Operation KYC: Shippers’ Council set to register freight forwarders, other port users


… Mulls consolidation of freight forwarding companies

The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has disclosed its intention to register the freight forwarders and port users operating in the nation’s seaports in an exercise it tagged “Operation Know Your Customer.”

The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime who disclosed at a meeting in Lagos recently observed that the Council had put in place, the process of registration pleading with them to allow the Council to register them so as to have a database of its customer.

His words, “We have today what we call Operation Know Your Customer. The Council has put in place, the process of registration. Can I plead with you please, now is the time for us to have you registered with the Shippers’ Council. I think for too long, it appears that there has been some bits of reluctance. I am not sure what the reasons are but again, if we discuss and are aware what the issues are, maybe we can talk about them but I would really like  to urge us and plead that we please know ourselves.

“Registration helps, again, further down the road, it will also eliminate the possibility of having individuals who should have no business in this industry pretending around as if they are actually supposedly members of your group.”

Jime reminded the freight forwarders that they had their professional practices that the NSC would engage with them and ask them to continue to promote adding that training and re-training of their members was key.

He said, “I know that within the industry, we have instances of quackery and I think when we work together with such a professionally organized sector as you are, we can eliminate the incidences of quackery. But then, there are things that we need to put in place in order for us to achieve that.

“One way we can do it is to now insist that we have practitioners who have traceable offices. As long as we keep having people with portfolios and briefcases operating and if they are amongst you, you should know that there is a problem with that sought of operation. If you have a traceable office, it makes it easier for us to also identify what actually is going in that particular office and how they are operating. I will like to urge you to professionalize the freight and logistics industry by employing qualified and well trained staff.”

The Executive Secretary further harped on the need for freight forwarders to consolidate their companies so as to be in a vantage position to compete with their counterparts world over.

According to him, “I will also like to advise us that there is a need now, ladies and gentlemen, for us to consolidate, not just consolidate but practice the formation of mega groups. We need to consolidate this and get to that point where we are consolidating ourselves into mega groups and when you do that, of course, am advising that you are now going to be operating as non-vessel owner. That is really very important in the industry.

“We are not yet at that point and I think we should now be aiming to get to that point as far as the practice of your trade is concerned. So, Council will put itself in a position whereby advocacy, cooperation and working together with you, we are able to push you solidly in that direction.”

Buttressing on the registration of port users, the Director, Legal Services, NSC, Barr. Tahir Idris noted that it was clear from the concerns raised by the freight forwarders that they were not totally against registration by the Shippers’ Council but were more concerned on the rate or fees to be charged adding that “I am sure that you will not refuse to accept the need for regulator or an economic regulator to register all regulated entities within its purview.”

He continued, “You might have been pushed into that, perhaps by the kind of payment or fee or perhaps the rate but I am sure not the essence of registration. The essence of registration is to establish an umbilical cord between the economic regulator and the regulated entity of which you are one and an important one for that matter.

“We will keep talking about registration, I do not think that you mean to say that an economic regulator should not embark on registration, registration is necessary; it is a basic requirement in the relationship between the regulator and the regulated entity. We will continue to look at it, if is about the fee, if it is about the rate, the rate is even a token. I understand your frustrations with the other registrations but the Shippers’ Council needs to register its own regulated entities.”

Also speaking, the Director Consumer Services, Chief Cajethan Agu explained that the registration exercise was not something that was imposed on port users by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council insisting that it was a fall out of stakeholders’ engagement on the 29th of January, 2019.

According to him, “All the stakeholders met at Golden Tulip Hotel and we discussed the issue of registration of stakeholders with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Where they have some reservations was the rate and we threw it open and asked them, what do you think stakeholders can pay that will not increase the cost of doing business in the Nigerian ports? And there were suggestions and based on their suggestions, we agreed on that.

“Then, severally, we did other sensitization drawing stakeholders’ attention on the need to register with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Registration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is a provision of the law. That you register with the CRFFN does not mean you will not register with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Don’t forget that we have engagements with stakeholders, sometimes; they come to us, especially freight forwarders. If a freight forwarder comes to complain to us, definitely, I need to even confirm whether he is a genuine freight forwarder. How do I know? It is from the registration.

“You asked us to continually disseminate information to your members, how do we do that? Is it not by those people that registered with us? So, I enjoin you to please encourage your members to register with us. We need to know those people that are operating in the port sector. Even in one of the seminars that we held, I think that was under NIMAREX, they made it very clear that we don’t have data of the people that are operating in the sector. So, I don’t think there is anything wrong in freight forwarders coming to register with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. I think the annual registration fee for freight forwarders is N5,000. Will N5,000 increase the cost of doing business in Nigeria for a freight forwarder in a year? Let us be sincere to ourselves.”

Earlier in his submission, the National Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto advised the Executive Secretary not to toe the path of registration of freight forwarders noting that the freight forwarders especially the licensed customs agents were being weighed down by so many charges that they were meant to pay in carrying out their duties at the ports.

In his words, “I am aware that you are an economic regulator and I do know that the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria is domiciled in the Ministry of Transportation, you do not need to register any freight forwarder. All you need to do is to juxtapose whatever the CRFFN is having in terms of the register of freight forwarders with whatever you want to have and you will have them because I look at it that we are not protected.

“Aside the fact that we are all freight forwarders, some of us are specialized freight forwarders like licensed custom brokers. If I pay N23,000 to CRFFN every year, I use N215,000 for customs to renew my license and I pay my VAT and you still want me to come and register with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council paying another N6,000. We are looking for how to reduce cost in the industry, so, I want you to look at that. That is one of the banana peels, please don’t step on it.”    

Photo: Hon. Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in a group photograph with some leaders of the freight forwarding associations shortly after a meeting at the Council’s headquarters in Lagos recently.     

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