With the disagreement over the collection of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) practitioners’ fees between four freight forwarding associations and a fifth, ANLCA; Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam in this interview said the motive behind ANLCA’s withdrawal from a consensus reached by the five associations to collect the fees was that it never wanted the Council to exist in the first place. He spoke with Shulammite’Foyeku.
What’s your reaction to ANLCA’s decision to withdraw from a consensus reached by your associations and CRFFN to collect practitioners’ fees?
The beauty of democracy is that you are at liberty to make any decision you feel favours you. For me, the position of ANLCA does not make sense to any responsible person. Out of five registered associations, four are in support, one is against; minority will always have their say but the majority will always have their way. I just hope they recover quickly because CRFFN is an agency of the Federal Government and it is a directive from the government that such fees be collected. They also need to exercise caution because there is a change of government and it cannot continue to be business as usual. Anybody who feels contrary to this can go to court to seek redress but if anybody takes the law into their hands then the person is confronting the law. I am referring to the incident that occurred in Seme border where some CRRFN staff where attacked and even the CRFFN registrar was accosted at the secretariat by members of ANLCA. So for them to go on and carry out this threat it is as if we are operating in a banana republic. But the good thing is that a letter has just come in from the Ministry of Transport inviting the chairman, board of trustees, president of the organization, secretary general of each of the five associations to Abuja on Wednesday and I hope it will be an opportunity to look at the issue at that level because we spoke with Jukwe [CRFFN Registrar] and he said that the minister has taken over the case. People should appreciate the fact that the power of coercion is inherent in government administration and I just hope arrest is not affected at the Abuja trip because it is as good as that.
Do you think there is any ulterior motive behind ANLCA’s withdrawal?
Maybe some of the motives will be unveiled when they get to Abuja on Wednesday. Of course, we know there are interests because some people among the first governing council were the ones who packaged the whole concept of collection of practitioners’ fees and it was at 60 percent for CRFFN, 40 percent for SW Global. For instance, the president of ANLCA is involved in all the agreements. He signed all necessary documents before the approval and as a matter of fact, I was in Abuja with him and others and we met with the minister and a consensus was reached on that. But because the first council has expired, some people are now kicking against it because what they thought they would have gotten from SW Global is not coming forward – so they are now distorting the whole concept. That is the truth of the matter because we have been following it closely. With what has happened now, it seems ANLCA is taking undue advantage of the fact that they are licensed by Customs to believe they are working for Customs but I know that the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) does not deal with an association. What is going on is that ANLCA sees CRFFN as not being too good for their organization.They never wanted the council to exist because the membership of CRFFN is predicated on individual practitioners which seek to follow the concept of professionalism. It is only individuals that can become professionals. Corporate bodies like the one licensed by Customs are not professionals because they are not humans. CRFFN seeks to provide professionalism in our business and it centres on individuals.
How would you react to the letter from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation directing that the collection of the fees be stopped until elections are conducted in CRFFN?
I don’t think that letter is genuine and it is subject to investigation. The Port Police Commissioner is investigating the matter and I am aware as we speak that the person they wrote the letter to is yet to be tracked down by the police and a letter has been sent to him. But if they have done that, fine. Even the Ministry of Transport has said that they don’t know anything about the letter, so those who are concocting the letter, in due course we will know the extent the matter will go because there are certain documents you don’t forge.
Do you think the collection of the practitioners’ fees should be of more importance to CRFFN than conducting an election into the council?
It is the most important thing CRFFN requires now. You can’t run an administration without money. CRFFN hasthe mandate of building capacity and for the past five years, the council has not seen the light because of all these infractions. CRFFN is an act of the National Assembly and it is an agency of government under the supervision of theMinistry of Transport. Election is a different thing completely for which we have, under the Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum written a letter to the Minister of Transport on how the elections should go. Laws are made for man and not man for laws. The maiden election was filled with rigging. For example, the categories of membership of CRFFN are three in number, corporate, individual and associations. But individual and corporate are embedded in the association as an umbrella. So the first maiden election was based on corporate bodies licensed by Customs which is an affront to the council’s act, because you don’t need to have a Customs license to be a freight forwarder. So if you base your 1st register on the license issue by Customs, then it was just a conduit pipe for the rigging. But all those ones have gone, right now what we want to do and what should be done is that we have all known that the essence of CRFFN is to bring all these contending voices together under one umbrella and of course, regulate. Therefore, the fifteen seats that are available in the council will be shared with NAGAFF gettingfive slots, ANLCA, 4 slots and the three others, two each.
How did you come about this sharing formula?
ANLCA is the umbrella body of the licensed clearing agents with about 35 percent of licenses issued by Customs. NAGAFF is a bigger association because its membership cuts across licenses, individual freight forwarders and cooperate bodies. NAGAFF is also the association that initiated, facilitated and saw the bill through. Also, in terms of spread, there is no organization has more than NAGAFF because our members are now at Jibya borders, Kwara and so on. So ANLCA is just next to NAGAFF in terms of spread.
What do you think is the way forward to resolving this issue of collection of practitioners’ fees?
ANLCA has the right to back out and that has nothing to do with the movement which is the law. Out of five registered associations, four are saying let’s move on, one is saying no. So ANLCA is just a minority in this whole issue and before they know it, they will be deregistered by CRFFN. If you look at PDP, with all the opportunities they had, they said they were the biggest party and they became complacent because they believed the whole world belonged to them but, before they knew it ACN, CPC, ANPP collaborated to bring change. Right now, ANLCA should see the handwriting on the wall, so that they don’t fall like the PDP. We are not in a banana republic.People should be called to order, we cannot continue this way. Remember what happened at Tin Can Island Port last week; the other day it was in Apapa – if you ask that terminal operators should give you money and they don’t give you, the next thing is for you to carry people and say you want to close down the port.We cannot continue this way.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.