· New Institute to replace CRFFN at FIATA
· Governing Council members decry stiff bureaucratic processes
· CRFFN’s status would be dragged to Supreme Court – Aniebonam
By Kenneth Jukpor
Worried by the gross unprofessionalism in freight forwarding practice in Nigeria and inefficiency of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), some members of the CRFFN Governing Council with the backing of the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, have initiated plans to float another professional body.
This professional freight forwarders’ body is being modeled after the likes of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), with rigid professional criteria for membership although the body would be open to members from all existing freight forwarding associations.
This development is seen as the only viable alternative to sanitize the freight forwarding practice in the country following allegations of failure of CRFFN in addressing the issue of unprofessionalism in the business.
Despite the rich delegation of practicing freight forwarders on the CRFFN Governing Board, the board members have lamented that all efforts to effect changes at CRFFN have been stifled by cumbersome bureaucratic processes.
Although sources say that the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has endorsed of the proposal to establish the Institute of Freight Forwarders, he may not be aware that the institute is tipped to dissipate the relevance of NAGAFF and other freight forwarding associations.
Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper on the condition of anonymity, a Governing Council member explained that the association wouldn’t be in conflict with CRFFN; rather CRFFN would function as the regulator for the government while the Institute of Freight Forwarders would be the professional body of professionals to dictate the ethics and professional qualification.
“We don’t intend to fight with NAGAFF or ANLCA over anything. We just have to raise the standards and ensure that those who are accepted as members of this new Institute have met the requirements in terms of skills. They should have taken logistics and transport courses in accredited institutions and graduated with top grades. There would be high ethical standards in this group such that people can be evicted on account of corrupt practices” the source said.
He also stressed that as a result of the high ethical standards in the new group, industry operators would recognize this and patronize the members because of their integrity, thus leading to the demise of NAGAFF, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and others.
“The real mandate of CRFFN is to ensure training of professionals but the agency hasn’t got to that level. It has been busy accrediting institutions without making impact. We keep churning out trainers without improving the quality of practitioners. With this proposed association other associations like ANLCA, NAGAFF and the rest would collapse naturally. They would fizzle out because their relevance would dissipate. People would rather belong to the new association than any of the existing ones. CRFFN would prefer to engage the ideal professional body which would be the new one. CRFFN is allowed to recognize as many associations as possible by law, but we have the Minister’s backing to proceed with this plan to sanitize the industry” the source added.
Amaechi’s endorsement of this plan doesn’t come as a surprise to industry stakeholders who have observed his proclivity to amalgamate similar groups as he tried with ship-owners and the maritime media associations in the past.
“The Minister is willing as the government is bent on bringing everyone under one umbrella. We want to fall in line with what is ongoing in other climes. FIATA recognizes CRFFN as the professional body in Nigeria but that is wrong if CRFFN is a government agency. Until the industry has an ideal professional body, we can’t go back to FIATA to correct this error. CRFFN would remain the regulator for freight forwarding practice while the professional body would enshrine the minimum qualification of people that would practice as freight forwarders” the source said.
Efforts to reach the Registrar of CRFFN, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu and the agency’s Head of Corporate Communications were futile until press time.
When contacted, the President of ANLCA, Mr. Tony Iju-Nwabunike said there was no need for a new professional body of freight forwarders.
He pledged support to CRFFN and encouraged the Governing Council members to come forward with their challenges in the bureaucratic process of making changes at CRFFN.
“I don’t know about the decision to float a new professional body. However, I am fully in support of CRFFN and my association (ANLCA) is also in full support of CRFFN. I don’t see the need to have another body” he said.
On the bottlenecks in the bureaucratic process, he said, “the Governing Council members haven’t told us about the challenges they have encountered. They have to come forward with these challenges so that we can see how we can help them”
When quizzed on the need to have this new body, the Founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Aniebonam expressed confidence that CRFFN was best placed to enshrine professionalism in the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria.
He noted that the presence of government in CRFFN was an added advantage in the Council’s bid to sanitize the industry.
“CRFFN has it all. It also has the representation of government on its board through various agencies of the government. CRFFN already gives approval to institutions of training with standards and the curriculum to follow. CRFFN also has a tribunal. The earlier Customs understand the role of CRFFN, the better for the industry” he said.
However, he stressed that the association was still at the Court of Appeal to seek clarification on the status of CRFFN, stressing that it wasn’t a proper government agency but a ‘quasi’ one.
According to him, NAGAFF would drag the case to the Supreme Court if the Court of Appeal was unable to address the matter.
“This matter would go up to the Supreme Court as far as I’m concerned. If we don’t get the clarification at the Appeal Court, we would go to the Supreme Court. CRFFN isn’t an agency of government. It is a quasi government agency. The Chairman of CRFFN isn’t appointed by the President unlike other agencies of government. The Ministry doesn’t see CRFFN as an agency unlike it. You can’t equate the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) or Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to the Registrar of CRFFN. So, how is it a government agency” Aniebonam queried.