By DAPO OLAWUNI
Fifteen Council members from five registered freight forwarding associations were in July 2018 elected into the board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and later inaugurated by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in October 2018 for a tenure of two years.
By virtue of the CRFFN Act, the Council ought to be preparing for another election at this time.
However, investigations by DAILY TREND NEWS revealed that there are underground moves by members of the CRFFN board to amend the Council’s Act at the National Assembly to extend their tenure to four years.
Apart from the tenure elongation, other aspects of the CRFFN Act which our correspondent learnt could be amended are; the collection of the Operating Fee (POF) which originally is not in the CRFFN Act.
Another aspect up for amendment is the leadership of the Council to allow the Federal Government to appoint Chairman of the Council.
The National Assembly in an attempt to carryout the amendment had fixed a secret public hearing for May 12th 2020 in Abuja. But the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) had blew off the lead on that one, sighting the COVID-19 inter-state lockdown.
However, there are insinuations that the public hearing may have been concluded behind closed doors after the first attempt.
A reliable source confirmed to our correspondent that the lawmakers have gotten all inputs they needed to perfect the job from stakeholders through e-mail, the stakeholders who could no longer attend the public hearing were asked to forward their position papers.
“There is an amendment going on at the National Assembly but they are trying to do it through the backdoor. They (CRFFN board) are seeking for four years in that amendment” he said
When our correspondent reached out to the Registrar of CRFFN, Barr Samuel Nwakohu to confirm if there are plans to extend the board tenure or for another election into the council soon, he declined to comment and referred him to the Chairman of CRFFN, Col Tsanni Abubakar.
Other members of the governing board were equally contacted by our correspondent for their reactions, but none of them were ready to comment on the planned extention or give any indication of elections coming anytime soon.
But according to Dr Frank Ukor, former President of Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) who spoke with DAILY TREND NEWS,
in the CRFFN Act, the governing has a tenure of 2years, but if they want to extend it, the Act has to be amended.
Dr Ukor agreed that elections into CRFFN should not hold at this time due to the COVID-19. He argued that a lot of operational time has been lost for the present governing board.
“We can understand that because of the COVID-19, they can extend their tenure, not extending it by four years, but they could forget about the election till next year so that the COVID-19 would have cleared up”
“During the COVID-19 period, there was no much action, so in order to make up for the lost time, they can do the election next year because July is already here and its time”
“It is unfortunate that before now, they never thought of amending the constitution to extend their tenure to four years, it might not be acceptable to stakeholders right now until the Act is amended” he said
The ex-AREFFN President however cautioned that the CRFFN must not be converted into a full government agency, according to him, if this is done, the idea of the various associations in the Council would have been defeated.
Also speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS, Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) said the association had instituted a court against the CRFFN to determine if it is a government agency or not
Dr. Aniebonam who described it as a “friendly court action” however expressed concerns that major areas of contention in the litigation is currently being tampered with by the CRFFN through its amendment at the National Assembly.
“It is a friendly court action just to seek interpretation, these things we are arguing court is what they are now trying to amend, it is like they are laying ambush to overreach the decision of the court of appeal. The National Assembly have been rightly informed on the matter before the appeal court. We have put them on notice so that they don’t claim ignorance”
“There is nothing that is perfect 100 percent, the Act is subject for review every ten years or thereabout, life itself is dynamic, there could be certain aspects of the law that should be changed but not the essential characters or the object clause, for example, the issue of whether the council is an agency of the government should be made clear for an ordinary man to understand”
“You cannot have an agency of the government where the leader is an elected member” he said
Practitioners are already waiting anxiously on the CRFFN to announce a programme of elections into the board.
A former member of CRFFN’s Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum, Chidi Anthony Opara said that “Baring any extension of the two-year tenure of the present Council by the National Assembly, we should, in few weeks time, be voting for another session of the CRFFN Governing Council”
In a message he forwarded to our correspondent, Opara argued that “If stakeholders want freight forwarding in Nigeria to advance beyond the present undesirable condition, they must be ready to compel persons seeking to be voted into the Council to articulate in details, their programmes if voted in, these programmes must also be interrogated by industry intellectuals to ascertain their practicability and relevance to moving the sector to global standards”
“Stakeholders should please detach themselves from the era of sentiments in which persons who don’t even know what Freight Forwarding is really about, would sneak into the CRFFN Governing Council”
The CRFFN has been embroiled in series of controversies which has hindered it from functioning effectively, expecially the controversial Practitioners Operating Fee (POF)
The POF collection idea was only initiated under the Joint Action Committee of Freight Forwarders (JACOFF) in year 2011 where dozens of freight forwarding association leaders gathered to define a means of getting money to run their associations.
They empowered chapter chairmen of the various freight forwarding associations at the nations entry points, to collect Cargo Clearance Dues (CCD) on their behalf.
In attendance were the national presidents respectively of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFF) and National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC).
The CRFFN later came up with the collection of the POF, and up till date, some members of the freight forwarding associations believed the Council hijacked the collection from them.