The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has said that following the outcome of a meeting called at the instance of the Commissioner of Police, Ports Authority Police (PAP) command, Western ports, where the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) had shown them the relevant approvals of the federal government in respect of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) collection, it was now convinced that the collection was backed by law.
It will be recalled that the executives of the Tincan Island chapter of ANLCA on Tuesday stormed the Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT) where they accused the management of the terminal of using the collection of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) instituted by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to extort freight forwarders.
Speaking during the visit, the Chairman of ANLCA, Tincan Island chapter, Mr. Ojo Peter Akintoye alleged that freight forwarders were made to pay the sum of N5,000 by the staff of the terminal as against N1,000 and N2,000 payable for 20ft container and 40ft container as stipulated by CRFFN because such freight forwarders were yet to update their registration with the council.
Akintoye observed that the terminal was now using that avenue to extort his members adding that they object to it and were not going to accept it.
In view of this, the Commissioner of Police, PAP command had on Wednesday summoned a meeting of CRFFN management and representatives of the terminal operators with the Executives of ANLCA, Tincan Island chapter in attendance where they discussed the legality or otherwise of the POF.
However, speaking in a chat with newsmen in Lagos on Thursday, the Chairman, ANLCA, Tincan Island port chapter, Mr. Ojo Peter Akintoye recalled that himself and his executive had been working tirelessly in respect of POF adding that they visited Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT) on Tuesday where they met the management in that respect.
According to Akintoye, “We were about to withdraw our services yesterday (Wednesday) when the Commissioner of Police called for a dialogue and luckily enough, we were fully represented at the meeting and the Registrar of CRFFN was there with his team and all the representatives of the terminal operators under the Tincan Island port were there and we were able to spell it out.”
He explained that apart from the fact that the CRFFN had been able to show them the approval of the federal government in respect of the POF collection through the Office of the Minister of Transportation, they (CRFFN) have also had a management meeting with the terminal operators on how they would collect the money.
“Having seen all those documents yesterday, we said okay, we can’t fight the government by our own hands; that the only weapons we have is to approach the court so that the court can address the issue. We are working on that.
“Not only that, we also said before the Commissioner of Police, Western Ports, that there is the need for them because they admitted that there is a long communication gap. As a result, our members couldn’t complete updating their registration with the CRFFN which is posing a huge challenge to them. So, we told the Commissioner of Police to plead with them to give us more time so that we can sensitize our members because truly we have seen the document from the federal government which has become a law and we should not stop the law of the country from being enforced.
“Having said that, we are still saying that they need to give us enough time so that we can sensitize our members, talk to them and agree together because the Commissioner of Police also told them that they should have a town hall meeting with us, they should bridge that communication gap between them and the freight forwarders so that we have enough information, then we can tell our people how to go about it.
“We told the Police yesterday that they are asking for N1,000 for 20ft container and N2,000 for 40ft container but people are finding it difficult today to the extent that they spend between N3,000 and N4,000 on 20ft container N5, 000 to N6,000 on 40ft container because those that are uploading the documentation on the CRFFN website are just about 2 or 3 out of all the stakeholders and they are now using that opportunity to extort our people.
“We have discovered that yesterday and we have told them that we have more than two thousand companies of freight forwarders. So, they should do the needful to make sure that they bring everybody on board on that platform so that if am paying money, I will know what I am paying and I know who I am paying to, then I will be able to ask question tomorrow if there is a need for it in respect of the money we are paying”, he explained.
On the pending court case on POF collection, he said, “that was also expatiated on yesterday by CRFFN showing evidence that the court case has been struck out. It was one of our senior colleagues that took them to court in that respect in 2018 but according to them, the case was struck out in January this year when there was no follow up.
“You know the general believe of the people is that when we have such case; the parties involved are supposed to stay action on the object of the case. And I can see that the CRFFN took that opportunity to come up in full force this time around. But assuming that our people are still following that case up, that could have restrained them from this present action but unfortunately, the case was struck out.”
On whether he is directing freight forwarders he earlier instructed at the TICT on Tuesday to discontinue payment of the POF to start paying it now that he knows better, he said, “I am a chapter chairman; it is only my president that can speak on the ANLCA position on POF. I don’t have the capacity to do so.
“We have a meeting, I have spoken with my President and by God’s grace, I believe that by Monday, because the president wants to address the press on the position of ANLCA on the POF but he wants to have a meeting with us first to articulate our position in this aspect. So, we are having meeting probably tomorrow (today) or Monday in that respect and call for a press conference and tell the entire world our stand concerning that POF.”
Photo: The Executive Chairman, ANLCA, Tincan Island Port chapter, Mr. Ojo Peter Akintoye.
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