Withdrawal of Service: Associations give conditions to support ANLCA, NAGAFF


The three registered freight forwarding associations namely; the National Council of Managing Directors Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and the National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) has said that unless they unless they are carried along in the planned withdrawal of services by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), they will not be part of the planned action.

It will be recalled that the leadership of ANLCA and NAGAFF last week issued a 21 day notice to the Federal Government urging it to attend to the high level of corrupt practices going on at the nation’s ports as well as tackle the high cost of doing business at the ports with the period of the said 21 day failing which their members would be forced to withdraw their services from the ports thereby shutting down activities at the ports.

The leadership of the three freight forwarding associations who spoke in separate interviews with Primetime Reporters in Lagos decried the non-inclusion of their individual associations in the meeting that culminated into issuing a 21 day notice of withdrawal of service from the ports by NAGAFF and ANLCA.

Reacting on the issue, the President of AREFF, Dr. Frank Ukor stated that there was the need for ANLCA and NAGAFF to call a town hall meeting of all the registered freight forwarding associations where they would sit down, discuss the issues holistically and take a common position on the matter so that if they want to go about it, it would be total.

“But if they want to do it alone, we stay by the side and watch them, then definitely, if they are going left, we will be going right and there is no how they will think that they will do it alone without telling our people no matter how insignificant they think that we are. We have a good number at the ports. We will tell our people and ask the police to mount the gate and let them not disturb anybody that want to go in and they will fail.

“So the best thing is let them call a town hall meeting and we will all sit down and all of us will agree and achieve what we want to achieve”, Ukor said.

He however added that having followed the development all along and having listened to their reasons for calling issuing the notice to the government, he quite agreed that the issued raised by the two associations were Germaine and needed to be tackled once and for by the government but that they were not comfortable with the way they were going about it.

He also advised that dialogue should be used to resolve all the problems militating against the freight forwarders at the ports adding that conflict resolution could be very effective through dialogue even as he maintained that until dialogue fails, one would never give up on it.

Ukor further disclosed that AREFFN had on Tuesday this week sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari aligning itself with the position ANLCA and NAGAFF had taken on the issue of corruption at the ports pointing out that the association only added that the access road to the ports needed to be reconstructed as they were losing a lot of money by containers falling as a result of bad roads and tankers blocking the whole place.

He disclosed that they asked the President in the letter to set up a committee that would look into the problems immediately so that within the period, most of those problems if not solved completely, would have been started so that everybody would know that government was doing something about it.

“And in setting up the committee, those of us in the industry will be included because it is said that he that wears the shoes knows where it pinches, it is all of us in the sector that these things are affecting, we need to be there so that we can contribute our own quota so that we will resolve the issue. I said if at the end of the 21 days nothing is being done, we will have no other option than to collaborate with ANLCA and NAGAFF and I am sure all the associations will do the same thing too but provided that ANLCA and NAGAFF call a town hall meeting so that we can discuss it”, he stated.

On his part, the Acting President, NCMDLCA, Comrade Ben Uche Ndee described the issuance of the 21 day notice to the Federal Government to address the corruption issues at the ports as a welcomed development while regretting that after all entreaties he made to the ANLCA President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu when the issue came on the front burner to carry his association along in the buildup of the letter failed as NCMDLCA was not never contacted prior to the letter.

“I was at the hall for an event and I was very proud when Prince Shittu, the President of ANLCA in his very short speech, told the world that the freight forwarders and agents can no longer take the corruptions going on in our industry and we are only expecting government to react after which we are going to withdraw service and there is no need dilly dallying over this because it has been on for a very long time. Corruption and what have you have been so entrenched that those that are neck-deep into it have their godfathers and they believe nothing will happen. So, if government cannot fight that corruption, I think we have to take our destinies in our hands because we are the ones bearing the brunt, our clients are suffering losses and what have you and we too are being taken out of business.

