By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are indications that the House of Representatives Committee on Port & Harbours is making efforts to amend the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act.
A public hearing slated to hold on May 12th in Abuja have however been suspended after freight forwarding practiscioners kicked against the hearing.
In a letter addressed to Chairman of the Committee, Garba Datti Muhammed, one of the biggest freight forwarding association in Nigeria, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has kicked against the planned public hearing, saying that there was no way stakeholders can access Abuja due to the inter-state travel ban by the government.
DAILY TREND NEWS gathered however that the committee has been forced to postpone the hearing based on ANLCA’s arguments.
In a letter dated May 8, 2020, and titled “Re: Public Hearing on CRFFN Act Amendment bill (NASS/9HR/CT.086/CRFFN/023) During This COVID-19 Pandemic while Disregarding the Prevention Protocols” issued by ANLCA Publicity Secretary, the association accused the promoters of the Bill as well as the CRFFN governing council members of trying to shave operators heads in their absence.
ANLCA urged the National Assembly committee not to allow itself to be railroaded by self serving members of the CRFFN, but to ensure it holds an all-inclusive amendment.
According to her, the amendment coming at a period of COVID-19 has almost incapacitated stakeholders from attending.
“Why is the public hearing on such an important and expectedly, all-inclusive amendment slated for this period of COVID-19, which has almost incapacitated everyone including particularly the stakeholders, from attending?
“Is this move well intentioned at these precarious times, with all the contending issues surrounding the CRFFN Act No 16 of 2007? Are the stakeholders not being unnecessarily hoodwinked with the hasty rush, to achieve what “they” have been unable to achieve by force – that is the POF, while those superintending over the affairs of CRFFN and conveniently ignored Sections 4 & 6 of the extant Act 16 of 2007, without implementing these sections since inception?
“The CRFFN Act amendment bill, sponsored by Hon. Patrick Asadu on the 18th of July 2019 is not even made public yet and, stakeholders do not know what amendments are being proposed. But, judging from the body language of some of the pushers of the amendment, it is all for pecuniary reasons and not to advance the course of the industry.
“Are the lawmakers aware that one of the associations-members of CRFFN is currently embroiled in crisis of multidimensional, constitutional proportions with several cases in court, and are they aware of the multiple court cases instituted against itself and CRFFN, and their implications on what the lawmakers intend to do by amending Act 16 of 2007?
“The lawmakers should be informed that there are misconceptions surrounding the Customs brokers and freight forwarders differences in CRFFN. While freight forwarding is defined as transporters/freighters of goods through various modes, Customs brokers are defined as licensed corporate that transacts/interfaces with Customs within Customs environment, on behalf of importers/exporters.
“Presently, Nigeria Customs Service does not give licenses/permits to freight forwarders, but licenses are only given to corporate Customs brokerage agencies. Therefore, Customs brokers cannot, and should not, be regulated by two Federal Ministries of Finance and Transportation, as the CRFFN Act seems to do now. It is speculated that “they” are in a haste to rush the bill through at this time, to finance their re election in a few months’ time, because resistance may be feeble now, due to the COVID-19 prevention protocols.
“These above, and many more, are expected to be presented before the lawmakers at the public hearing. Unfortunately, the airspaces, interstate borders and movements generally, within Nigeria, have been heavily restricted. So, how do stakeholders come to Abuja to make presentations?
“We are of the opinion that to make the public hearing all-embracing, it will be advisable to put the hearing on hold, till an auspicious time that makes everyone/stakeholders access Abuja, to make their inputs for an acceptable amended CRFFN bill” ANLCA said