By Kenneth Jukpor
After a strategic end of year managerial meeting by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), MMS Plus newspaper had a chat with the Council’s Registrar, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu. In this interview, Nwakohu gives a review of 2019, reveals the highpoints and challenges, even as he reveals his aspirations for 2020.
What were the highpoints of 2019 for freight forwarding industry?
Well, quite a number of highpoints. Don’t forget that I am eleven months old as Registrar of CRFFN. I don’t want to tell you what I inherited but I inherited something. CRFFN has done a lot in the area of visibility, I will say we have become more visible. We had a sensitization programme which the Minister attended, the Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport came, Chairman, Land and Harbours also came and quite a number of lawmakers were there. After that, we had other technical sections with the staff. Consequently, the staff morale has gone up because they attended a number of training which they said hadn’t occured in a long time.
Apart from that, we have done rebranding, not just rebranding the CRFFN logo. We are rebranding human beings and you know that it takes time to change people’s orientation to life. We have a roadmap which we are working on and some of the things we want to do in 2020, we have started a couple of them already. I can go on and on. In fact, a number of things have been achieved; I can say I have an office in Lagos now because when I came there was none. I can also say that I have an office in Abuja. You heard the Chairman say that our liaison office is in Abuja, so, I can say I have an office in Abuja, although I haven’t moved in but it is there, hopefully, first quarter of next year, we should be able to move in.
I have been operating from a hotel since I came and it is not appropriate. We have taken possession of outpost offices, twelve of them round the country, hopefully we will take the rest of them by first quarter of next year.
Administratively, we are putting things together, if you come around, you will notice the presence of a corporate institution which I can’t say was there when I came.
In 2019, you signed several Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with some universities in terms of training of freight forwarders. Have these programmes started?
Well, we have advertised in newspapers that freight forwarders should go and register with those universities. The best we can do is to do what we have done and encourage them. We don’t run educational institutions. We have accredited these universities with the FIATA accreditation, so we encourage the practitioners to go and register so that they can obtain a Diploma.
In Lagos recently, I was briefed that the numbers are encouraging in terms of practitioners enrolling for such trainings. I am yet to get a report from the others but I hear that Sokoto is also doing very well with the Shinkafi Polytechnic in terms of registration of freight forwarders. So, we will keep encouraging them, I am going to spend more money, specifically on newspapers so that freight forwarders will know that there is the need for them to attend those courses and obtain those certificates which are essential.
The Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIOTA) has come onboard through its charter and also a transport university’s ground breaking took place recently. What role could CRFFN in partnership with these institutions as you emphasize the need for training?
On the emergence of a Transport University, that is not a problem. Like I said, we are not a training institution on our own but we are the only body FIATA recognizes. We will go there to ensure that there is a department for logistics. It is not just freight forwarding only, supply chain should be set up and we will accredit them. We will train them and after training them, we will accredit them. That is the best we can do for such institutions.
How about the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration in Nigeria?
We will collaborate with them because they are a body on their own but still FIATA does not recognize the Chartered Institute, they don’t have its license, I don’t think so, I am not sure of that. Since they don’t, we will collaborate with them. If there is need to accredit them, we will accredit them but if we don’t need to accredit them, we will collaborate with them and make sure that they deliver.
World Bank’s recent ranking on the Ease of Doing Business saw Nigeria move upward. How did the freight forwarders fare in the area of the ease of doing business in 2019?
Well, we are working on that. That is part of the reasons we are doing all what we are doing to make sure that freight forwarders key into the ease of doing business very well. You can see that at the port there is control. We are saying the practice of freight forwarding is no longer an all-comers affair. People have to be licensed and they have to be regulated. You don’t have to go to the port unless you have business at the port and you are an authorized person to do such business there.
Sometime ago, you mentioned that you would lead CRFFN to explore opportunities for freight forwarders in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA). What is the latest development on this?
Yes, there has been sufficient plans on this, however, 2019 is coming to an end. There is a CRFFN seminar that is on the drawing board. I have even sent it to my Governing Council for them to look at and make input. That seminar would be on AfCFTA, but it would probably take place in the first quarter of 2020. You will hear about it and you will come for it. The topic will be something like “The Role of Freight Forwarding in AfCFTA”.
Can you share some of the challenges you have encountered so far as Registrar and how you have managed the affairs of CRFFN?
Well, just like in every other thing, we all have our challenges. For me, this is my first time in the industry. Obviously, I would have had difficulties in one or two things, we are all human beings but I think it is better to see it as a learning curve. We all learn everyday and it is the same administratively, you have to learn how the system works. Yes, some of the procedures are bound to be challenging but there is nothing that does not have a solution.
The problem of funding at CRFFN has been reechoed over the years. Have you encountered similar monetary challenges?
There is no government department that does not have issue with funding, funding can never be enough even in our homes. Some would say you are not giving him enough money. You make use of the resources available to you.
However, at CRFFN our overhead is very small. It is about N33.4million in a year. Divide that figure for twelve months in a year and it gives you N2.7million. All the other projects are capital projects. My overhead to run the Council is N2.7 million monthly, yet it is not regular. I think for last year, we either had seven or eight months, the revenues don’t come as at when due. So, it becomes extremely difficult to run the Council.