Consolidation plan divides freight forwarding associations

Mixed reactions are trailing plans by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to introduce minimum share for companies involved in freight forwarding business in the country.

SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had reportedly exclusively in its edition of Tuesday 3rd June, 2014 that NSC is putting finishing touches to plans to introduce a minimum capital base for companies engaged in freight forwarding activities.

Executive Secretary/CEO of NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello, gave indication to this effect last weekend during an interactive session with senior media practitioners in Lagos.

Bello, who decried the lack of professionalism and absence of sanity in the freight forwarding industry, said that the minimum capital base to be introduced by NSC will stimulate consolidation and weed out touts.

“There must be minimum standards. What we have at present is that someone will come to Lagos by night bus from Birnin Kebbi, arrives the following morning and he becomes a freight forwarder. This cannot be allowed to continue,” the NSC boss had stated.

Bello also said that effective cargo clearance at the port is hampered by human elements that daily throng the ports.

He said: “It is only in Nigeria that you see the number of people you see in our ports. It is only in our ports that you see campaign posters (of freight forwarders) inside the yards. Our clearing system is near primitive hence the high cost of doing business at the port.

“We must sanitise the port. Unfortunately we are coming in after the game has started. As commercial regulator, we are now the referee of the game and our aim is to sanitise the industry. We will be democratic in fulfilling this mandate but there are times when we have to apply force to fulfill this mandate.”

But in a swift reaction to the development, the oldest freight forwarding association in the country, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) said “there is need to dialogue with relevant stakeholders over the festering problems”.

The Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFF) and a faction of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) were not as diplomatic in their response.

AREFF President, Dr. Frank Ukor, was emphatic in his opposition to NSC’s consolidation plan. The plan, according to him, will further worsen the unemployment situation in the country and create hardship for the common man.

He said, “They want to worsen a bad situation and the situation is that there is much unemployment in the country. Nigeria is already saturated with unemployment and Shippers’ Council wants to discourage people who want to get self employed by going into the freight forwarding practice with the little they can. You want everybody who wants to be in the business to have N25 million. How many people in the industry now can afford five million naira not to talk of N25 million?

“Besides, people in the profession, especially the Ibos are not very good at group enterprising. People thrive when they are on their own but if it comes to coming as a group those companies never succeed.”

He appealed to NSC to step down the plan, noting that Nigeria is not yet ripe for it.

Also speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, factional President of NCMDLCA, Chief Festus Ejiofor, said Nigerian Shippers’ Council will meet with a brick wall in his association over the matter.

“We the freight forwarders have been battered from all angles. CRFFN will say they want to consolidate and reform, Customs will say they want to increase the money for licensing and now Shippers’ Council.  We are sick and tired of all these things.” Ejiofor stated.

The position of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) is however different as its National President, Chief Eugene Nweke, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that he sees nothing wrong in the consolidation plan. The plan, he said, “is a reform process targeted towards a seamless freight forwarding operation.”

He however said that there is need for the port regulatory body to collaborate with the freight forwarders regulatory body – the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) for the policy to work.

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