· One woman in the battle for 32 Council Slots
There is an increasing ambience of ambiguity surrounding the impending Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) elections into its Governing Council, as some stakeholders have approached the court in order to stop the elections from taking place on Friday, this week.
While the screening of candidates took place on Thursday last week, news broke that two of the highly regarded stakeholders in the nation’s freight forwarding business, Mr. Lucky Amiwero and another contestant intended to obtain court injunction to stop the elections for different degrees of grievances.
While Amiwero is said to have a bad case because he is allegedly not known to CRFFN in law, the second person who pleaded anonymity was denied screening on the orders of the CRFFN management, allegedly for no reason, despite being eminently qualified to contest as a registered member.
Although when contacted to reveal the underlying factors that led to this decision, Mr. Amiwero declined disclosing the details, but he expressed worry that the candidates going for the elections were misfits.
“What emphasis should we place on this election when illiterates are going for the election? I’m not a member of that group because the election isn’t for Customs licensed agents. There are other more relevant issues to the maritime sector like the ease of doing business at the ports and the port access roads. What has CRFFN done over the years? What did the first CRFFN board achieve? We have gone to court and you would see the effect when the whole thing comes out” Amiwero told MMS Plus.
Speaking with MMS Plus on Friday, the Registrar of CRFFN, Sir Mike Jukwe confirmed that the election would take place in Lagos as arrangement to that effect had been concluded but would not say how many people have been registered for voting or screened. He equally did not disclose the number of contestants but also allayed the fear that the Council’s election would engender post-election crisis because of the flagrant breach in the CRFFN Act.
He said the agreement by the associations to uphold a sharing formula which is said to be a violation of the electoral procedure by presenting candidates in ratio of 6-6-1-1-1 is the associations’ personal agreement but would not explain how that left the fate of some independent candidates who are not contesting under any association.
MMS Plus gathered that some of the influential independent candidates who have obtained forms and paid N500,000 were not only denied screening but there was a conspiracy to refund their money through some associations which they never paid to because of their perceived capacity to upturn the position sharing ratio, which has been described as absurd because it is akin to the associations regulating the Council which is supposed to be the regulator.
However, it was gathered that some members of the old governing council of CRFFN and some industry stakeholders had agreed that no old member of the Council should be allowed into the new governing council. This could be the reason Dr. Eugene Nweke and Dr. Zebulon Ikokide , among others were denied screening.
Meanwhile, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has met with some freight forwarding associations where the associations agreed to a 6:6:1:1:1 allocation of representatives of the various freight forwarding associations.
According to the arrangement, NAGAFF and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) would present six candidates each while other associations provide one a piece, but ANLCA was absent at the first meeting.
The National Public Secretary of ANLCA, Mr. Joe Sanni confirmed that the leadership of various freight forwarding associations have reached an agreement on the outcome of the CRFFN elections on Friday, June 29th.
Joe Sanni who was speaking during an exclusive chat with MMS Plus newspaper, didn’t reveal the nature of the agreement reached by the associations’ leadership but he noted that ANLCA was on track in preparations for the elections.
There is the belief that some of the independent candidates may be able to woo voters from the associations, hence disrupting the arrangement proposed by the various associations.
But surprisingly there were allegations of threat to lives by some independent candidates, who finally bowed to pressures from many quarters at the weekend. They were warned against facing consequences of their actions if the sharing formula fails.
Recall that the registration of CRFFN practitioners shall consist of individuals, corporate organizations and associations, according to the Act.
In another development, some industry experts have expressed worry over the whopping N500,000 cost for the registration forms. However, Jukwe said the cost was to reduce the number of candidates to only those who can afford the fee and with the capacity to deliver on the mandate of the Council.
An industry expert who pleaded anonymity lampooned CRFFN for raising the cost of the registration forms from the N5,000 during the maiden election.
“The idea of raising the cost of the registration forms to N500,000 may have the erroneous notion that entry into the board would give board members access to embezzle the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF). CRFFN is a professional body but the N500,000 registration fee is enormous compared to other professional associations, such as the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), among others” the source said.
Meanwhile, the only woman who picked up a ticket for the CRFFN elections, Mrs. Princess Chi Ezeh said she was privileged to be the only woman vying for a place on the governing board, even as she beckoned on more women to rise up to the occasion at the next opportunity.
“I’m proud to have gotten to this stage. I only realized that I’m the only woman coming out for the position recently. I’m convinced that there are several women with the capacity to sit on that board in NAGAFF as well as other associations. Therefore, I’m urging them to stand-up and be counted” she said.
Princess, who is also the Customs Freight Forwarders Relations Officer of NAGAFF Apapa Chapter, drew an analogy to the impact of women in the success recorded in the banking sector. “Studies have revealed that banks with more women on their boards performed better than those with fewer or no women” she said.
Commending the level of professionalism in NAGAFF, she said; “NAGAFF is a professional association that has distinguished itself as the leading professional association in freight forwarding business. The association is knowledge driven and you can observe this in the crop of leaders as well as the members of NAGAFF. A lot of commendation should go to the Founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam for instilling a culture that lays emphasis on capacity building for NAGAFF members”
However, on Saturday, CRFFN issued a press statement listing 16 names as candidates that have been screened and cleared for the forthcoming governing council election. The y are: Chukwurah Ozo, Daura Lawal Bala, Agubanzze Emezie Emmanuel, Awogbemi Timothy Toluwase, Azeez Bamidele Tajudeen, Bakare Adeyinka, Farinto Kayode Collins, Njoku Henry Ifeanyichukwu, Obih Peter Oge, Sanni Shittu Ajao, Uche Onwuka Increase, Yau Muftahu,Dikeanwah Austin Kelly, Ezeh Chi Grace, Ezisi Tochukwu Emmanuel, Ekemezie Ifeanyi Joseph.
Speaking with MMS Plus, the image maker of CRFFN, Mrs Chinyere Uromta, explained that more names would be made public before the election date.
Reacting however to a report that he was disqualified, Dr. Eugene Nweke in a press statement said the “Disqualification is the price to pay for a peaceful election and a simple demonstration of passion for the development of freight forwarding profession in Nigeria. I want to congratulate the leadership of the five accredited associations for their overwhelming defense and adherence to their joint resolution on sharing formula.
“ It must be stated that the four of us that stood in as independent candidates did so with a mindset of adding credence to the electioneering process”, he added.