By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Interim National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has inaugurated a taskforce to address the operational challenges confronting members of the association at the nation’s seaports and terminals.
Recall that since the crisis in the association started four years ago, members were subjected to hardships and maltreatment in the hands of government agencies, shipping companies and terminal operators due to lack of adequate leadership.
However, the interim National President of ANLCA, Mr. Pius Ujubuonu who was inaugurated recently by the association Board of Trustees (BOT) following the expiration of the Tony Iju’s administration, has now taken the bull by the horns.
A 39-member committee was inaugurated in Lagos yesterday, with 5-9 members assigned to various port terminals as ANLCA expressed optimism that this would alleviate the operational challenges in freight forwarding.
Mr. Pius Ujubuonu, who conducted the inauguration exercise, described the taskforce as representatives of the association’s leadership at the ports.
His words: “There are several operational challenges at the ports and the face-off amongst ourselves in ANLCA has worked against our being able to address these challenges coming from security agencies, regulatory bodies, other operators and service providers at the ports.”
“As long as operations aren’t smooth at the ports, freight agents will struggle to make ends meet from port business. The main reason for forming associations is to have a collective security and be able to collectively approach certain things that work against our operations. As interim executives, we are just seven members and there’s no way we would be able to go round the ports and terminals.”
“The best approach is by delegation of powers. We had to bring people onboard so they could find out the core problems at ports and terminals. They act as our intelligence, our help and our taskforce. Where they can’t address things at their various posts, they will revert to us and we will approach the relevant authorities to ensure the right thing is done in line with world best practices.”
He, however, stressed that the body didn’t inaugurate the team to cause mayhem in any port or terminal, but to enhance the ease of freight forwarding operations at these locations.
“We have an average of 5-9 members assigned to some ports and terminals, taking into cognizance the size of the port and volume of activities there. We believe they will be more of an assistance to the operators, regulators and freight agents, than a disturbance,” Ujubuonu said.
Meanwhile, he called on port stakeholders to collaborate with the newly inaugurated taskforce, even as he assured that courtesy visits will be arranged to introduce the teams to the key stakeholders at respective ports and terminals.
With the taskforce having only two women members, ANLCA women registered their displeasure at the development and Ujubuonu appealed to the ANLCA women group. However, he revealed that he had instructed that women be completely left out of the taskforce because he planned to have women dominate other Committees like; Customs/Agents relations, Social Welfare groups, among others.
“I have special areas like Customs/ Agents relations for women. When someone is having an issue in valuation or Customs Strikeforce or FoU, the results a woman will come back with will be much better than a man. This is because women are naturally problem solvers and peacemakers. This was what informed my decision to ask that women be left out of taskforce. I also want to create Social Welfare that will be operated by women because you’re transparent and accountable than men,” he addressed the women.
Speaking on the intervention of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) on the ongoing ANLCA crisis, he said that the CRFFN Committee had submitted its interim report to the Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Sambo.
“The CRFFN Committee has submitted an interim report on the ANLCA conflict to the Transport Minister and I’m privy to the content of that report. However, I’ll not preempt an exercise set-up by a Minister because it shows that the Federal Government has waded in through the leadership of CRFFN which is a regulatory body of freight forwarders.”
“I’m sure they will come out with a fair recommendation. Some of the interested parties in this conflict are on the CRFFN board, but I believe they would have that in mind in ensuring that the best decision or recommendation is gotten,” he added.