The importance of the freight forwarding industry to Nigeria’s economy need not be over-emphasized; and it is as a result that the federal government, in a bid to organize the sector and make it more productive to the economic development of Nigeria, instituted the CRFFN 2007.
A lot of efforts of eggheads of the industry went into the process and build-up to the enactment of the Act so as to give it the potency for effective regulation of the freight forwarding sector of Nigeria’s economy.
As a pioneer member of the governing board, coming second in the total votes cast at the first CRFFN election and the Vice-Chairman in the second governing board, I have adequate knowledge and experience to assure you that the CRFFN Act 2007 is a very robust law.
What has happened over the years is that ignorance and, sometimes impunity and actions that contravene provisions of the Act are reasons the CRFFN has achieved very little in the industry.
As the supervisory Minister of the CRFFN, we urge you to ensure that the Act is followed explicitly in conducting the forthcoming election into the next governing board.
Now that the Council is at the crossroads again, we must work in concert to get it right, as the forthcoming election will make or mar the CRFFN.
IFFA commends the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani for committing efforts and demonstrating objectivity towards the election.
The Honourable Minister should know that CRFFN’s lackluster performance is because many of the activities of the CRFFN negate the provisions of the CRFFN Act 2007 and the poor performance can be reversed if the Act can be followed to the letter.
It is pertinent to inform the Honourable Minister that faulty structures had been put in place in the Council that has posed stumbling blocks to the proper functioning of the body.
Getting this election right will be the beginning of correcting these anomalies; by so doing repositioning the CRFFN to deliver on its statutory mandates and also meet expectations of operators and stakeholders in the industry.
This is why IFFA is concerned and there is urging the minister to do the right thing this time around so as to save the Council from being the ghost of itself and caricature among agencies of the Ministry.
It is as a result of the importance of the forthcoming election to the survival and proper functioning of the CRFFN that we at IFFA resolved to limit our intervention in this letter to the issues of election and transition; other shady matters that have contributed to retrogression of the Council will be issues of another day.
We have observed that the issues of who qualifies to vote and/or to be voted for have been either misunderstood or subject to controversy.
This should not be the case, as the CRFFN Act is clear and sacrosanct on this. The position advanced by the Act on eligibility is in line with global best practices and what is obtainable in other regulatory and professional bodies like CRFFN.
It is important for the Honourable Minister to be informed that the right to vote or to be voted for, by the Act, rests on CRFFN registered corporate membership and not on individual membership of the Council.
To get the process right avoiding ambiguity and sentiments, this must be understood and strictly adhered to as a way to enthrone order in the affairs of the CRFFN.
IFFA observed that the Permanent Secretary was quoted to have appealed to the various registered Associations in the Council to reserve some positions for non-Association members.
We make bold to inform the PS that the appeal was unnecessary, as it is unlawful and violation of the CRFFN Act for the registered Associations to, at their exclusive decisions, whims, and caprices, share the CRFFN board membership positions and determine who should be in the Council’s board and who should not.
The Ministry must dissociate itself from this violation of the Act, as no regulation made by the CRFFN supports that sharing pattern or system.
Furthermore, the registration of individuals by the CRFFN under the Act enables the individual to have the RFF (Registered Freight Forwarder) title that would confer the individual the qualification to operate in the sector or work in the industry as a freight forwarder in companies.
We herein remind the Minister that the first election into the governing board of the pioneer Council, midwifed by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) under Barr Hassan Bello took the proper, statutory format.
That election, which was organized and conducted by the Abuja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), took cognizance of the provisions of the CRFFN Act and it was well delivered in line with the provisions of CRFFN 2007.
The Minister should note that these developments, as well as what the Act proffers are verifiable; doing the contrary would mean taking captains of industry and all stakeholders for granted and this could rock the ship of the incoming CRFFN board.
We advised the Minister to make wide consultations and ensure that the rule of law reigns supreme in the forthcoming election.
It becomes pertinent for us to state that the same process is followed in elections into governing councils or boards of other professional and/or regulatory bodies like the Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), as well as professional bodies like Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
Even the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) go by corporate membership in eligibility to participate in its elections.
In other words, it is not foreign to us that franchise in elections like this lies on corporate membership, represented by registered individual members, one per corporate registered member.
The Honourable Minister should know that some interested persons are only pushing for a process that would favour them, but would violate the Act and would ultimately be counterproductive for CRFFN operations.
The fact is that the CRFFN board positions are open to all interested registered corporate members that can each field a registered individual to contest the election, as its representative.
However, one cannot overlook the fact that some professional bodies conduct their elections through association lines; but such bodies have these provisions contained in the Acts establishing them, or had made regulations to that effect.
