The Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), in the defunct Tincan 2, Lillypond/Ijora chapter, Mr. Olufemi Abiodun Olabanji has called on President Muhammadu Buhari as well as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene and take steps to stop the collection of the Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF) at the nation’s seaport, airport and land border stations as proposed by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) describing it as corruption.
Olabanji who made this call in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos on Tuesday chided the leadership of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) for not only supporting the collection but took step further to bar its members from speaking against the POF collection saying that was the height of irresponsibility exhibited by NAGAFF on the matter.
He observed that practitioners working at the nation’s ports were suffering and can never support the collection of POF which he believe would further impoverish them even as he described the decision as wrong and ill timed.
According to him, “For few people to gather themselves and constitute a Council in order to kill the effort of President Buhari and Osinbajo. Buhari is a President that is futuristic but these people gathered themselves in order to kill his effort. How can you say after we have paid our duty and other charges, we still go ahead and pay to a group of people who called themselves a Council to come and regulate the freight forwarders? How many manifests still go to their office? If Nigerians give room for this POF to operate in Nigeria, it is going to paralyse the whole system in Nigeria, quote me because it is a wrong decision.”
When reminded that the proceeds of the POF collection were still going to be shared among the freight forwarders, the association and the government at the end of the day, he submitted, “I want government to look into that system. What type of sharing are we going to share? We have done our job, we are paying POF, we are still going to share the POF? It is corruption, they want to frustrate government effort, it is a wrong decision. People are complaining, they don’t have job, if they have job, they work in the port, they still have to pay duty, pay terminal, pay shipping, pay everything, we go out again and pay POF. Where is the money? Which POF are we paying? Are they going to share money to whom?
“We don’t want them to share money to us; government has its own revenue. If they want to regulate freight forwarding, we have ANLCA, we have NAGAFF, we have other associations, let those associations forward the list of their members to CRFFN, if there is any due to be paid to CRFFN, we should pay from our associations to CRFFN. CRFFN has no right to come to the port and collect any money from anybody, it is corruption, it is killing government efforts, they are not doing the right thing. Like I said earlier, most people that are in the Council, they are not doing any work in the port.”
When reminded that most of the members of the CRFFN Governing Council were big time freight forwarders like Dr. Kayode Farinto, he retorted, “Farinto cannot accept for us to be paying POF. For Chief Peter Obih, Chief Ernest Elochukwu and so on, those people, they claimed to be big man; they want to use that place as an avenue to make money. They don’t go to the port to know what is happening in the port. The man they call Austin Kelly, for more than 20 years, he has not entered the port, he doesn’t know anything about the port and they say he is a Governing Council member. What is going to regulate there? Many of them like that, they don’t know anything about freight forwarding and they are there because they want to chop money.
“We didn’t say they should not be there but let them help us do our business as required. CRFFN has not helped members in the port. If they go ahead and collect POF, take it from me, write it down, for six months, Nigeria will collapse because the demurrages we are going to pay in the port will be too much if they say you are not going to exit your job unless you go to CRFFN and pay your POF.”
When told that some portions of the amount to be collected would be channeled into training and retraining of freight forwarders, he said, “We don’t have anything to do with POF in this country. What training are they talking about? I am happy I am one of the second set of the NAGAFF Academy and I paid my fees myself and I obtained my Diploma in freight forwarding but these people you are talking about, they cannot do anything for anybody. The first money they collected, how did they spend the money? If I have my way, we need to call EFCC to come and investigate it because the first money we paid, how did they spend it? They bought cars for themselves, they sent themselves out of the country, they have not done anything, they just wanted a place where they can be making money and spend all the money on nothing.
“If POF is collected in Nigeria, they are going to collapse the whole country. My suggestion in this POF is for the government to cancel it, even if it is possible to scrap CRFFN, they should cancel it, they are not regulating anything. They are not helping Nigerians. Even the Minister that gave them approval to collect POF, he wants to rubbish Buhari government, they are not helping the government. How can the government allow dupers, fraudsters to come and defraud the government? What of the money we used in registering ourselves as members of the Council? Let them bring the account, the second one we paid, let them bring the account so that this one we are going to pay to them, we will know how they are going to utilize it.”
He however wondered how many times government was going to collect revenue adding that “government collect revenue from duty, 7 per cent, government collects VAT, government collects revenue from NAFDAC, SON or is it not going to the government? What is the constitution of CRFFN?”
“I am begging the importers to wake, the importers should wake up, they are sleeping. If they start collecting this money, it will be difficult to be stopped again. The importers should wake up and see to these things. They should stop overloading the importers, they are doing business now, they want to kill their business. I am begging the government, I am begging President Buhari and the Vice, Baba Osinbajo, I am begging the Gbajabiamilas and the Lawals to look into this thing very well together with the Accountant General of the Federation, they cannot create revenue that is not constituted. POF is corruption, he added.
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