Chief Peter Obi

The sudden marriage between ANLCA and NAGAFF is the root of ANLCA’s problems’

Chairman Registration Committee of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Chief Peter Obi, who is equally a frontline member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), in this interview with Ships & Ports’ Uju Ozoeze expressed dissatisfaction in the partnership which has supposedly been established between the leadership of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and ANLCA following the controversial collection and suspension of the transaction fees which have been generating heated debate in the freight forwarding industry. He also spoke on the issue of the alleged tenure elongation of the present CRFFN governing council members.

Excerpts: 

There has been quite a ruckus in the freight forwarding industry surrounding the issue of collection transaction fees by CRFFN, and subsequently that of subvention proposed by CRFFN to give to its member associations, which was strongly opposed by its two frontline member associations, ANLCA and NAGAFF. As a member of the CRFFN governing council, what can you tell us about these very controversial issues? 
The transaction fee as approved by the government is in our CRFFN Act. Section 6 subsection 2c did mention it and it was very explicit. This section of the Act made it clear that CRFFN is to collect fees as may be agreed. This fee has been there for long time, for over twenty years the associations has been collecting it without accounting for it. The associations wrote to us to give them approval to be collecting this money in all the ports. Though they have been collecting this money ever since, they were only collecting it in certain ports not all the ports. So, they wrote to CRFFN asking for approval to start collecting this money in all the ports and CRFFN said no, telling them that it is now CRFFN duty to collect this fee and give them subventions out of it based on the budget the associations present to it as what it wants to do in the year. ANLCA to be precise turned out not to be comfortable with this arrangement because of one thing or the other. Mind you that the president of ANLCA used to be a member of the Council but because of this issue of subvention he voluntarily resigned. It is important to note that before his resignation he contributed sixty to eighty percent of all the decisions taken within the Council only to divert to start fighting the CRFFN governing council that he’s been a member of for four years and had always been at the forefront of. I really don’t understand it! In short, it is only ANLCA that knows what they are after. It is only them that know the person that is beating the drum whose sounds they are dancing to. Yes! There is an outside force influencing Shittu. I can’t believe that Shittu can be approbating and reprobating at the same time. If CRFFN fails today, Shittu failed because he has been there for four years and what we have been doing all the while, he is a part and parcel of it. So, why the sudden change? if you are inside a thing and it is derailing, you correct it! The decisions taken by CRFFN on any issue, Shittu contributes about 80 percent! So why is he now turning around to start fighting CRFFN? Let me tell you, we the freight forwarders in the Council are very few and the minister’s appointees are on the majority so when we brought this issue before the Council meeting and they said that government does not talk anything about percentage, as Shittu and his people were demanding for percentage, unless subvention. We can call it anything we like within ourselves but what it is officially called is subvention and Shittu was in the meeting when all this was said. So, I don’t know what he is dragging on about. I repeat that it is only ANLCA that knows what they are after.

But ANLCA is not the only association against this issue of subvention, NAGAFF is too.
Let me tell you, the problem we are having in ANLCA now, am talking now as a member of ANLCA, is the marriage of ANLCA and NAGAFF. That is the problem ANLCA is having today. The sudden marriage between ANLCA and NAGAFF is the root of ANLCA’s problems because we have never in any meeting approved for our president to have such engagement not to talk of marriage. He has been doing that out of his own volition and that marriage is now the bane of the progress of ANLCA. Let me tell you that at a time, when this is issue of subvention was on, the NAGAFF president agreed on subvention at a time! Then, suddenly he joined the president of ANLCA to oppose it since this surprising marriage between ANLCA and NAGAFF! The president of NAGAFF is a member of CRFFN just like the president of ANLCA who just resigned the other day because of this problem. This issue is not a big deal. If you notice most of usfrom CRFFN don’t talk to the press because we know this is an internal issue that can be managed. We don’t need all these problems.

The idea of CRFFN collecting transaction fees from its members at the ports also did not go down well with the Nigeria Customs Service, as shown by a letter from the office of the Comptroller-General of Customs to the Transport Minister noting that the implementation of the transaction fees collection will cause delays in cargo clearance and increase the cost of doing business in the ports, what is your take on this? 
It is very unfortunate that customs would condescend so low as to reducing their opinion in writing to the minister. Remember that we have customs representatives in the Council so I wonder why they should approbate and at the same time reprobate. A member of the Customs is representing the Service in the CRFFN so why should customs now react without consulting their representative in the CRFFN! It simply shows that there is more to it than meets the eye and more especially when it comes immediately after somebody said he is resigning. The following two or three days, this letter came up without due consultation of their representatives in the Council. If customs has consulted their representative in the council, the man would have told them the way this thing has been planned to be carried out. The man will also tell them that such fee has always been collected by the associations and that it is in the same way things are going. It will not cause any more cost because it is already there only that it is now to be changed from association collection to CRFFN collection. What the customs should have done is to get their representative to put them through on all this before jumping into reaction. If agencies such as SON and NAFDAC, established by Acts, collect money in the ports, why shouldn’t CRFFN? Why is ours of special interest to Customs? To tell you the fact we are very much disappointed about the whole thing and I am sure Customs now realise their mistake and is trying to make a u-turn. But Shittu is trying to use his connection as member of the Presidential Port Compliance Committee to confuse or convince the Honourable Minister of Transport to dissolve the CRFFN so that his hidden agenda will materialise while NAGAFF is now busy putting up their own position paper to be submitted to the same committee in order to maintain their (ANLCA and NAGAFF) marriage vows. But we know the Hon. Minister, being a lawyer, knows what to do and guard jealously the CRFFN Act. We are watching.

