By Kingsley Anaroke
With just about one thousand Customs Agents Licenses issued by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Nigeria, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) is on the move to lose its leadership position in the emerging new port order as the leading premier clearing agents’ association in the country unless they smartly embrace the philosophy of freight forwarding, a borderless 21st Century concept in global trade logistics management brought about by social change.
ANLCA’s future in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) is grossly threatened by the miserly number of Customs Agents licenses because it anchors its membership on the basis of license ownership, while it rival group, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) basis membership on individual certified freight forwarder as registered by the CRFFN, the apex freight forwarding profession regulatory body.
Currently, while the number of registered freight forwarders is growing by the day, the number of issued licenses is sluggishly fluctuating on the negative note because of the corrupt process of its acquisition and regulation by the NCS. If you must know, a new license applicant pays a statutory fee of N250,000 but spends over another two million naira to get the license, with the perpetual threat of seizure in event of Customs procedures criticisms or declared infraction both imagined and real. Some former leaders of both associations, among others, are victims of seized licenses on account of open criticisms against the NCS.
The forthcoming CRFFN Council elections will either make ANLCA and NAGAFF stronger against the other or mar them. A new election guideline has been issued by the CRFFN with ANLCA heavily disadvantaged numerically and constitutionally as well as operationally. But a meeting last week with the leadership of both associations, CRFFN and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello appeared deadlocked because NAGAFF was said to have insisted on the constitutional provision of three categories of membership as basis for the elections. They are: Membership by Association, Individual membership and License ownership membership. Here, ANLCA is threatened because they have less than 100 registered licensed members eligible to vote in the council elections. This is not the big threat.
The mega threat, however, is the brewing implosion within the association which is a fall out of the recently concluded National Executive Committee (NECOM) election, which saw the emergence of Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike as the National President. The election took place in Enugu, where the immediate past National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu had alleged that it was orchestrated to take place by the Leadership of the Board of Trustees (BoT) to aid rigging in Tony’s favour.
No sooner than the election was concluded than the raging fire of post-election crisis engulfed the association. The cold war preceding the election between the two proxy contenders, the incumbent National President and the Chairman of the BoT, Chief Henry Njoku foretold that the magnitude of the post-election crisis could not have been avoided if any of the parties had lost the election. Of course, one person must emerge winner and one did emerge. The incumbent, Prince Shittu by proxy lost to the BoT chairman, Njoku. While Shittu fielded and supported his Vice President, Emenike Nwokeoji, Njoku supported Tony Nwabunike, a member of the BoT. Now, the centre can no longer hold. ANLCA is in tatters. Ethnic and unprofessional sentiments are bandied about like a piece of article of trade seeking who to buy.
In what seems like a ‘Revenge of the Ninja,’ in a palace hotel coup, the BoT chairman who had called for a pre-new NECOM inauguration meeting was removed at night unconstitutionally as a revenge for leading Tony to victory. With two more years to go in 12 years full term of six years each, Njoku says he remains the chairman of BoT, while Taiwo Mustapha installed by the alleged palace coupists also lays claims to the BoT Chair, polarizing ANLCA to foundation, such that a mild drama played out at Chief Gani Adams’ 48th birthday party recently. Chief Taye Oyeniyi, leading the Mustapha’s faction of BoT and their other artilleries, got to Adams’ birthday party first and quickly held an aside with him, allegedly informing him that Tony’s new government had ostracized all the people of Yoruba ethnic descent in his executive. Adams was surprised at that news because he witnessed the inauguration ceremony of the new ANLCA NECOM at the behest of Tony. Shortly after that Tony led the new executives made up of Dr. Kayode Farinto, the irrepressible National Vice- President, the Secretary General, Babatunde Mukaila, National Financial Secretary, Hajia Bola Muse, among others of Yoruba extraction to the party. Realizing that their Nunc Dimitttis had gone awry, Taye and his group varnished from the party. Of course, Adams was glad they were proved wrong, we learnt.
Again, last week, members of ANLCA in Western Zone, Lagos, staged a protest allegedly against Njoku’s insistence of being the BoT Chairman. These pockets of crises come and go with accusing fingers on Prince Shittu the immediate past President as the sponsor. He has however severally said he knew nothing about them. According to them, the idea is to make the new seat unmanageable for Tony, the new President and make him pay for his sins of old against ANLCA. Some of them still have the issue of trust against him, after a wide consultation among members on the consistent psychological pelt on him.
While ANLCA is boiling to death by each crisis, NAGAFF is waxing stronger numerically and financially in preparation for the CRFFN elections, with 10,000 members in its kitty already. However, this foreshadows doom for the freight forwarding profession in Nigeria in global logistics chain. The new port order seeks consolidation which negates the CRFFN Act of 2007. Consolidation presupposes unity of vision and mission for a common goal and exploitation of economies of scale where possible. This is the way to go to professionalizing the industry.
Who becomes the next Chairman of CRFFN? Why are Chief Ernest Elochukwu, Dennis Okafor, Shittu after Tony Nwabunike and Henry Njoku? Why did Emenike lose at the elections despite incumbency support? Lets meet again next week.