The maritime sector has been assailed in recent times by a battle filled with bitterness and anger between sister freight forwarding associations registered and regulated by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The bitterness evolved as a result of disagreements on how to share a portion of the Practitioners Operation Fees approved for CRFFN and the five registered associations by the former Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar.
The Minister had via a letter dated 26th February 2015 approved the collection of N1.20 per kilogram of air freight; N1,000 per 20-foot container; N2,000 per 40-foot container; N500 per car/jeep; N1,000 per 1×20? truck; N2,000 per 1×40? truck; N3.50 per ton of general cargo; N1.00 per ton of dry bulk cargo while the rate on wet cargo was indicated as ‘negotiable’.
The collection was expected to net at least N2 billion per annum which Umar directed should be shared between CRFFN and the associations in the ratio of 60% and 35% respectively while the remaining 5% would be shared to registered freight forwarders.
All the five registered associations namely Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents (ANALCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF) and the National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) had, at the beginning, agreed to work together to actualize the collection until a major disagreement broke out over the sharing formula.
ANCLA was of the opinion that it deserves a sizable share of the 35% accruing to the associations, since it has the highest number of licenced Customs Agents who, it argued, would pay the lion share of the POF. The other four associations are however claiming equality.
“We are all registered by CRFFN so no association is bigger than the other,” the President of one of the four has been quoted as saying.
The disagreement, which started as a minor squabble, has snowballed into a major rift capable of tearing CRFFN apart.
It is clear that there is a battle of supremacy going on here but the maritime sector is a ring where competition should be in terms of economic indices and not one-upmanship, violent confrontation or schism. The five freight forwarding sister associations should come together in a spirit of give and take, not with an attitude of my way or the highway and solve their problem.
Litigations should be withdrawn, negotiations should begin. CRFFN should play a paternal role in bringing all sides to the negotiating table, because non-interference at this juncture will be counterproductive.
The Ministry of Transport should not be seen to take sides in the issue but must facilitate an agreement by the sister associations in which everyone feels that though they lost something, they have gained another.
So much revenue has been lost by all concerned as a result of this disagreement, which is deeply unfortunate, considering the prevailing economic difficulties in the country. Now is the time to bring the crisis to an immediate end.
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