POF Collection: Shippers’ Council dashes hope of NAGAFF, others

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Even as the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) continued to fight over the sharing formula of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has banned professional fees collection by all associations at the ports.

The council gave this order through the Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello at a Town Hall meeting with stakeholders at Eastern Ports, Port Harcourt on Monday.

He said the proper place for such revenue drive is the organisation’s secretariat and not the port.

Represented by the Deputy Director, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Mr Cajetan Agu, Bello said the decision is sequel to stakeholders’ outcry at the ports against the practice.

The executive secretary also said despite the fact that the appointment of the NSC as Port Economic Regulators came midway last year after the ports  have been concessioned in 2006 with its attendant odds, the council still performed.

He also pointed out that  getting approved standard tariff for freight forwarders, developing standard operating procedures for operators at the ports among others are some of  the achievements the council has recorded within the short period of its existence as economic port regulators.

He said the council would do more with the cooperation of other stakeholders in the maritime industry.

The NSC executive secretary also said all the issues raised by the stakeholders at the meeting would be dutifully followed up with the Ministry of Transportation, expressing hope that the new Minister of Transportation would  address them accordingly.

He specifically promised to take up the issue of several checkpoints along Port Harcourt -Aba,  and Owerri –Onitsha Highways, as well as the dormant nature of eastern ports with the Federal Government.

On the alleged monopoly of operations by some major operators at the ports, Bello said the current leadership of NSC is committed to ensuring a level playing ground for all stakeholders.

“My message to the operators is to be compliant, obey the laws, as NSC is ready to provide a level playing field to all operators,” he assured.
Recall that ANLCA has dragged the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Mohammed Bashir; Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the Inspector-General of Police before the temple of justice to stop collection of CRFFN’s Practitioners Operating Fee (POF).

Also joined in the suit brought before the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos were the Attorney-General of the Federation; National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); National Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC); National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA); the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders, Nigeria (AREFFN); National Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO); Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) and the West Africa Container Terminal Association (WACTA).

In a Motion on Notice filed by Ayodele  Olaniyi Esq. on its behalf, ANLCA is asking the court to grant an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants by themselves, their agents, servants, employees, assigning, representatives and/or privies from further collection of the Practitioners Operating Fees pending when the Governing Council of the CRFFN will be elected and or re-constituted and pending the final determination of the suit.

ANLCA is also seeking an order of manadatory injunction restraining the 3rd defendant (Inspector-General of Police) from using his instrument of office to coerce and intimidate its members into paying “the illegitimate fees” pending “when the Court will make its final pronouncement on the matter”.

In a sworn affidavit in support of the Motion on Notice, ANLCA National Publicity Secretary, Kayode Farinto averred that by virtue of the Act which established the 2nd defendant (CRFFN), the Council is only empowered to collect the fees through its Governing Council.

He claimed that the Governing Council has since been dissolved and the Registrar of CRFFN assumed the duty of generally overseeing the affairs of the Council.

Farinto claimed that consequently, the 1st defendant ordered the Registrar to commence collection of the POF “which is an exclusive duty of the Governing Council which is not in place”.

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