History was made last Monday when Prince Olayiwola Shittu was re-elected to serve another four year term as National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
The re-election was historic and significant. Historic because it was the first time in the 60-year history of ANLCA that its National President will win a second term mandate. Its significance lies in the intrigues and power play that preceded the election. But in all of these, Shittu maintained a calm and unruffled posture.
In his first interview after re-election, which he granted to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Obianuju Ozoeze, Shittu shares his thoughts on reconciling aggrieved members who felt slighted by the conduct of the association’s National Executive Committee (NECOM) election. He also speaks on what ANLCA members should expect over the next four years.
Now that the election is over, what moves are you making towards restoring unity in the association?
We just concluded the meeting of NECOM members both old and new which was a valedictory meeting of the administration that ends today (Wednesday last week) with another one taking off tomorrow. It was resolved at that meeting that NECOM should not go into the arena with boxing gloves with the BoT (Board of Trustees) but rather to give room for reconciliation based on the provisions of the ANLCA Constitution. The NECOM also recognizes the fact that people are entitled to their opinions even if they are wrong and that those that have gone to court should be given the opportunity to see it through while we also make sure that we follow the case to its logical conclusion.
However, we are not unmindful of Section 13 (6) of the ANLCA Constitution because information came to us that that provision of the constitution is being canvassed by members. And that is the provision that says that when board members act against the constitution, if there is a petition from one-third of the members of the National Executive Council demanding for the process in Section 13 to be followed we may not have any option than to follow it through. But we have appealed to ourselves that even though there are people who may want to do that, we should allow magnanimity to prevail so that we can reconcile ourselves and become one big family.
Leadership is not by vengeance. Leadership should be able to absorb challenges and difficulties when they come forward. That is why we appeal to everyone to allow reasons prevail so that we can work together. The board is an essential part of the ANLCA constitution. They have roles to play even though it is in advisory capacity because we need their advice.
I have been asked not to delve into what led to the imbroglio in the past provided there are also moves from the other party to seek the part of reconciliation. It is never too late if we have to resort to letting the whole world know what transpired within that period.
What should be expected of your second administration?
We have two major issues we want to pursue while consolidating on the ones we have had before. We must be able to get our association chartered because of the professionalism involved; a Chartered Institute of Customs Brokerage. And we are going to take support from the International Federation of Customs Brokers Association, which is meeting in May 10, where we (ANLCA) will present a paper at that outing.
Secondly, we are going to pursue vigorously compensation for our members on every duty paid to government coffers because there are precedents. Customs, FIRS, NNPC, CBN all receive their own so there is no reason why revenue generators should not receive theirs because the advantages are many. Government will realize more revenue. The incidences of fraud in the port will be a thing of the past because the more you get, the better you get. These are the two major plans that we know is achievable and that is why we need everybody. Let me tell you; the role I feel the BoT should be pursuing now in their advisory capacity is to assist us in formulating policies and guidelines that will make us achieve our objectives and that is a big task that meets three times in a year even though the Constitution does not say that cannot meet at any time they want to meet. So I would rather we all sheath our swords and let us move on together.
During your re-election acceptance speech, you related the project of getting ANLCA chartered to the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA). What is the connection?
CEMA is the control over our professional body. I am not unmindful that there is CRFFN which embodies all practitioners but don’t also forget that there is Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) whose members can also be governed by CRFFN. That does not exempt them from obeying the prevailing law on ground. Being a chartered institute means you specialize in that particular area, under multimodal. Transporters can decide to go to CILT to get their professional bearing; there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t also forget that CRFFN is not a training school but they are training facilitators. They accredit training institutes and in doing that once we are able to get a law passed chartering our profession as customs brokers then CRFFN will look at the module and accredit for what we are doing. Then our certificates become real in the realm of our professional expertise.
Some members of the association accused your previous administration of not addressing what they described as “grassroot challenges” that affect their operations. How do you intend to tackle this?
You know the powers to act are segregated in our constitution. The unfortunate thing is that during our first tenure we printed not less than two thousand copies of our constitution that were given out free to our members. But people don’t read, you know reading is not in our culture, if they do they would have discovered that the administration at the NECOM level is mutadis mutandis administration at the chapter level. It is when the chapters are incapacitated or they are unable to perform their functions; that is when they will invite NECOM and that is what happened during our (first) tenure.
You are aware that sometimes you visit all the CACs to discuss challenges but the day to day running of those issues have to be done by the chapters because they are at the grassroot. And that is why we always say, especially during the time of election at the chapter level, look at leaders that can listen to your problems because whoever you vote in; you have to accommodate him for the next three years. So our own level is at the national sphere, mindful of the fact that whatever we discuss at the national sphere must impact on the generality of the people. But what people expect of our association, which is different from other associations, is that the president will carry his chair and stay in the port and listen one by one to their problems. No, that is not what I am elected to do.
My job is to collate all the problems all over the place, articulate them and look at how government policies can be effected in order to bring succor to our people. Just like a chapter chairman cannot get up and go and meet the Inspector General of Police, he doesn’t have the powers to do so but he has the powers to meet his DPO. They meet on everyday basis. They know the problem of individuals and intervene.
I can tell you, we have investigated, those chairmen do so but there is always a problem. In that field there are people who do the right things based on our urging them but there are those who want to cut corners and expect their leaders to assist them in cutting those corners, and that is not the policy of ANLCA.
If you do the right thing and you are being intimidated or extorted while doing it, it is your right to meet with your chapter executives to have those issues resolved. But we also said that if you deliberately cut corner, whatever you see at the end you are on your own.
I have even gone out of my way to take issues to sometimes Federal Operations, Customs Headquarters Abuja and many times I get there only to be disgraced because the whole truth was not said.
So until people know how our association is structured, it is not the duty of the president to meddle into how somebody does his job. Don’t forget we are corporate members and not individual members. And a corporate member has to go according to CEMA, according to the rules of the game and if somebody decides to cut corners, we are not supposed to protect that corporate body in cutting corners. But I can tell you that we are trying our best, that is why the compliance level among our members has increased.
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