“I wholeheartedly agreed with that 21 days’ notice of withdrawal of service. When he said that, I personally visited him at his office and I thanked him for his speech and I equally told him that I would want this arrangement to be holistic in the sense that every association should fall into it in the sense that every one of us is feeling it. That I will want a situation where everybody is carried along in this 21 day notice and he said okay. We spoke for more than an hour in office which is very close to mine here. And he said they are going to have their NEC meeting the next day. After the meeting, he said that he was going to get back to me. The following day, they had another NEC meeting which lasted for two days, after that I had in mind of reaching to him to know the outcome of the meeting but before then we saw publications in the papers saying that ANLCA in conclusion of their NEC meeting have taken some resolutions towards shutting the ports after 21 day notice which implies they don’t want anybody”, he eplained.

Ndee hinted that having seen the trend of event, they were not going to bandy words with anybody as NCMDLCA was going to take a position even as he noted that they were already putting finishing touches to the letter they intend to send to the Presidency which he said could leave by Thursday this week or so.

He said,“So, our position, even though we are in support of this thing, we believe everybody should be carried along, we strongly believe that it is going to be holistic because the ports belong to each and every one of us. We are all affected and we invite government to it.

“We are using this medium to call on government to ensure that if a meeting is to be convened which I believe they will; that all stakeholders are carried along without which it may not be so palatable. If you stop somebody from accessing the port to carry his consignment as a result of that, he may decide to go to court to seek legal redress, then what have you achieved? But if we are united and we go ahead and confront our common enemy which is corruption in the ports, I think we will achieve a lot and government will see our standpoint. But situations where you are speaking from divergent points over an issue that is affecting each and every one of us, then, it doesn’t really make sense”.

Also speaking, the President General, NAFFAC, Mr. Chukwuka Ani Thomas Agubamah described as unfortunate, attempt by NAGAFF and ANLCA to decide and take such action without involving the other three registered association in a matter as critical as this.

While pointing out that the two associations may have their own reasons which he said were best known to them, he however agreed that there was corruption at the ports even as he contended that issuing ultimatum was not the best approach to it.

According to him,” To me, issuing an ultimatum to government to do something about it within 21 days or they will withdraw services is a non-starter because it is not within 21 days that government will take appropriate measures or actions to wipe out corruption in the ports.

“I would have thought that it would have served better if a conference was convened where stakeholders will come there and give their views, their experiences and offer solutions to these corrupt practices at the ports. For example, when a freight forwarder spends one naira to placate a customs officer, NDLEA officer, or Police officer or whoever or the clerk at the shipping line offices or the operator of forklift at the ports, such cost finally ends up in the invoice of the importer. In other words, bodies such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, NACCIMA, other importers who are not in those associations, all those are stakeholders who should come and express their opinion on how to solve this problem. It does not begin with issuing ultimatum to government”.

When asked if NAFFAC would be part of the withdrawal of service action should government fail to dialogue with the associations, he retorted,” Let me very clear on that, it is a standing policy of NAFFAC not to cause the closure of any port, we don’t support it. The reason is this, the very person you feel you are protesting against is back in office and laughing at you because if he is a terminal operator, he wouldn’t be bothered because at the end of the day, you will come and pay him demurrage. If it against a customs officer, he will deny making such demand from you. So, at the end of the day, you find out that all that you have done is to serve the newspapers and radio stations and TV stations that you have done so but the problem remained there, it has not been solved and then what happens? Your importer who is expecting raw materials quickly, who is expecting spare parts to revive an engine is suffering while you are not getting his cargo released.

“And if on the export side, there may be perishables that are already on their way to the airport to move away and you closed down operations, you are punishing the exporter. So, it is for these reasons, that NAFFAC has never taken part in closure of ports whatsoever. We don’t support it. We believe there are more practical ways of fighting corruption. At NAFFAC, we don’t agree with shutting down services”.

Recall that another association, International Freight Forwarders’ Association (IFFA) had earlier dissociated itself from the letter and the planned withdrawal of services saying that the situation of the economy of the country did not warrant such action as it would jeopardize all the genuine efforts the federal government was making to salvage the sector thereby warning its members to desist from such action.


Photo Caption:

Picture 1: The President AREFFN, Dr. Frank Ukor

Picture 2: The President General NAFFAC, Mr. Chukwuka Ani Thomas Agubamah

Picture 3: The Acting President NCMDLCA, Comrade Ben Uche Ndee

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