Freight forwarding associations have been thrown into tantrums over the modalities for the amendment of the Council of the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act. While some are in support of the amendment but propose certain changes, others have lampooned the amendment because it did not have practitioner’s input and another school of thought maintains that the CRFFN Act hadn’t been appropriately tested as a result of the moribund state of the agency.
While the freight forwarding bigwigs; Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) clearly spelt out their position, MMS Plus also reached out to other associations in a bid to figure out their positions on the controversy surrounding the amendment of the CRFFN Act.
The Acting President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) Mr. Ben Ndee told our correspondence on the amendment of CRFFN Act wasn’t necessary despite the Act having stayed over 5 years.
“We are talking about amendment of the CRFFN Act but the truth is that the Act has never been properly tested. CRFFN has always been moribund and it is only when something has been properly tested that you can discover flaws and areas that require changes. Since the tenure of the last governing board expired six years ago there hasn’t been further election into the council for the day to day running of CRFFN.”
“The CRFFN Act was the brain child of veteran freight forwarders. CRFFN was initially conceptualized as an independent professional body but it was later hijacked and became a government agency under the Federal Ministry of Transportation. The stakeholders sat and articulated everything about this before it was taken to national assembly midway, so you can understand why we are against the bid to reduce the number of freight forwarders on the board when there are several other representatives which have no direct interest in CRFFN”, he said.
Ndee noted that it was the responsibility of the board to initiate the process for amendment of the CRFFN Act if there was need for an amendment.
“The amendment ought to have originated from the practitioners through the board. Under the regulations Section 2(a) and (h), it is very explicit that whatever major decisions at CRFFN must emanate from the governing board including the amendment. It must be a decision of the governing board to authorize these regulations which are by-products of the main Act. While it is the function of the National Assembly to make laws and effect changes when necessary, in doing that, I think the proper thing is for it to emanate from the stakeholders for whom the Act was established and not from the backdoor we have seen with the CRFFN amendment” Ndee said.
On the issue of nominating the chairman of the governing board, which is proposed to be appointed by the President, Ben Ndee says that NCMDLCA sees it as an improper one.
“The nomination of the chairman should be exclusive to freight forwarders because we don’t want a situation where people from the ministry or any of the federal parastatals would come and dominate the place. You cannot just appoint someone who doesn’t even know what is happening in the port. It is an aberration”, he said.
Ndee also lampooned the proposed reduction in the number of freight forwarders in the board, “we are saying no to that. It should be left the way it is, the way it has been. If the Act is subjected to proper use and there is need to decrease the number or increase it, then we can do that but we cannot accept that at the moment”
Ndee stressed that since it was the governing board that determines the major decisions at CRFFN, the absence of the board meant there was no authority in place to preside over the sharing of POF.
Meanwhile the President of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (ARFFN), Mr. Frank Ukor highlighted the two major problems of CRFFN as; the membership of the board and the sharing of the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF).
Speaking on the constitution of the CRFFN board, Ukor said, “If we opt to go for elections to determine who sits on the board of the Council, one association has the capacity to take all the available positions as a result of its size. However, we are demanding that the available position on the board of CRFFN should be shared among the five (5) accredited associations. This is my submission on how the board should be constituted as it would ensure that the animosity during elections would be curbed because each association has a slot.”
Ukor maintained that all associations accredited by CRFFN should be treated as equals for the sharing of the POF. “All associations should be treated as equals because we have the same amount of responsibility, so the POF has to be shared equally. 20% of the POF should go to the federal Government while CRFFN should get 30%. The other 50% should be shared equally with each of the accredited association getting 10%. These are the key areas I want to be addressed in the CRFFN amended Act.”
He posited that ARFFN didn’t have a problem with the President appointing the Chairman of the CRFFN board. “The appointment of the board chairman should be done by the president as this would even encourage the presidency to ensure that the requisite funds are made available to the Council because the president was involved in choosing the chairman. However, I think the onus of choosing the registrar should rest on the board and not the presidency. When the board appoints the Registrar, the Registrar would have to be submissive to the board.”
However, the President of the National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC), Mr. Chukwuka Agubama lamented that the composition of elected freight forwarders into the Council’s board should be reconstructed
“I have problems with the high representation of freight forwarders in the CRFFN board. There is tyranny of ‘big battalions’ in the board and I think we can resolve this through reduction in the representatives from various accredited associations.”
On the appointment of the board chairman by the President, Agubama argued that, “Since the Courts have ruled that CRFFN is a government agency, it becomes obvious that the President would have to appoint the Board Chairman unless a higher Court rules otherwise.”
However, he noted that NAFFAC were opposed to the proposal for the President to appoint the Registrar.
“Why should the President appoint the Registrar when there is a board? Would he go on to appoint other members of staff of CRFFN?” Agubama queried.
He also noted that NAFFAC wasn’t in support of the very high penalties proposed in the amendment bill.
The amendment of the CRFFN Act has provided another opportunity for differences between the five accredited freight forwarding associations to come to the fore, especially on the sharing of POF. However, the importance of CRFFN in training freight forwarders shouldn’t be jettisoned on the altar of association difference. Recently, NAGAFF kicked against the attempt by ANLCA to turn its secretariat into a compulsory training centre for all licensed customs agents.
The Nigerian maritime industry would benefit more from a unified freight forwarding team, although the alliance between the two major associations ANLCA and NAGAFF has added a new dimension to the repute of freight forwarding associations. The need to transform CRFFN to an agency that caters for the needs of freight forwarders is too sacrosanct for petty association squabbles.