Corruption is on the rise in Customs, says NAGAFF President

OluwoleAdeyemi is the new President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF).

In this interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s ShulammiteOlowofoyeku, he speaks on  the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the Nigeria Customs Service and how he intends to reposition NAGAFF.

 

Excerpts:

What new innovations do you intend to bring on board at NAGAFF?

We are going to focus more on ICT and training of our members. There is no way you talk of ICT without talking about training. For anybody to grow professionally, the issue of training and retraining is key. As part of our agenda in NAGAFF, before you can be free to go and practice as a freight forwarder, you must be trained and certificated and that is why we want CRFFN to come on board quickly because there is no year they don’t talk about training. Even for those who cannot afford to train themselves outside the country, they need to know that the issue of training even within the country is very keyto ensuring that they are better placed to do their work very well.

For example, training will enable them know when Customs tariffs change.

These are things training can assist them to do even without going to school.  For us in NAGAFF and going forward in this journey as the new President, the issue of training will be central to moving us forward and it is going to be done once or twice every year. We are also going to interface with key agencies in the industry such as NIMASA, Shippers Council and NPA among others to ensure that things go well in the industry.

Apart from that, we would also work towards involving international associations such as FIATA in our activities so that we can also attend workshop and seminar that are related to our field and network with freight forwarders outside Nigeria. Part of what we intend to do is also to go to the West Coast because we realise that if for example, 10 containers are supposed to come to Nigeria, only six will come here while the remaining four will go to Cotonoubecause of the free zone that they have there. So part of what we intend to do by God’s grace is to have our presence in Cotonou and Ghana where there is a lot of interface of businesses into Nigeria. We want to interact with the relevant bodies there so that when we have issues that have to do with moving cargoes from these places, we won’t have any problem.

 

How would you react to the assertion that you will be highly influenced by the founder of NAGAFF in making decisions in the association?

You need to know the person of the founder of NAGAFF before you make conclusions that he would be influencing issues in the association. His kind of person is if you have a mind of your own and if you can justify your intentions to the betterment of NAGAFF that he holds in high esteem, he will leave you to do your bit. I am not an Igbo man so I don’t see him having a lot of influence on my person. However, because of the arrangement we have on ground, the President must run things with the founder, and it is only when you get the pass mark that this can only move NAGAFF forward that you will be his friend. So anything that will move NAGAFF forward without me belittling myself is what I will do as the President of NAGAFF.

 

How do you intend to work towards the resuscitation of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) which has in the past years been in comatose?

The best that can happen to us is to ask CRFFN to work again. As the president representing my own association, if I am the minister today, I will ask CRFFN to start work tomorrow and I will ensure that they start work unfailingly. I am aware that the transport ministry has allocated some fund to ensure that work commences in the council. So anything that will ensure CRFFN comes on board very quickly is what I stand for.  If it also means to write to convince the government in the scheme of things, we are going to write it and I will be part of those who will support the signature of such a thing. Why will I go to do an MBA in national business, if I cannot see myself as a professional? And that is what CFRRN stands for. We can use them as platform to go outside the country to be seen as professionals. We ought to be recognised just as lawyers and bankers are recognised.

 

Do you think appropriating N300 million for CRFFN as contained in the 2016 appropriation bill will in anyway help in finding a lasting solution to the crisis rocking it?

For me, I will see this in two folds. Who are the stakeholders that have not made CRFFN to work till date? If we can talk to ourselves in-house and come out to the fore to say now we agree we need a CRFFN, then we might be getting to end this crisis. I can talk for NAGAFF and the other parties that are on our side. We know the only group that are challenging CRFFN maybe for ego or for the fact that when the board is set up, they will want to know who will be the President or the chair person of the board. Who takes care of training of this and that? You see there are so many intrigues in setting up the board but I think we should forget all of that for now to move the council forward. What we need to do as associations is how do we ensure we see the positive side of CRFFN in-house among forwarders then we can go the minister of transport to let him know we are ready to work with the council. I am sure if we get such a position paper and that openness to the minister, he will be ready to constitute CRFFN [governing council] the next day. He wants to the sure in-house we are ready to make CRFFN work. I don’t want to start mentioning names but it is forwarders themselves that are making CRFFN not to work and not until we sit down and look ourselves in the face on why such ones are against the council, is it that they are not training us very well or what else do they want the council to do that it is not doing? Is it the man that is the registrar that they do not like his face do they want a change? For me as the President of NAGAFF, I want the board to be constituted immediately so that whatever amount is earmarked in the budget can be used positively for the betterment of the freight forwarding industry in Nigeria.

 

What measures would you be putting in place to strengthen the relationship between NAGAFF and Customs? 

I believe things are going to change for the positive. Generally, if you know how the army works, it is by man know man and we know those that are close to Hameed Ali very well. I don’t know if my colleagues in the industry have been using those who know him to talk to him. We have people in Abuja who know the current CG and we would want them to get to him and let him know that he is still not working with one of the important stakeholders in the industry which are the associations. I know people have not let him know the associations can make things work well for him and that is why he thinks we are nobody. I know some people that can assist us to get to him and let him know there are some important people he has not been interacting with. So we will use these people to talk to him so that he will know there are people he still needs to talk to.

 

How true is the allegation by NAGAFF that level of corruption at the port has increased since the appointment of the new CG?

When you bring in an outsider to an arrangement that is ‘cult-like’, they will not let you see what is happening inside. There are so many things going on behind him that he doesn’t know. When it comes to the issue of corruption, it is most times difficult for you to present facts because some of the operators in the industry in giving or taking bribe don’t reveal their identity but it is clearly evident in the port that corruption has increased since the new CG came in. All his threats to jail and punish his officers when caught have been empty threats.  Nobody has been taken to serve as scapegoat in that regard.  If you look at what is going on, it is like the CG is caged by the management cadre who seem to be keeping him away from the operations going on at the commands. For example, on the letter we sent to Abuja in reply to customs response that we don’t have the right to carry out a public hearing on an officer, we replied asking the CG if he is aware of the letter and up till now we have not heard anything. So there is enough evidence that corruption is on the increase at the port and there has not been any improvement. It is still going on. 

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