The controversies trailing the five registered freight and licensed customs agents associations, namely: the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Agents (NCMDLCA), National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) and, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria(AREFFN) has reached an anti-climax with the five associations coming together to resolve their differences.
Also, the much talked about Practitioners’ Operating Fees (POF); the bone of contention that pitched ANLCA against the other four associations seems to have been laid to rest.
The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the umbrella agency of the government charged with the responsibility of controlling and regulating freight forwarding practitioners in Nigeria lately has engaged presidents of all aggrieved parties in Abuja, to address their collective interest and came to a resolution.
The issues of paramount concern by general consensus were the assault on CRFFN officials at Seme Border by members of ANLCA, second, is the refusal by ANLCA members to pay the POF after a disagreement on the sharing formula, another issue was the absence of a CRFFN board and last but not of least importance is the fracas among members of NCMDLCA.
It was gathered that the Federal Ministry of Transport has directed CRFFN to commence collection of the fee from members of the associations.
When contacted by MMS Plus Weekly, the National President of AREFFN, Mr. Frank Ukor stated, “the POF has not been suspended, rather after the meeting in Abuja, the matter was raised, and it was noted that CRFFN as a government agency was directed by the former Minister of Transport, Idris Umar to commence the collection of the POF and it was resolved that the CRFFN was only following the directive of the government.
“The absence of a CRFFN board was discussed and it was agreed on that there was urgent need for an election to be conducted into the board and suggestions were made for the guidelines and modalities to follow to generate funds for the election because there was no available funds to conduct the election.
“ANLCA suggested that they could finance the election by asking their members to contribute N5, 000 to finance the election but we rejected their offer because CRFFN is a government body and we cannot allow one association to bank roll its electoral process because he who play the piper dictates the tune.
“So, we decided that the collection of POF will commence in the next two weeks so as to get the necessary finance to fund the election. On the sharing formula, we agreed that the funds should go to the account of CRFFN until after the elections then we will sit and discuss the modalities of the sharing ratio.
“For now, the sharing formula has not been agreed upon to avoid distractions from the planning of the board elections. We also resolved that the ANLCA members that attacked the CRFFN officials who were doing their duty at the Seme border must be made to face the book, to serve as a deterrent to reccurrence.” He explained.
The chairman of ANLCA, Lilypond chapter Mr. Olufemi Abiodun expressed disappointment at the decision to collect POF. According to him, “after paying our obligatory fees, we are now being asked to pay additional fees, we are being expected to pay N1, 000 or more per container, where will the money come from, they are only trying to cause confusion and it is not fair at the end of the day. All these extra charges will come down to the end users. We are complaining about goods being expensive. When we start paying the POF things will even become more expensive.”
The controversy trailing the POF collection culminated to ANLCA dragging other associations and the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Mohammed Bashir to court, a move that they are now regretting about having been told that it could spell doom for the association, especially under this new regime. Following this, they are now beating a retreat. However, what seems clear in this case is that ANLCA is divided in this war and certainly can’t be sure of any good result, not to talk of winning it.
The pioneer Chairman of CRFFN and a board member of ANLCA, Hon. Tony Nwabunike had in an interview with MMS Plus Weekly insisted that POF must be collected and be warehoused for associations that are not ready for sharing at the moment.
The National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu has been avoiding comments on this issue, especially against the background that his leadership was hijacked by a national committee in ANLCA which seeks to control the association through surrogates. He means well for CRFFN, having been one of the brains behind it and has supported it over the years. He has also been part of the decisions on the sharing ratio and collection of POF. But he lacks the might to fight the army of opposition in ANLCA, which emerged as a result of in-house political disagreement.