By DAPO OLAWUNI
The African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) has dragged the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to court over the collection of the controversial Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) at Nigerian ports.
This is even as the case that terminates extension of tenure of CRFFN Governing Board comes up today at Federal High Court Ikoyi, Lagos.
APFFLON is seeking to put a stop to the POF which CRFFN has started collecting even though the National Assembly is yet to rectify it for them to collect. The CRFFN since March 1st 2021, commenced collection of the POF at some terminals at the Tin Can Island Port.
Freight Forwarders have however been kicking against the POF collection since it commenced, arguing that the CRFFN cannot collect POF from the port when there is no Governing Board in place. This is even as they threatened to cripple commercial activities at Nigerian ports.
The CRFFN is collecting N2,000 on every forty foot container leaving the port, and N1,000 on twenty foot containers.
DAILY TREND NEWS investigations revealed that the CRFFN has been served officially with the APFLON court motion on Wednesday, 10th of March to stop the collection.
The case with suit number FHC/L/CS/374/2021 is between the incorporated trustees of APFFLON as the applicant, and the CRFFN, Registrar of the Council, Chairman of the Governing Board of the Council, Minister of Transportation and the Attorney General of the Federation as defendants.
Our correspondent also gathered exclusively that the court case instituted by a group of freight forwarders against the extension of tenure of the CRFFN Governing board members is coming up at the Federal High Court today Thursday.
It was learnt that the court had last year directed the CRFFN Board members to stay action since their two years tenure has expired.
The case was instituted by a prominent member of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Fwdr Emeka Nwosu and few others. For daring to drag the CRFFN to court, NAGAFF had last year expelled Nwosu.
Recall that the CRFFN Governing Board members were seeking for extension of their tenure in office to four years, even as the National Assembly is pushing to amend the laws establishing the CRFFN.
The bill is sponsored at House of Representatives by Hon. Patrick Asadu representing Nsuka/Igboeze South Federal Constituency of Enugu State and co-sponsored by Hon. Garba Datti, representative of Sabon Gari Federal Constituency of Kaduna State.
There was a botched public hearing at the National Assembly last year. The Covid-19 pandemic affected the hearing, secondly, freight forwarders raided an alarm that they were not informed about the hearing.
When he was contacted, President of APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite declined to speak on the associations’s suit against CRFFN because the matter is already in court.
However, a reliable source within the association who spoke with our correspondent stated “In section 3 of the CRFFN Act, the lawmakers were talking about extension of tenure to four years. The Council is seeking to amend section 6 of the Act to allow her collect POF, but this has not been ratified, presently, the Act does not stipulate that the CRFFN should collect POF”
“What the Act says is that CRFFN can collect subscription from members, but not to collect operations fee on cargoes leaving the port. The subscription is collected from members, not on import and export cargoes coming from the port, it is only Nigeria Customs Service that can do that, Minister of Finance cannot authorise any levy”
“The CRFFN is being given budget yearly by the Federal Government, in that budget for 2021, N720million was allocated for freight forwarders training”
“Some freight forwarders had gone to court to seek clarification on the term of the governing board of CRFFN. This made the court to suspend the board from acting.
The case is coming up today at Federal High Court in Lagos.
The case would be listened to today”
“The Act says two years and they have spent more than two years in office, they had no defence, it was obvious they just want to cheat the freight forwarders”