Last month, September 2021, the Ministry of Transportation released the time table for elections into the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The election was slated for 8th of October 2021 but it has now been postponed for another two weeks by the Ministry due to wrangling and bickering among the Nigerian freight forwarders.
Apparently, the CRFFN Act provides for registration of three categories of membership into the Council; Corporate, Individual and Associations.
By extension, this means that any of these categories qualifies and have the right to vote and be voted for, provided the entity has fulfilled all requirements laid down by CRFFN, and they are not indebted to the council in any way.
In 2018, due to the unpreparedness of the freight forwarding practioners, there was an agreement among the five registered associations to do a “selection” of candidates, rather than election into the Council. This idea gave birth to the illegality called 188.8.131.52.1 sharing formula.
In the sharing formula, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) got six slots, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) got six slot, while other smaller associations like National Association of Freight Forwarders and Cargo Consolidators (NAFFAC)
Associations of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and Council of Managing Directors got one slots each.
These fifteen individuals carefully selected by the associations joined the 17 other federal government appointees to form the governing council of the CRFFN and were inaugurated by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in 2018.
Interestingly, as at time of producing names of these individuals by their associations, professionalism and competence was jettisoned, more attention was paid to who has money to buy the position from the so called cabals running the associations. It was strictly a money making venture for owners of the associations.
More qualified and experienced hands in some of the associations were disqualified because they lacked “capacity”. Either intellectual or financial capacity, the associations did not state, but to discerning minds, the message was clear, money was the underlining factor.
If not money, we wonder why highly professional freight forwarders like Dr Eugene Nweke, Francis Omotoso among others were disqualified across the associations. This could definitely not have been for lacking intellectual capacity.
Now fast forward to 2021, another election is here and the associations have once again renewed their unholy alliance called 184.108.40.206.1 sharing formula, forgetting that the game has changed and freight forwarders are better prepared this time around.
We have discovered that there are more individuals who have picked forms for the 2021 elections at a whooping N500,000. Some of these individuals do not belong to any association.
It is now clear that the associations have seen the handwriting clear on the wall that, if this election is conducted based on the three categories recognised by CRFFN Act, they would no longer be able to sustain their grip and control on the CRFFN so as to dictate what happens there.
The former Chairman of CRFFN, Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju alleged that for more than 10-years now, none of the freight forwarding associations have paid their subscription dues or registration dues to the CRFFN.
“This singular act is the injustices the accreditated Associations is meting out yearly to the corporate and individual Membership category who officially register and subscribe annually”
“Invariably, the accreditated Associations by Professional Regulations does not have the moral and Professional temerity to talk about any election sharing formula and the POF sharing percentage when they are not compliant with the provisions of the regulations.
“Paying attention to them under the present election quest, while they are owing for more than 10 years subscription fees in arrears and non official registration fee on the part of some of the accreditated Associations is the height point of managerial weakness on the part of the Registrar of the CRFFN cum the supervising ministry”
One of the individual candidates presently standing for election into the Council, Fwrdr Godfrey Nwosu said the registered associations are afraid of individual candidates because this would put an end to their dictatorship.
“They are the ones playing monopoly, they see it that they have the dictates, because of the struggle for the actualisation of CRFFN, they believe it is their ideology alone, so they must dictate what happens in the Council
“In some of the associations today, in the area of administration, management and welfare of their members, they are no where to be found, their members are not faring well, they are all sick inside.
“How can you now compel individuals to come through these kinds of associations before standing for election? Some of the critical stakeholders in this profession do not belong to any association, some of them have been disappointed by the association structures, there is no freedom of speech, you can not say it the way you see it or even say anything, all these are part of the monopoly and anarchy
“The much expected return on investments is the reason for this goose chase for dictatorship, many believe that they have invested in CRFFN so they want to recoup.
“The collection of POF has commenced, what stopped the collection before now was the disparity between who is a declarant, now that they have an understanding with CRFFN on the collection, they have now commenced
“People don’t understand what the 220.127.116.11.1 stands for, it represents sharing formula for the POF collection. At the end of POF collection, there is a way by which freight forwarders would be renumeration, they want to route it through the associations, when this is done, they would collect the money for their selfish reasons
Immediate past Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at Tin Can Port, Prince Segun Oduntan said the associations are pushing for the 18.104.22.168.1 sharing formula because they have done it before and gone away with it.
“However, it would not work this time around because people are more enlightened and reformed.
“The associations are not paying their subscriptions and other dues, the individuals and corporate members are the ones paying.
“Being a member of CRFFN is either by Corporate, Individual and Associations. You as an association cannot come now and take my slot where I am paying my dues, it is not done.
“Association is about people, it does not belong to an individual, what is playing out today is about dictatorship and greed. Why can’t the associations call their people together and encourage them to go for election, instead of selecting and anointing some persons that are not even qualified.
“The greed is about the POF sharing that is coming, if you are actually a declarant and you are working, you don’t need to fear, it is the percentage of what you declare that comes back to you.
“If it is not greed, why are the associations planning to eat where they do not sow?
“CRFFN should open up its registration for more associations and carry out evaluation of the existing ones, how many people are in NAFAC? what is their membership? Just like the last election, one person voted for himself and he won.
“The maritime sector cannot be an exemption in doing the right thing just like other sectors”
We recall that since the CRFFN was established in 2007, elections into the Council has always been by individuals picking forms and standing for election. This process was used in the maiden election in Abuja which produced Tony Iju Nwabunike. It was also used in election of Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju for two tenures.
Last week, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, Mrs Magdalene Ajani asked the various associations to go and liase among themselves on the way this 2021 elections should be conducted.
The Minister also advised the leaders of the associations to look at succession plans, and to groom young freight forwarders that would take over the profession eventually and make good policies for the government.
As a point of advise, we charge the leadership of the associations that, they need not to be scared of individual candidacy for election into CRFFN, there must be an equal playing field for all contestants to run, that is the beauty of democracy, doing anything contrary would lead to bitterness and further destroy the sector and the CRFFN.
Also as a point of advise to the CRFFN Registrar and management, the time has come to register more associations and carry out evaluation of existing ones. Truth be told, some of the associations like AREFFN, National Council and NAFAC do not have spread or even membership as stipulated in the CRFFN Act.
Many of them are a “one-man-show” association without secretariat, no chapter offices and so on, they were designed to enrich a few individuals who do not even clear cargoes, neither are they relevant in the scheme of things.
Even the so called mega associations like ANLCA and NAGAFF needs to be re-evaluated to determine how well they are faring, their status, their weight, their financial base, are these associations being audited? How are the associations running their finances, what is the welfare of their members like?
On the aspect of training, the CRFFN we are aware have channelled some train-the-trainer capacity programs through the associations for free, how well have the associations trained their other members? If CRFFN should carry out all these evaluation, it would discover that the associations have not lived up to their own responsibilities.
If this is the case, then their membership of the CRFFN should be scrapped.
Today, there are associations like the African Professional Freight Forwarders Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA) among others waiting to be registered. These new bodies are doing exploits, engaging the Federal Government and shaping policies better than the existing mushroom associations on the CRFFN registration list.
As it is now, one of the associations have served motion on notice to all the relevant security agencies, should things continue like this, or should CRFFN disqualify any of the candidates based on association structures, there would be an injunction stopping the election.