The Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) has threatened that unless the federal government intervenes and address the inherent connivance among the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), the shipping lines and the listed DTI Centres to extort the freight forwarders, they will be left with no option than to mobilize the freight forwarders to withdraw their services from the seaports.
CREFFPON in a statement issued in Lagos over the weekend by one of its members, Forwarder Edwin Chukwudire-Obi observed that the CRFFN woefully failed to institute professionalism in the freight forwarding subsector of the maritime economy leading to the absence of professional scale of charges in the freight forwarding profession thereby promoting non competitiveness in the system.
He recalled that the CRFFN commenced the collection of the controversial Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) with effect from 1st March, 2021.
Obi while stating that although the CREFFPON had stated its position on the matter, the CREFFPON monitored closely the Implementation amidst ill-feelings and displeasure expressed by the practitioners.
He noted that the refusal of the STOAN members especially the Tincan Island Containter Terminal (TCIT) to issue the Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) to the freight forwarders in the course of their professional quest and engagements to promptly facilitate Imports processing, clearance and delivery has caused cargo processing delays resulting to additional demurrages and storages to the advantage of the terminal operators and shipping lines in thh ongoing unholy alliance.
While pointing out that the POF officially attracts N1,000 for 20ft container and N2,000 for 40ft container, he added that the fee must be paid by the named declarant on the import documents even as he further observed that the CRFFN payment process is electronic and even driven to the extent that the freight forwarders can conveniently pay their bills from their Android phones.
“Unfortunately, what’s obtainable on ground is a process where some staff of an accredited DTI centres with a licensed Customs operational agency (as the declarant) now help the forwarders to mass generate the POF payment advise for a fee ranging from N1,000 and a little above. Thereafter, the forwarder proceeds to make payment in the bank where he pays N2,350 in the case of a 40ft container. The additional N350 paid is noted as bank commission.
“This present process is not acceptable on the grounds of the inherent noticeable procedural delays is a connivance for further extortions among the CRFFN, STOAN members (T.O.) shipping lines and listed DTI centres. The procedure is in negation of the principles of the ease of doing business in the port and the spirit of trade facilitation.
“A dig into the STOAN members’ concession agreement signed with the government through its agency shows that the agreement does not in any way contain nor provide nor confer such powers leading to the stoppage of cargo duly release by the customs, shipping lines, relevant regulatory agencies as noted in the import examination order of the government by regulatory agencies in the port clearance process.
“The function of the terminal operators as a temporary custodian of the imports on behalf of the shipping lines has not changed from those services by which it earns charges and fees; obviously the POF conspiracy is not part of it.
“The CREFFPON due with utmost industry good fate urges the terminal operators not to stir the hornet comb, rather concentrate efforts for us to achieve and maintain the existing peace and harmony in our port Industry.
“If this is not urgently addressed, the CREFFPON shall not only seek legal redress but will in consultation with the associations, mobilize the forwarders to withdraw their professional Services”, Obi stated.
He maintained that the helpless posture of the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) in its economic regulatory efforts snowballed to a pathetic story as the council was overwhelmed and tagged a toothless bulldog by the port uses.
He further stated that the present roles of the NSC in the industry required urgent regulatory legislative empowerment so as to rejig and stabilize the economic wellbeing of all industry strata and the nation’s economy insisting that a mere presidential pronouncement cannot guarantee a regulatory sanction on a defaulting stakeholders, like witnessed in its celebrated case with the terminal operators and the shipping lines.
“Government must exhibit purposeful governance by transmuting the NSC via legislative processes as the nation’s maritime economic regulator once and for all. This industry gambling with an industry economic regulator should be addressed once and for all”, he stated.
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