The five freight forwarding associations accredited by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), yesterday met in Lagos under the auspices of the Freight Forwarders’ Forum to discuss issues militating against the freight forwarding profession in Nigeria.
The associations include; Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN) and Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC).
The forum discussed issues ranging from arbitrary jack up of value on PAAR to stoppage of exited cargoes by multiplicity of customs units, stoppage of cargoes by the maritime police, POF/CRFFN election and ETO call up system.
Speaking on the forthcoming election of the freight forwarders into the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike who set the ball rolling on the discussion said that yesterday’s meeting was not the first as the meeting had been ongoing adding that “there are so many steering committees and all the rest of them that have made up this meeting today and we took a decision that we need to have our relationship intact so that government will not penetrate our rank anymore.”.
Nwabunike informed that government’s intention in the coming election was to do what customs had succeeded in doing, divide and rule noting that they won’t take it anymore even as he pointed out that that was why the coming together of these associations was putting serious jittery into some levels of government.
He went on to say that the government wanted to have this election without the consent of the associations but the leadership of the associations told her that it was not going to work as they needed to be part of what the government was doing adding that this was one of the reasons why freight forwarders were going to have much reliable and formidable Council.
According to him, “So, the five accredited association have actually come up with a position that from us, we will pick those who are going to represent us and listen to the associations. Then, we will support them with all we have to go for that election and win that election. So, what we are going to do is that these five associations will bring out the fifteen people and those fifteen people will represent the five associations to go and contest election with whoever wants to contest with them and by that time, they will now know how formidable we are today if all of us, the five associations put our house together wherever they want to do that election.
“Dr. Aniebonam, Tony Iju, Ladipo and the rest of the associations, we sit together and take a decision on those who are going to represent us, and why do we want to do that? We want to do that just because of what has happened and what is still happening here now. We want to do that because we want to give directives to people, those who are going to represent us must know that they are talking on behalf of the associations and their members at the ports. No more going there and thinking because I sponsored myself and won the election, I can do whatever I want to do. You must be under the auspices of the associations and they must champion the cause and the problems in the port.
“So, we need to go into government and we have a platform already and what is that platform? The CRFFN! But I will tell you that NAGAFF will bring in six people, ANLCA will bring in six people and others will bring in one person each and we will sponsor them for every election they are going to do and I tell you, we don’t want to give them (government) conditions, but if they want, we will still give them. But wherever they take that election to, the people we are going to bring, we will sponsor them with everything we have so that they will hear our voice when we will tell them the heartbeat of our people and their problems on ground.”
On his part, the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam stated that CRFFN belonged to the freight forwarders arguing that it was an Act for the freight forwarders hence they went for it at the National Assembly and got it.
“So, the issue of election is our business, if we have agreed among ourselves that we are going 6:6:1:1:1 voluntarily, nobody was coerced, that is what democracy is all about and nobody can change that. But let me tell you people something; don’t think that it is over until it is over. If you watch, the President of NAGAFF is not here, for instance. If you watch here, there are people like Ernest Elochukwu and the rest of them, they may not be part of this, there are people working behind the scene against this position. So, don’t think it is over, it is not over but we will overcome.
“What this means is that certain people have written documents by way of petition to the extent of blackmailing me, ANLCA President and others before the Honourable Minister of Transport. I am aware of that. What we are doing, I have some of them on my phone, some sent me text messages so to say… But I have made them to understand that the CRFFN Act, it is compulsory for anybody who is involved in the business of freight forwarding in this country to be under the control and regulation of CRFFN. If you are not, you are not a freight forwarder. It is also an Act for anybody to understand that among the five associations, you must belong to one of them, if you don’t belong to any one of them, you will not attend the stakeholders meeting, you are not a freight forwarder.
“I repeat and it is in line with the Act, if you are not a member of NAGAFF and ANLCA and the other three as registered by CRFFN, it is from that register that they will take you to CRFFN register. Therefore, for the purpose of this election, if you are to contest election under CRFFN, you must be endorsed by one of these associations; you must represent one of these associations. It is not about what you want; it is about regulation and control and that is the essence of CRFFN. If you are to the contrary, the onus is on you to go to Court and challenge the position otherwise, you don’t understand what is regulation and you don’t understand what control is.
“If you don’t want to join any of the associations, forget about that, go your way, you don’t have to disturb everybody. We have agreed voluntarily among the five registered associations known to law to share the fifteen seats allotted to freight forwarders in the ratio of 6:6:1:1:1 and that is our position and that position will be communicated to them”, he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Dr. Rafiu Ladipo thanked the ANLCA President, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike and founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam for agreeing to work together to realize their the platform from which they were speaking stating that without their agreement, some of the associations would not even be represented at all in the Governing Council.
He said, “This arrangement wouldn’t have been it, I had to wade in because the government was going to use a divisive method to make us fight each other so that at the end of the day, these five associations may not even be represented on the CRFFN Board. When I took the matter unto them that if we are looking at what government is trying to do, we might not be doing what is necessary. Yes, associations were registered, five accredited but if we look at what government is trying to do now, it is to make sure that some of these associations will not even be represented at all because if you go for the election and we are not looking at what is happening now, you will discover that a particular group may even have ten out of fifteen, a particular group may even have twelve and that will be a disservice to other associations and what they are trying to fight for.
“So, I am happy that after talking to them, they saw the reasons why the associations must work together and I am thanking you for your magnanimity because if you want to talk of the election proper, what may play out there is your numerical strength. When elections are held, it is a game of number and if one association is weak, it doesn’t have as many members as others, it will lose that election. So, I went to them and appealed for us to continue with the format of the last election and even though it was difficult, a lot of people have picked forms but after talking to them, they still came back to recognize that we have to work in unison. We don’t need to bring crisis any longer, let us be our brothers’ keepers and we have agreed.
“On this note, I want all of us here to see this marriage as a marriage that will last. But for this election, I plead that we maintain that format of 6:6:1:1:1 otherwise, we might be shooting ourselves. I plead that we make it remain the way it is otherwise even those who are talking individually, who are you going to represent? We are talking of a collective responsibility, even at that, after the election, we are going to form within ourselves what we know as elders’ forum where we will be dishing out some advice to our representatives and tell them this is what we want. If we do that, government will sit up and do the needful. I plead with all my colleagues to see this as a neater arrangement other than just anybody going there, it is not going to work.”
Photo: L-R: Hajia Bola Muse, National Financial Secretary, ANLCA; Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, Chairman Board of Trustees, NCMDLCA; Chief Iju Tony Nwabunike, National President, ANLCA (standing) and Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, founder, NAGAFF during the meeting of the Freight Forwarders Forum held at Rock View Hotels, Apapa, Lagos yesterday.
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