By DAPO OLAWUNI
In December 2019, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) said it would ensure that all licensed customs agents and freight forwarders who are not registered with the Council are denied renewal of their licences by the Nigeria Customs Service and entrance to port by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)
Again in November 2021, the Council resounded the warning by giving freight forwarders a deadline of December, 2021 to qualify as practitioners or get kicked out of the industry.
DAILY TREND findings revealed that World Bank in its Logistics Performance Index (LPI) conducted in 2018 among 160 countries of the world in terms of freight forwarding, showed that Nigeria was ranking as low as 110.
The LPI is based on a worldwide survey of operators on the ground (global freight forwarders and express carriers), providing feedback on the logistics “friendliness” of the countries in which they operate and those with which they trade.
Nigeria ranked 110 out of 160 and ridiculously, other African countries like Cote d’Ivoire ranked 50, Cotonou 76, Rwanda 57, South Africa 34.
Experts have expressed concerns, indicating that the Nigerian shipping sector is going down on different fronts, and not many people know that freight forwarding is key to the nation’s competitiveness.
In a chat with DAILY TREND, a top official of CRFFN (names withheld) said it would be difficult for the Council to implement its threats against Nigerian freight forwarders at this time because of the dynamic nature of the industry.
According to him, despite the numerous trainings and programmes organised by the CRFFN since inception in 2007, a large number of freight forwarders are still operating illegally at Nigerian ports.
“If we go by the CRFFN Act, nobody would be registered without qualification, the Act determines the level of education, training and skill you need to possess in order to be registered.
“If CRFFN bang its feet on the ground and say all Freight Forwarders should stop, it won’t make sense, so we carried out an interim registration, after that, we begin to provide for the training.
“First, we had to submit the curriculum to FIATA in 2012 for a diploma in freight forwarding and supply chain which is a global trade.
2013, it was in Singapore; Higher Diploma in Supply Chain, these are the two qualifications we have already secured and accredited as a Council to run.
“We have trained over 200 trainers; Nsuka, Unilever, Benue State University, etc.
So in terms of training readiness we are ready, because in every zone, we have an institution that can train, we have trainers, some of them are equally practitioners.
“Freight forwarders are like eople who are used to making money without education, how do you think they would feel when you now compelled them to get training? They would tell you they don’t need your training to make money.
“So, we are not coming from abroad to impose a sanction, we had to thread with caution so that we don’t strangle the nation economy, if the freight forwarders go on strike action for instance, you know what that means? You would start begging them to come back again.
“But some of them already know the value of these trainings, we first targeted the big boys and we gave them the Executive Diploma Training”
He said that Nigerian freight forwarders have not come to understand the importance of freight forwarding to the nation’s economy.
He said any country that is rank low on the World Bank LPI 2018 index is considered not competitive.
Continuing, he said “The training you see us perform is approved by National Assembly, we made a case and let them know that freight forwarding is important to any nation’s competitiveness.
“Freight forwarding is about moving goods in and out of the country, and if you are an import dependent country, or export dependent, the cost of logistics is high.
“The NPA receives ships at the port, but who is facilitating the goods coming? Customs would generate trillions as revenue annually, who facilitates the money?
“It is becoming a professional job in the country, but many people are still not registered, many of them are doing illegal operations. By the time we gather all the freight forwarders in the country and train them, they would generate more money for this nation, not just for their pockets” he concluded