it was alleged that the said Uchu Block who claimed the letter was actually written to him from the SGF’s office is on the run. How come you are saying that the Police have found the letter to have emanated from the SGF’s office?
No, let me correct the impression, we were there, when we were invited to the Commissioner’s Office though on a different issue because I reported Police harassment, we were there and Uchu Block did not come in their case in person. But you see, we wrote letter to the SGF’s Office and co and the letter was confirmed, investigation confirmed that letter. The issue they were talking about is when Uchu Block did not appear to the Commissioner of Police’ office when we were all interrogated by the Commissioner of Police.
But it was gathered that his (Uchu Block) two phone were no longer reachable?
The issue of his phone numbers not being reached did not make the letter false. You know, they have not made their investigations public but we have it in good authority that they refused to issue out that letter because he is a joker, we have confirmed that the letter is genuine. My committee has confirmed the letter through investigations, even the CP but they will not tell you until all investigations are concluded before they release their report.
Talking about the letter from the SGF’s office, is there no official channel of communication between the Ministries of the government that this letter should have passed through rather than getting to the freight forwarders through Uchu Block who is neither a staff of the Federal Ministry of Transport nor the Registrar of CRFFN thereby creating this doubt among the stakeholders as to the authenticity of the letter?
The channel of communication is like this, I requested to know from the Ministry as an association, even this National Council of Managing Directors, they are having two factions, they are in court. Then, even if CRFFN Registrar went ahead to register a faction, it is ultra vires. It even invalidates everything he is doing. Look at it very well from your own point of view.
So, the other party felt that they (CRFFN) were favouring the other party and decided to ask the SGF what is the status of the Registrar. All that they did was that they first asked a question, I don’t belong to any of the groups, they wanted to use it as a caveat to vintilate all that the Registrar has done, to prove to him that he has been doing illegality. If I communicate to you, you write to me. It is official communication.
It is not the Ministry that asked them, after all, the SGF is at the apex. If the Ministry now asks for clarification from him, he does it. It is an association that asked for clarification, he gave it to them. I have been a civil servant, I left NEPA as a Manager and I know the procedures. There is a General Order (GO) on communication lines with people who wrote. If he wrote through the Ministry of Transport, they will reply him through the Ministry of Transport but he wrote directly, he was making his inquiry based on the existing Act.
I guess the position of the CRFFN was based on what happened during the first Council which culminated into the leadership of one faction taking CRFFN to court and I also guess that the position to recognize the other faction was taken by the first Council. What are you takes on that?
Let me tell you, during the first Council, they were wrought with trying to find their feet, they had not even assessed the accreditation then, they were trying to find their ground and studying the Act. The first Council actually gave what they called provisional accreditation…
To one of the factions?
No, you see, the issue there is very simple , whether faction or no faction, the Council led by Lucky Amiwero went for the election as Council of Managing Directors. The spill over from the election made the Council of Managing Directors and NAGAFF, that time there was no AREFFN, they did not go for the election. NAFFAC did not go for the election. Quote me.
If NAFFAC did not go for the election, how come its National President, Agubamah was elected into the first Council?
That is where I am coming to, you see, that is where you will see the illegality they are performing. They did not. The people who stood for the election are people from ANLCA, NAGAFF and Council of Managing Directors. Lucky represented Council of Managing Director, Aniebonam and our late President Usman represented NAGAFF while all the others were from ANLCA. There was nothing like AREFFN then. As at then Ukor was a Chapter Secretary of ANLCA and he wanted to re-contest, he failed. He is in our biometric platform.
So, what happened was, he saw the lacuna when Lucky and Aniebonam decided to go to court, two of them, it was the Council of Managing Directors and NAGAFF that decided to go to court to query the election of the first Governing Board. At a point, Aniebonam opted out and only Lucky continued.
How did the second faction of the Council of Managing Directors came up? It was Aniebonam‘s brainchild because Lucky went for a meeting with the Directors of NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority) who were trying to broker peace even with the Shippers’ Council. It was crisis infested first council because of who is in and who is out. In there, Lucky suggested that they should give NAGAFF one slot and give himself three slots and that the remaining slots should go to ANLCA. That was his panacea for peace.
Aniebonam heard it and decided to deal with the Council of Managing Directors. He organized a kangaroo meeting at the Mobile Pegasus Club, I was there, I am not saying they told me. The mandate he gave to us was, go and pass a vote no confidence on Lucky and all of as members of Council of Managing Directors Customs License Agents. So, it was at that meeting at the Mobile Pegasus that a vote of no confidence was passed on Lucky, that he has been there for over thirteen years, he has not called for elections and whatever. That was what brought the brouhaha.
And the moment that went through, it was now left for Aniebonam to hand pick who will be there, he tried first man and he didn’t agree before he picked Ejiofor.
And who was this first man?
I can’t remember his name, if you check, you will find his name, but I will remember the name. Now, he did it to make sure he disgraces Lucky and to make sure he has control of the Council of Managing Directors so that any slot to Council of Managing Directors will be directly manipulated by him. So, from there, these people started going to court. They have been in court since and for any sane man to get up and say he accredited a faction of it is wrong and for any sane man to say he certify the accreditation of AREFFN, it is not in tandem with the provisions of the Act.
Even you as a journalist, you have been going round, how many places have you seen the spread of AREFFN? How many places have you seen NAFFAC? Let us be sincere, it is not Port-Harcourt, it is not in Kano and they are talking about geographical spread and membership. It is a one portfolio association aimed only at distracting the right movement of the Council.
How then did Agubamah got into the Council since according to you, NAFFAC did not go for the election into the first Council?
They were not there during the first Council, even in the second Council, they did not come for election. I was there physically not that they told me. What I am telling you, I have been following when I was a key member of NAGAFF as a Chairman was when the first Council election was conducted. I was therein thehotel with the founder then wherein they came in and said let us do this thing on our own and the founder said no, let us go to the poll. I advised him then and said if they give us two slots let us take it because NAGAFF is not used to election, ANLCA is used to election and you know my postulations worked out.
When the election came, ANLCA swept everything. So, it was because in a free and fair election, ANLCA won all to show our strength. Forget about this rabble rousing.
Was that why the other associations were now calling for sharing the allocated slots to freight forwarders amongst the associations instead of an all inclusive election as was the case in the first council?
Yes! That is the thing because they know. There is no young man in a family that will come to challenge his father to see who has more relics. The father must have more old relics than the younger boy. But you see NAGAFF, if you look at them, NAGAFF have structures, I give it them but it is not as democratic as ANLCA is. For all these associations that are saying four against one, they don’t have structures. Would you want to eat with a leper? You will spoil the food, if you look at these people, let me now redefine it, they are three leprous fingers now who are eating with NAGAFF and spoiling their food. Let them look into it.