By DAPO OLAWUNI
Following the commencement of collection of the controversial Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) some Direct Trader Input Centres (DTI Cafés) in Apapa have started cashing-in on the collection to make quick money.
Terminal operators at the Tin Can Island Port had issued a notice to all freight forwarders, warning that from March 1st 2020, cargoes would no longer be released without receipts of payment of CRFFN’s POF.
Even though the CRFFN receipt could be printed online by the freight forwarders from the confines of their offices and even from their android phones, findings showed that many of them are still illiterates who cannot print the receipts except with the help of DTI centres.
Recall that DTI cafes were established in 2008, but in 2005, Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali had shutdown DTI operations for allegedly being used to perpetuate economic fraud.
However, since the collection of the POF by CRFFN started, the DTI cafes have started booming again.
Freight forwarders under the aegis of Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) in a recent statement signed by Fwdr Edwin C alleged that there is an ongoing racket between the DTI centres, shipping companies and terminal operators.
The group said “Officially, the POF attracts 20ft Container at N1000 and 40ft Container at N2000”
“Most importantly, it must be paid by the named declarant on the import documents. Also, the CRFFN payment process is electronic and even driven to the extent that the Forwarder can conveniently pay its bill from its Android phone set”
“Unfortunately, what’s obtainable on ground is a process where some staff of accredited DTI centres with a licensed Customs operatonal agency ( as the declarant) now help the Forwarders to mass generate the POF payment advise for a fee ranging from N1000 and a little above”
“Thereafter, the forwarder proceed to make payment in the bank, where it pays N2, 350 in the case of a 40ft container. The additional N350 paid is noted as bank commissson”
“This present process is not acceptable on the grounds the inherent noticeable procedural delays is a connivance for further extortions, between the CRFFN, STOAN MEMBERS ( T.O.) SHIPPING LINES AND LISTED DTI CENTRES. The procedure is in negation of the principles of ease of doing business in the port and the spirit of trade facilitation”
The freight forwarders argued that the Concession Agreement signed between terminal operators and the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) does not at any point confer such powers leading to the stoppage of cargo duly release by the Customs, Shipping Lines, relevant regulatory agencies to the concessionaires
“The function of the Terminal Operators as a temporary custodian of the imports Onbehalf of the Shipping Lines has not change from those services by which it earns charges and fees, obviously the POF consipiracy is not part of it”