By Babajide Okeowo
· APPFLON Threatens Lawsuit If CRFFN Disburses POF
· Stakeholders Unaware Of Disbursement, But Calls For Capacity Development Of Freight Forwarders
The alleged disbursement of the Practitioner Operating Fee (POF) by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) to the declarant, and association may have run into troubled waters according to intelligence gathered by MMS Plus as critical stakeholders have kicked that this should not be the focus of the council at this time, rather, they opined that the council should focus on the reformation of the Council to run advance the cause of the freight forwarding industry.
Meanwhile, the Acting Registrar/CEO of CRFFN, Mrs Chinyere Uromta has confirmed that the Council has commenced the disbursement of what she called the POF declarant fee to deserving freight forwarders and stakeholders. She disclosed that they had to stop payment pending the full reconciliation of accounts, adding that many of the stakeholders did not provide their account.
Uromta noted that the Council had commenced disbursement under the leadership of the former Registrar but had to stop to reconcile accounts, saying that CRFFN should comply with the terms of agreement reached as negotiated with stakeholders as good corporate organization that seeks sustainable engagement and practice in the industry.
A few days ago, reports emerged that the council has started the process of paying back 35% of accruals from the collection of the POF to freight forwarding companies and various freight forwarders associations.
POF is an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) approved by the Federal Government to be paid by freight forwarders who pay N3.5 per tonne of cargo imported into the country, N1.5 per kilo for air cargo, N1,000 on each imported 20-feet container and N2, 000 per 40-feet container.
However, since the beginning of this initiative, it has encountered several setbacks including non-compliance by freight forwarders while those who complied have not received a dime from the council a development that contravenes the initiative.
Since the report of the disbursement of the accruals broke, it has been met with stiff resistance from some quarters.
For example, the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria- APFFLON has vowed to vehemently oppose any sharing of the accruals and will go to any length to seek justice.
According to the National President of the association, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite while talking to MMS Plus he expressed disappointment that the Council is thinking of the disbursement of the accruals while the Council has not met the expectation of the people.
Rather than concentrating on the disbursement of the accruals, he pointed out the focus should be on the reformation of the Council to meet the expectation of the industry operators.
“I do not think that they will be incorrigible to disburse any money at this point in time, I don’t think anyone, not even the Acting Registrar will take such a decision to disburse any money to any association or individuals, especially at a time that the government has stopped subvention to the Council.
What we should be talking about is how to reform the Council to meet up with the expectation of the people and address the issues in the industry.
If peradventure, this decision is being taken, we will take every necessary step to seek justice. Don’t forget that there are a lot of issues on the ground already surrounding the collection of POF, so, they should not be concentrating on the disbursement of the accruals” he disclosed.
Other stakeholders agree with Ogunojemite, they opined that every association has the right to be aggrieved seeing that the Council has not met up with the expectations of stakeholders.
They kicked that CRFFN has really not really done anything for the freight forwarding industry hence they wonder why the government wants to reap from their little effort.
According to Chief Eugene Nweke, the former National President of the Government Approved Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (NAGAFF) and the Founder, Sea Empowerment and Research, the Council must be seen to be advancing the cause of the practitioners it wants to collect fees from.
“They have the right to actually kick from an operational point of view, the practitioners have expected that the CRFFN Governing Council should have come up with an administrative mechanism to intervene in some of the operational challenges in the ports to give leeway to them but that has not happened and there are so many factors responsible for that.
So, these practitioners will not be happy considering the fact that these people are trying to get some revenue from their little efforts while at the end of the day, they feel that the government has not done enough for them, this is an ideal argument from the practitioners and you cannot take that away from them.
The truth remains that somebody owes them a proper explanation vis-à-vis what government wants to achieve with a clearly outlined programme of action to convince them and secure their buy-in” he added.
Meanwhile, many critical stakeholders in the industry have disclosed to MMS Plus that they are not aware of the payment of the accruals to individuals or associations.
The Secretary, Board of Trustees (BoT), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN), Mr. Innocent Elum told our correspondent that he is not aware of the disbursement while promising to check and get back to this correspondent.
“I am the Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN) as a principal member of an association at that level, I have not seen or heard that the CRFFN is disbursing the POF, and if it is being disbursed to the right associations.
I will have to check with the President and other executives, and then I will get back to you, for now, I have no comment on it” he said.
Similarly, Francis Omotosho the Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, told our correspondent he is not aware of the disbursement but advised that if it were indeed being disbursed, it should go towards the capacity development of freight forwarders.
“I don’t have any information to that effect. If they have started the disbursement as agreed, then good and fine. The bottom line and reason for the POF in the first place was for the training of the freight forwarders.
Directly, that money should go for training, nothing more than that, it is not for any other thing but to develop the capacity of the freight forwarders who can defend the profession. Anything short of that is a derailment from the purpose of the POF in the first place” he disclosed.