Another very controversial issue surrounding CRFFN is the alleged tenure elongation of the elected members of its governing council, what do you have to say about this? 
Let me explain it very well. We were supposed to be there for four years starting from August 2008 when we were inaugurated. Getting to August 2010 there were these appointees who were larger in number whose tenure elapsed after two years and they moved out. We were only eight freight forwarders elected and we don’t form quorum to function in the council. We were like stagnant and not doing anything from that August till November when the minister then appointed new appointees and inaugurated us in November 2010. So you should count from that November 25, and if there is any mistake it’s not on our part because from that August to November there was not meeting, it was as if there was no Council. For instance a governor is sworn in today, you count from today he was sworn in.
We were officially inaugurated on August 8 for the first two years; it’s a two year term but because they said that there won’t be need for any election let us continue the second two years. The first two years ended in 2010 when the appointees greater in number vacated their seats remaining the only eight elected members and we were not doing anything then, it was like there was no Council until when those new appointees by the minister joined us and we were inaugurated, this was in November 2010. So you count from the 25th November 2010 to 25th November 2012 before it ends. So those crying that our tenure has expired are not well informed and I must tell you that they know what they are doing; there is something they are pursuing. But we are not perturbed, we will continue until our tenure expires. I also want to make it public today that for now no election is forthcoming in the Council. This is because during the time NAGAFF was accredited, there was an MoU signed between CRFFN and NAGAFF and in that MoU NAGAFF signed that it will never take CRFFN to court again and so many other things. Now after that agreement, some individuals went to court seeking clarification on how many seats or positions we are vying for in the Council.

Asking whether the positions of the elected freight forwarders in the Council will be among the positions that will be elected again or whether it will only be fifteen, five from the airport and land borders, five from the eastern zone and five from the western zone that will make the second council? Or whether it is that fifteen plus the eight? Somebody has gone to court for this and the matter is still pending in court. And you should know that we cannot treat any matter that is still in court when the court has not passed judgement on it. So, nobody should be talking about election as far as we are concerned. I just want to make it clear for those people who are agitating for nonsense and crying lion where there is none. I also want to touch this issue of tenure elongation as it concerns the motion of six month extension moved and supported at the last meeting of the Council. During this meeting, three motions were moved to extend the tenure of the governing council members. One was for one year, the other for six months and the last for three months. Votes were cast and that of the six months extension carried the day going by what we are seeing. One, we don’t have money for election, secondly we are informed of this court case, which I have earlier addressed, hoping that by the end of the six months extension the court case would have been resolved. So, based on this the motion for six months extension carried the day.
The minutes of that meeting can be made by the Register of the Council. Fortunately, it was that same Shittu of ANLCA that moved the motion for three months in the meeting! So who is deceiving who? I already told you that Shittu contributes about eighty percent of decisions taken in CRFFN. I wonder why the ANCLA president will go behind our back to tell people of tenure elongation when he was one of the men who moved a motion on it! I don’t understand why Shittu is approbating and reprobating at the same time. Let him make us understand what he is doing. Let him be on the same webpage with us!
Let him carry us along! For example if the president of ANLCA should resign for a genuine cause he is pursuing for ANLCA, what would I still be doing in CRFFN? If he is fighting for a genuine cause on behalf of ANLCA, that very day he resigned from the Council, I will follow suit! All members of ANLCA will join suit if he is pursuing a genuine cause. But what he is pursuing is very obscure to us so we are not on the same webpage and I cannot follow somebody sheepishly. We have about seven members of ANLCA that are still in the Council, despite the ANLCA president’s resignation from the Council, why should it be so? There is no way I will be in the Council and not protect the interest of ANLCA if it is for a genuine cause.

But one can say that Shittu is not representing ANLCA in the Council but the South- West region 
Then why is his resignation reflecting ANLCA’s agenda? If he knows he is representing South-West, his resignation should concern South-West not ANLCA! Then why is his resignation talk of the town in ANLCA? He keeps saying that he resigned from the Council because his association asked him to do so but nobody asked him to resign! I was in that meeting and the issue did not come up at all. It was him when he was giving ruling on how he will deal with CRFFN that he mentioned that he will resign because he wants to fight CRFFN. I as a board member of ANLCA do not see any reason for his resignation.



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