With its Western zone chapters’ election fast approaching, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has been bubbling with excitement. The NAGAFF Headquarters, otherwise known as the Freight Forwarders ’Apapa Village, in the past two weeks has been a beehive of activities in preparation for the election. Membership registration, collection and submission of nomination and voters forms, screening of contestants and voters among other electioneering processes are activities that have taken over the association lately. In this chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Uju Ozoeze, Chairman of the association’s electoral body- the NAGAFF Electoral Commission (NECOM), Okey Nerus, speaks on the challenges his commission is faced with while tidying up preparations for the election scheduled to commence March 24, 2014.
What challenges is NECOM facing in its preparations for the forthcoming elections?
It is usually our nature, in fact a Nigerian factor, that people don’t do things until the last minute. They like rush and this has come to play in the preparations of this election. And because they are rushing you don’t expect us, as a commission, to begin to bend the rules, no. We are very strict with our rules. Our demands are so clear and we expect that people adhere to our requirements. These requirements have been there from the onset and we have not changed from it. What we are only asking is those basic requirements that you should have either as a contestant or as an electorate. These requirements are what we look out for during the screening and of course we ask clarification for those that are not clear before the candidate is cleared to vote or be voted for.
What are these requirements?
The requirements are what we have been preaching about since December last year so I think anybody that wants to partake in this election ought to have start preparing since December. First of all you must be a NAGAFF member to participate in the election. And if you don’t have the Identification card, you must provide evidence of payment for your Biometric ID card. Two, you must provide evidence of payment for one year subscription. At first, at the AGM, we told them that it was two years but the management sat down and looked at it and in order not to make it to so difficult and cumbersome we slashed it down to just one year subscription. And the third basic requirement is that you must be a member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). You must show us a CRFFN ID card and if you don’t have it show us an evidence that you have commenced the process of registering with Council. These are basically the three requirements we are looking out for.
Some of the contestants and electorates have frowned at the requirement of CRFFN registration with complaints that the cost of registering with the Council is too much for them to cope with. What do you have to say about this?
When we started, even during the sensitization visits to the chapters, one or two chapters raised issues as regards that but thank God that at the end of the day we were able to make them see the reason why they should key into this. And I thank God they are now at the head of this vanguard to make sure everybody registers with CRFFN. The Council regulates freight forwarding. As freight forwarders we are professionals regulated by a body so it is not possible you hold an election in isolation of the Council. Mind you the Council will be here, as observers, to witness what we do. There is one question I keep asking, is it possible to be a lawyer without belonging to Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)? It’s not possible because that is the professional body. As a medical doctor you must belong to NMA (Nigeria Medical Association). So as a freight forwarder you must be regulated by the Council as the regulatory body. I thank God that lately people are now seeing reason why they must be registered with CRFFN. The few chapters that raised this issue during our visitations have turned back to now begin to congratulate us of doing a good job because they have now understand the reason why they should do it and the compliance level has been so wonderful.
Some industry watchers are of the opinion that the election is being used as a tool to amass members for CRFFN?
I think the advantage of belonging to the Council far outweighs any other thing. Looking at it from that perspective the advantages far outweighs any other thing than what anyone thinks of. We are not seeing it from that angle but what we are saying is that as a freight forwarder you must be registered with CRFFN. And to make it easy for our members to register we brought CRFFN down to NAGAFF Headquarters to carry out the registration for them. Ever since the electioneering started our members access the headquarters almost on daily basis and with CRFFN on ground here it would be easy for them to get registered. Even before CRFFN, the bankers have been here. UBA has been here doing the data capturing for the biometric so everything is centralized. It’s just like a one stop thing that you just come in here do your CRFFN registration, do your Biometric registration and then go back to your business.
In carrying out its mandate, is the Commission been influenced by leadership of the association?
Not at all! The Commission is independent. All decisions concerning this election emanates from the Commission. What we do is that when there are issues to talk about, at the end of the day’s work, the Commission sits down and looks at them dispassionately. When there is need to make consultations we do but basically every decision is taken and executed by the Commission.
What should be expected in the conduct of the elections?
From the Commission’s angle we have been very thorough in doing our jobs. We want to make sure that nobody is unduly disenfranchised. We want to make sure that everybody is given ample opportunity and a level playing field for all aspirants to contest. And at the end of the day we want to leave a legacy after this election that other sister associations will continue to emulate and copy from NAGAFF. We are promising a credible and transparent election that at the end of the day all parties, both the winners and losers, will see themselves as one family.
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