‘My priority remains the advancement of NAGAFF’

The Tin-Can Island Chapter Chairman of the Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Azubike Ekweozor, says his priority remains to advance the cause of the association above anything else.
In this interview with Babalola Yusuf, he talks on his efforts that improved the association’s image and relationship with the Nigeria Customs Service. He clears the air on his relationship with the founder of NAGAFF and on why he wants to ‘step aside’. He also talked on some sundry issues including the financial responsiveness of the association.

Why did you threaten to resign your position as Chairman of Tin -Can Island chapter of NAGAFF?
The reason why I threatened resignation was the pressure the National leadership, including the Board of Trustees (BoT) is imposing on me over finance and activities they know are beyond my power.
They forgot there is a limit to which I can go; they forgot there are things I will do that will be contrary to the rules and regulation of the headquarters, as expected and as the chapter Chairman of Tin Can Island.  I know that I am doing my best to impress the headquarters, in terms of finance. The financial pressure  from the board of trustees and the headquarters is getting too much, but they forgot that everything is not money or returns, but about what you do to move the association forward.
My main priority of contesting for the chairmanship was not about money, but to ensure that I move NAGAFF, Tin Can Island Port, forward. When I entered as the caretaker chairman, I realised that many things were wrong and I immediately took over, made some reforms in the association; one of which was the relationship with Customs that was broken down. I made the Customs see NAGAFF as an institution that has come to stay in Tin- Can. Formerly, if you mentioned NAGAFF to any Customs officer, they would not be interested due to the bitter relationship between the service and the past administration. But now, we have been able to achieve 80 per cent cordial relationship with the Customs.

Is the banana peel in Tin -Can rearing its heads again, and what do you think will be the implication for NAGAFF if you resign?
I don’t think that NAGAFF will end if I leave as the chapter Chairman. I don’t have such impression and I am not leaving NAGAFF, but only ‘stepping aside’ as a chapter Chairman.

How will you describe your relationship with the founder of the association? 
As for the founder, I have a cordial relationship with him. He is my mentor and as a matter of fact, I am not resigning because of him, rather, he is only the founder of the association; the association he fought for, to stay.
Have you discussed your planned resignation with the national leadership or the founder?
I have never discussed resigning with the national leadership of NAGAFF, and that is why I want to do the flash. But when I will make my intention known fully, people will know what is wrong.
Less than a week ago at your general meeting, you called for unity and asked aggrieved members to come back home, but with this resignation threat how do you think they will react? 
Before making that pronouncement, I never thought of resigning, but you know that one cannot predict the future, neither can we predict tomorrow but this issue developed unexpectedly and I have to take action.
But, if you resign as the chapter chairman won’t you join the list of the aggrieved members in Tin- Can chapter?
I can never be aggrieved because nobody forced me to resign; it was willingly. I am part of the founding members of NAGAFF; I was there when the fight was tough, so I won’t say because I resigned I’m not a member of the association any longer.
Could it be that you are resigning to contest the coming Umaulu’ s election?  
No, I am not contesting election but supporting a candidate as an Umaulian.
How do you intend to manage loss of trust that will arise from stakeholders over your resignation?
I believe if I put up my resignation anyone that has a business to do with NAGAFF will be careful, especially with the trust I brought. Anyone who knows that the person that built trust has resigned will be careful in dealing with the association because they are human. Before you discuss business with a person, you must have discussed terms; if he tells you he is not the head of the association anymore, I think you should be able to weigh it, but if you still wish to take the risk, then that is for you and not for me

Have you studied the NAGAFF constitution, will you call for its review?
Well, I think the review of the constitution is the job of the headquarters and the Board of Trustees of NAGAFF. I can only make input if am asked to.
Is Tin -Can Island up to date in remitting its dues to the headquarters?
Yes, the executives of Tin -Can Island chapter ensures that our revenues are remitted as at when due. We ensure we do not lag behind no matter how difficult we find the situation. We have been collecting practicing fee from agents at the ports, though it’s a very difficult task, but I am doing it. Even though some members will tell you they are part of the association, and so question why they should pay money. It is very difficult, but we have been able to use our initiative to manage people’s characters so that we can pay our dues to the headquarters and we won’t lag behind in making money available to the national leadership.

For the past few weeks, there have been traffic gridlocks, how will you describe the business environment now? 
The gridlock affected everyone; both movement of human and goods, because we all know that when human movement is affected, the business environment will be dull. People that are supposed to come for one business or the other will not come, when you mention Apapa, everyone will be discouraged. It is a very worrisome situation which everybody knows, but we pray and hope that government will intervene before our businesses collapse.

Do you think that the gridlock affected the movement of containers into the country and outside the terminals?
It is annoying, then importers and agents are not finding it funny, that is why everywhere is jam-packed and one thing again is that importers overseas do not know what we are experiencing here. Some shippers just ship to their clients without knowing what their customers are facing in getting their cargoes to the warehouse.
Lastly, how do you combine your business with being the chairman of NAGAFF?
I am a very organized person, and I have professionals in my company  who take care of my business for me when I’m away, so, that enables me  to have time for the association.

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