The Tony Iju Nwabunike led administration in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) officially marked one year in office on the 13th of April, 2019. As part of the activities build up to mark the anniversary, the National Secretary of the association, Alhaji Babatunde Mukaila Abdullazeez spoke to some journalists on the achievements recorded so far by the administration. Our correspondent was among the journalists and below is the excerpt;
Greatest achievement in the last one year
Just like yesterday, it’s 365 days. If I have to be very straight and specific, I will say we have been able to give a functional secretariat unlike what we met. Of course, we have building before, just a building not a secretariat but now we have a functional, working secretariat. In the last 365 days, we have been able to put a lot of advocacy at the national for our members concerning, you know the fulcrum of our campaign promises is to tackle operational challenges. The past administration has done well, it has done a lot of collaboration but that collaboration has not actually impacted on operational matters. However, we made as a focal point that we shall go for the operational challenges and this administration, when I say this administration, I am referring to Tony Iju Presidency, built his campaign round his disposition to attack operational challenges and that was why he was voted in anyway.
And in the last one year, with all the ups and down, you will recall that himself (National President) went for national election, however, he has been on top of the game making sure that whenever and wherever, he throws his weight around to make sure that operational challenges are actually tackled. So, it has been a major achievement in the last one year.
Talking about members’ welfare, in specific terms, if you are talking based on operational matters; I want to say we have been very responsive. Whenever issue of operational matter breaks, we are quick to respond to it at the topmost level. So, if you talk about that, yes, we have been able to do that better. If the welfare you mean is about packages, sharing handouts and all the rest, no. but what we have been preaching is compliant trade, we want our members to comply, we want to teach them how to comply and we want them to be better agents. This association and this government are not actually out to cover people who are not actually ready to play by the rule the trade. What we have been able to do is to let them know why they need to comply and then array their fears and train them.
A question at a point in time is just this NICIS II training, making sure our members can actually do their declaration within their offices instead of going to third parties, the cybercafés because with that, there will be integrity in whatever job they are doing. We have trained them on Form M application, we are giving them capacity building on maritime laws as it relates to customs brokerage. We are doing all these so that they can know their rights and then be better agents to stamp their foot on the ground. So, in terms of welfare in Naira and Kobo, we might want to say no.
What we have in the offing now is a rejuvenated Insurance Policy for our members because the job is becoming too tedious because of bad road, people are falling sick. We have had reasons to do health week twice last year and then we are going to consummate our partnership with AMC Hospital very close to us so that people even during working hours can stroll in. Then, the arrangement is ongoing, we are giving them a space at the back of this secretariat where we have a resident Nurse that can treat minor issues and then we can escalate it to the Doctor about two buildings away if the situation so warranted. These are the welfare packages we are putting in place and I hope in the next few weeks, now that the President is back, that could be achieved.
Ad-hoc staff outside elected officers
Yes, we inherited some ad-hoc staff; we inherited the so-called secretariat staff. On my assumption of office, I met a Director-General and then, the nomenclature-Director-General connotes that he is supposed to be the Chief Executive Officer. So, when you call someone a Director-General that still cow-tow to people, then, the nomenclature is misplaced. However, in the interval of period we are still trying to arrange ourselves, the Director-General that I met left and then we have to start reworking. We met security staff that cannot be tied to any security outfit, they are just freelance security guards, if anything happens, you can’t pin them down to anywhere. I did my findings quickly and then tried to track them but you can’t link them to anywhere. So, we have to let them go, then we bring in a security outfit. You can see our security in uniform now in deference to what it used to be.
And then, you must have been seeing some other people around, by their designations, they are Barristers and they are Corpers. We requested for four Barristers because more or less, our profession dictates technicalities and there are extant rules, we did that so that if anybody has a difficult transaction, provided you are within the range of rule of engagement, you can take them for free, they probe the process and then stand by you to through the process. So, those guys you see, they are Barristers and they have been called to Bar and we have four of them.
Equally, we brought in a maintenance officer because the constitution is very clear. We have a secretariat, we have equipment, there will be tear and wear, we need to pin it down to somebody. As much as we might want the Chief of Staff or somebody to oversee them, we need a skilled maintenance officer. We brought in such a guy who goes around checking on the facilities, if it is minor things he can fix on his own, he can fix that. So, basically, the new faces you are seeing, I think those are the Barristers and then the Security who happened to come from a proper security outfit. Of course, those were the little changes we have made.
Presently, we are building a master class because we believe training is key. We are like lawyers, in fact, we are lawyers because when you are an agent, you are in place of your principal and before each and every one of us were granted license, we actually did written and oral examination with customs, you need to prove that you have knowledge of customs rule before you are granted license and we believe we need more of that. In the last one year there have been trainings. These trainings, as a departure from the norms, have been an in-house training. We have been bringing resource persons to train us.
Last weekend, we had Controller of Tax to come and tell us the dynamics as it relates to our own trade because lately our members have been having issues with tax because the terms of reference, our condition of service stipulates that I personally, Mickey Excellency will need to pick property bill, shipping charges, terminal operators bills, haulage contractor fee, then we deliver the goods and then ask for refund from your importer. We now observe recently that the tax authorities just go into your account, saw that transaction is moving, they will just apply turn over. If I deliver two containers, surely, I may be expecting N3 million back, I must have invested close to N2.8 million of my money. Now, the tax guys just see three million Naira coming back and they apply their tax on it and to them, I is very strange that a license customs agent is picking a third party bill on behalf of the client. They said it is unheard of, we are not supposed to do that, no business does that but that is the condition we met and when you see three million times ten coming to me in a month, my actual income is about two hundred thousand times ten not the thirty million Naira you see coming into my account.
So, after the meeting, we have been advised to escalate it to the Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service for him to understand our position so that they can now give us a kind of incentive to those funds. So, these are all the things we have been doing to reduce the suffering and then make our members have reason to belong to ANLCA.
Remittances from chapters
The position has not changed. Those chapters that refused to do remittance yet they are not making that remittance but what we have done to suppress that problem, the reliance on chapter remittance is to make our members see reason why they need to pay their dues. Just here right now, two of our members that walked in paid their yearly dues. In deference to what it used to be, ANLCA members don’t pay their dues unless when there is election, you now see them paying for that particular year. But we have been making case for them to pay their dues. So, we actually rely on individual member due which is just N10, 000 yearly. We have been able to convince them to pay their dues; they have been seeing the advantages of paying that due. So, we have been using these dues instead of relying on handouts from the chapter executive; that is only the difference
…To be continued
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