Following the uncertainty surrounding the collection of the Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF) months after its soft launch by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the Registrar of the Council, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu has explained the delay associated with the actual commencement of the collection of the fee.
Speaking with our correspondent in Lagos recently, Nwakohu noted that as at the time the Council had the soft launch, they had every hope that integration was not going to be a problem having recourse to the ongoing discussions with relevant agencies.
He added that somewhere down the line, they developed cold feet noting that “like any other negotiations, sometimes you and I can agree on something today, tomorrow I start foot-dragging. That was where we were until we got the higher authorities involved and it was resolved.”
He further opined that the terminal operators were subject to NPA hence they never had the idea that integrating with the terminal operators would be very necessary since they had integrated with NPA and that had been a long time.
“So, you know that terminal operators are licensed by the NPA, so, we thought the best route to go is agency to agency and not a private operators but it became apparent that the terminal operators being the people that will implement it, we need to carry them along. Therefore, we started approaching them because that is the final exit point when you have done all that is required.
“Like we also said in the publication that we did, we did an enforcement notice, now we are going to send out a circular which will contain all the details. So, there is nothing wrong in preparing the minds of the people because there is what is called change management. If people have been hearing of CRFFN and they think it is not going to work and you do something and called it a soft launch, testing actually the payment processes to know whether it will work, it means that it is something that we have not done before. So, we are doing the testing to see how it is going to work. Then, next level will be to go to the field proper and test it and these are the field men that will implement it.
“So, there is nothing wrong in going that route and I don’t think it was hasty and nothing has gone wrong that we tested the software that we have and we see it has the capability and as something happens, if we had tested it and something didn’t go quite well, the period we have gained now, we would have addressed all the technical issues even as we also tested registration and some few things were there.
“Within that period now, we have also amended the registration because the whole thing is that we are going digital so that freight forwarders can log on, pay their POF in their houses and log on to a system and do it and go. When they pay, the thing will show in the terminal operators’ system.
“Currently, the terminal operators may not have all the digital components, so, what do we do? We say, okay, since this is the last bus stop before this thing gets out, let us see the challenges that they will have and we have also seen that each terminal has its own challenge. So, we need to also challenge and support, some of them are not as robust technologically as NPA. We then have to see what the peculiarity of each terminal and see what to do, all in the mindset of facilitating transactions to the benefit of everybody because the freight forwarder will soon the benefit of his POF”, he said.
On alleged demand of some percentage of the fee by the terminal operators to enable them assist in enforcing the payment, the Registrar said, “I will tell you, if that is true, then it would have just been easier for me to say, I will pay you this considering how important POF is to me. It will be easy; I will make you an offer so that we can roll. But no! That is not true.
“Let me tell you, initially, STOAN resisted it, somehow, the Minister got to hear about it, the Minister intervened and they said they will do it. We held a zoom meeting with the Minister and them, thereafter, we convened another meeting with STOAN as a whole where modalities were discussed and I told them, look, this thing has been designed to be done seamlessly.
“So, we are at the point of integration right now between the terminal operators and our ICT people. That is where we are and as soon as that is completed, in fact, what I agreed with them is once they conclude for each terminal; enforcement starts right away because we have burned time. You know when you are having intergovernmental agencies involve in a project, it is not easy. So, these things take time but I can’t wait, we are at the last stretch of the hurdle.”
Photo: CRFFN Registrar, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu.
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