Dr. Boniface Aniebonam is the founder and pioneer President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). In this interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Shulammite ‘Foyeku, he speaks on events that shaped the freight forwarding industry in 2014 among other issues.
It is over a year since your association’s PTML chapter chairman, Cosmos Ndimkora was kidnapped, what steps has NAGAFF taken to ensure his return?
Well, a lot of effort has been made to see if we can locate his whereabouts. We have been doing the much we could do as an association and the matter has been reported to the appropriate authority and you know trying to find a missing person is a collective responsibility but at the moment we still have not heard anything yet. It is quite unfortunate and regrettable. In fact, it has been a tragedy. A tragedy because the situation has resulted into something else. We have just been informed that the wife could not survive the whole trauma and she too is dead.
Why did you pull NAGAFF out of the strike at Apapa Port last year?
As a stakeholder in the maritime transport, there are no reasons for us not to understand that there are a lot of problems in the port except for someone who is trying to deceive himself or herself. But then when issues arise, there are procedures for it to be resolved especially when there are discordant tunes on unwholesome behaviour probably from any sector of the transport industry. The withdrawal of service by agents one thought would have been a day or two just like a warning strike but it got to 11 days at the premier port and that is quite tragic. As the founder of NAGAFF, I did take exception to that because I believe we have not exhausted all the available platforms to resolve the issue.
Apart from that, APM terminals which the strike was targeted at is not the only terminal in the ports, so to therefore single them out is not good because the matter of arbitrary charges referred to and matters of Customs examination are found at other terminals too so you don’t need to single them out. Be that as it may, that has come and gone and I hope that such things will not happen again because NAGAFF will take exception to that. Such things are bound to happen and when they do happen, there are channels we need to follow. It is only when we have exhausted all options that we can begin to talk of withdrawal of service. We also need to look at the economy; over N41 billion was lost during the strike so while trying to solve a problem we end up creating another one.
The Association of Nigerian License Customs Agents (ANLCA) seems to be enjoying more recognition from Customs especially as regards training of its members. Does it not appear as if NAGAFF is being sidelined from these trainings?
That is only an assumption on your own part. As far as I am concern ANLCA is a sister association and membership of the association is based on licenses issued by Customs. There are clear indicators to show that customs should pay attention to them whether anybody likes it or not because they are critical stakeholders as far as Customs operation is concern. If you are a licensed customs agent, your scope of operation stops with the Customs authority. However, on the part of NAGAFF, we are a freight forwarding association and we are at the highest level of cargo operations and logistics. As a freight forwarder, we are an international cargo mover cutting across international frontiers. In other words, we acquire skills and knowledge that will make it possible for goods and services to move across international frontiers to the owner’s warehouse.
Section 19 of the Customs and Excise management Act (CEMA) noted that even before Customs can give license, the particular company must be a member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). With that you can now see the relevance of the council but that is not happening now because there are hiccups around CRFFN which we still need to address.
What is your reaction to the recent shift in the implementation date of increased tariff on imported used vehicles by the federal government?
I see this as a political move as far as I am concern. Election is just around the corner in February. I am sure the government may have decided to allow the sleeping dog lie probably after the election by April; they will go back to that. But to me, that is a concept that is deceitful. If they think they are doing the right thing, they should go ahead and do it but if they know it is not the right thing, then they should stop it. For government to have shifted the implementation date thrice is an indication that something is wrong with the policy but the revenue therein is what is attracting them. Although the policy is aimed at saving the country from being a dumping ground, the government should focus more on how the policy would be sustained by creating opportunities for auto dealers to make choices. Government should not just focus attention on generating more revenue but also on the welfare of its citizens.
Nigeria is not enjoying a developed transport system; transport in Nigeria is a necessity and not a luxury. If the government fails to create the enabling environment before implementing the policy, used vehicles will still find their way into the country through unapproved routes. If they increase the rate of duty on used cars, they will still come in and government will be worse for it. Nigerians are daring; the more you create obstacles for them, the more they become daring.
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