By DAPO OLAWUNI
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has kicked against the planned public hearing on amendment of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act, Cap C534, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Ports and Harbours, Hon Garba Datti, NAGAFF through its lawyers, Barr Okwudili Alagbu told the lawmakers that
interpretation of most of the provisions of the CRFFN Act sought by the committee is already an issue at the Appeal Court.
NAGAFF argued that the provisions of the Act is the subject of litigation in APPEAL NO. CA/L/924/14 filed by two NAGAFF members; MR EJIKE NWEKE & ANR V.
The association argued that the ideas and viewpoints canvassed by it’s two members in the suit are the viewpoints of NAGAFF, hence, the moral and technical support being given to them by the association.
According to the NAGAFF lawyer, the kernel of the associations’ objection to the amendment of the CRFFN Act is based on her principled conviction that, the CRFFN is not a government agency who is entitled to budgetary allocations from the Federal Revenue Account.
“This position is predicated on a careful evaluation of the structure of the Governing Board of the Council which under section 2 of the Act, is constituted not only by a preponderance of freight forwarding practitioners electable from the register of freight forwarders kept exclusively for practicing freight forwarders, but must be presided over by a chairman and vice chairman who were elected into the Council from the said Register of Freight Forwarders”
“The council shall be funded through members Registration fee, practicing fee and the likes, therefore excluding direct funding from any public revenue source”
“Our client’s grievances with the amendment of this Act therefore derives from the fact that it is the self same provisions of section 2 for which she is seeking interpretation before the court that is sought to be amended by the National Assembly, and worse still, the bill for the proposed amendment seeks to dispossess private legal practitioners electable from the Register of members of the control and leadership of the Council not only by constituting the Council with a majority of Government appointed members but also by making the position of the chairman and vice chairman to be constituted by appointment by the President and not from among the Council members elected from the Register of freight forwarders”
“It goes without saying therefore that if our client permits the amendment of the Act to restructure the Governing Council in that manner, neither they nor any other freight forwarder electable from the Register of freight forwarders would ever stand a chance of becoming the chairman or vice Chairman of the council”
NAGAFF urged the National Assembly not to allow herself to be used by any ambitious and opportunistic nay sayers with vested interests to usurp the statutory powers of the judiciary to interpret laws by entering a legislative verdict in the matter which is subjudice.
According to Barr Alagbu, the appeal had last came up for hearing on the 30th of January, 2020 before court 2 of the Court of Appeal, Lagos and the proceedings of the day was attended by both parties and was adjourned ‘sine die’ at the instance of the court.
He said another hearing date was to be communicated to the parties through a hearing notice which would have been served but for the supervening Covid 19 Lock down.
According to him, instead of challenging NAGAFF’s appeal on the merit, the CRFFN precipitated this amendment of the Act which is targeted at the appeal, apparently, with the aim of pulling the rug off NAGAFF feet in order to achieve the victory that would certainly elude her in the appeal.
“It is for this and other compelling reasons that we feel that the amendment of the Act at this point in time especially in consideration of the motive behind it, is in bad faith”
“Apart from manipulating the National Assembly in order secure a legislative acquittal for a judicial matter in which conviction or defeat starred her in the face, the council has also resorted to other desperate measures such as intimidation, in other to cow our client to discontinue this appeal”
“What is more, the chairman of CRFFN, in reply to our client’s earlier letter notifying the Council of the pendency of this appeal and the need for caution in the effort to Amend the Act, the chairman responded with a heavily intimating letter dated 6th December, 2019 where he purportedly gave our client an ultimatum to cause her said members that instituted this suit to withdraw it on or before the 20m of December, 2019 or face punitive measures from the Council”
“Since the Council now logically admits that it is not a government agency by factoring this amendment in order to make it one, it follows therefore that the appropriation of public resources to her from the Federal Revenue Account since the Council’s inauguration in 2008 which is not less than Ten Billion Naira, has been done without any legal justification or authorization”
“Therefore, instead of allowing the Council to use the purported amendment of the Act to gain a legitimate access to, or to regularize her improper position in the State banquette table, the National Assembly should use her statutory over sight powers to bring the Council to account for the huge public resources that has been unlawfully appropriated to her over the years, the accuracy or transparency of which may give the Council the equitable clean hands to approach this hallowed chambers to seek a relief by way of amendment of the enabling Act which holds the prospects of yielding more of such public resources into her kitty” he said