By Kenneth Jukpor
Two of the leading freight forwarding groups in the country, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) have accused shipping companies of sponsoring the rift among freight forwarding practitioners.
A coalition of NAGAFF and ANLCA Compliance teams made this known in a joint press conference yesterday reacting to the recent bribery allegation over the proposed withdrawal of service to protest imposition of arbitrary charges by shipping lines, saying that they are successful businessmen and not bribe takers.
During the press conference yesterday, the Western Zonal coordinator of the NAGAFF 100% Compliance Committee, Dr. Fred Ajuzie said the proposed withdrawal of service by the freight forwarders is a global practice to compel the shipping companies to desist from imposing arbitrary charges on their principals, the importers and their members.
He noted that these foreign shipping lines have for too long exploited Nigerians in their own country by refusing to refund their container deposits as well as imposing illegal and arbitrary demurrage charges on importers, a development that is taking a huge toll on Nigeria’s economy as such arbitrary charges are passed down to the final consumers of the products in terms of higher prices, which fuels inflationary trends.
Ajuzie, who is also a former chairman of Apapa chapter of NAGAFF, lamented that many of these shipping lines have refused to establish holding bays for their empty containers and turn round and heap the problem on the users of their services by withholding their empty container deposits and imposing huge demurrage payments on them.
“We have called you here to correct some misinformation by a paid group. I have been in this business for over three decades and what we use to know is that when you return your empty containers, your deposit is refunded to you immediately but these days, these shipping lines device lies to ensure our importers and members are denied their empty container deposits even when the empties have been returned in good time.”
“So the proposed withdrawal of service was for us to shout out and draw the attention of relevant government agencies to come to our aid and that is why the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and the CRFFN are in the picture. Anyone that is alleging that it is for us to collect bribes for the shipping lines should have his brain examined. Since the withdrawal of service notice was issued, the media have covered all our meetings with the shipping companies; all convened by the government agencies, especially the CRFFN,” Ajuzie said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Compliance Committee of ANLCA, Alhaji Lameen Aliyu, posited that Chief John Oforbike, who made the allegation, has since been allegedly expelled by ANLCA due to his anti-association activities, which are contrary to the association’s constitution, insisting that just like any other organisation or country, ANLCA has body of laws that guide its activities.
He regretted that despite the decision of the National President to bend backwards to grant amnesty to Oforbike and his group on several occasions, they have continued to misbehave.
“We’re working with NAGAFF and the other three registered associations for the good of our people. For too long they have kept us divided in order to exploit and continue to rip our people and so we have realized that and have come together and there is nothing anyone can do about that.”
“Oforbike is an expelled member of ANLCA and so whatever he says does not hold any water. He has instituted more than 14 court cases against the association, the last one being in a kangaroo court in Kano in order to distract us. He is a drowning man and should therefore not be taken serious. They are the ones that have gone to collect bribes from the shipping companies so as to divide us.”