A peculiar example is in COREN, the composition of the Council is tailored along the lines of various engineering associations that are also aligned to the departments of engineering that members are qualified and/or certified.
There are associations for engineers, technologists, craftsmen, technicians, etcetera; and the COREN law provides for this and allocates the number of members that would represent each association in the Council.
Associations can actually have their individual elections and fill up their allocated quota of members; the Ministry only supervises the process to ensure compliance.
zone, the eastern maritime zone, as well as the international airport and land borders zone.
Advocating for election based on association lines in CRFFN is baseless, myopic, a violation of the Act and an aberration that shouldn’t be allowed to take root or gain ground in the quest to reposition the CRFFN for progress.
It is important to note that the IFFA, as an Association is second to no other Association in the freight forwarding industry in terms of membership and spread.
It is as a result of IFFA’s interest for the growth and professionalism of the industry that we made sacrifices to ensure that CRFFN was structured in line with what is obtainable in the developed world.
As the then Vice Chairman of the governing board of the Council, I shared a view that the CRFFN should register only one association in each of the departments of freight forwarding, including Customs brokerage, haulage, warehousing, courier services, etcetera.
We started with the registration of the Association for operators involved in Customs brokerage, and we set standards that would encourage healthy operations and global best practices; various Associations applied; but based on the understanding we had that only one association would be registered to cover the operators in Customs brokerage, IFFA made a sacrifice and didn’t apply.
At the end of thorough verifications and assessment by the then registration committee headed by a very experienced and knowledgeable practitioner, Chief Peter Oge Obih, only ANLCA qualified and emerged as the only registered Association for operators in Customs brokerage.
We were to continue with other departments of freight forwarding, which would have accommodated other existing Associations, but the process was truncated when the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) was registered from the back door without the knowledge of the chairman of the registration committee.
It was this that destabilized the structure that we had conceived that would have solved the problems of Association proliferation, disorderliness and some operational problems that have become endemic in the industry.
It will be recalled that non-resolution of the matter locally caused IFFA to petition FIATA and various international bodies; which resulted in the blacklisting of CRFFN and placing a travel ban to Nigeria.
The matter was eventually resolved with a memorandum of understanding (MOU), before IFFA recalled its letter and CRFFN was reinstated by FIATA.
It was also agreed in the MOU that in the future round of registration that IFFA would also be registered once it applies.
This was why more Associations were registered.
IFFA has numerical strength and spread in membership. The only Association that can stand side by side with IFFA in the industry is ANLCA, which is the oldest Association in the industry.
IFFA’s capacity had been demonstrated over time. During the election into the first Council that was well conducted, IFFA got three out of the eight members elected into the governing board of the Council; this was the highest number when compared to other Associations’ membership to that governing board.
It is important to note that all these mushroom, one-man Associations also contested in that election and lost convincingly.
ANLCA won two seats, the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) won a seat and the remaining two seats were won by non-association members.
IFFA assures the Minister that we will throw our weight to support the Ministry of Transportation to deliver a credible, well-conducted, free and fair election, in line with global best practice and the CRFFN Act.
Sam C. Onyemelukwe is the National President of International Freight Forwarders Association(IFFA).
We shall define who owns ANLCA after Nwabunike’s tenure ends in April 2023—-Prince Ozo Chukwurah
The crisis in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) has become immutable and intractable, raging for close to four years now.
The protracted crisis, which was sparked off by a power tussle among the elders of the group for the control of the ANLCA, has done incalculable damage to the association, having been polarised between the two contending gladiators: Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha group and Dr. Taiwo Afolabi-led BOT.
Prince Ozo Felix Chukwurah, who is one of the most visible chieftains of ANLCA and the Vice- Chairman of the association’s BOT, spoke with our reporter in a no-hold-barred interview and made a stunning revelation about the high wired politics among the contending factions and the hair-raising intrigues going on to claim the soul of ANLCA, reputed to be the oldest freight forwarding group in Nigeria.
He also shed light on the controversies on the BOT certificate while unsparing in his response to the personal attacks launched against him by one of the gladiators.
Q. You and Farinto, the acting President of ANLCA, were said to have gone to Abuja to verify if the certificate of your BOT was truly withdrawn by the CAC.
It was further said, upon finding out the truth that the certificate has been canceled by the CAC, both of you slumped and went into a coma only to be revived by the medical team of the CAC. Could you tell us what really happened?
A.(bursts into derisive laughter)I have never been to Abuja in the last three months. Neither I and Farinto have been to Abuja together in the last five months.
Unfortunately, it is only Joe Sanni, who is a loafer and their media attack dog that has been spewing incoherent responses to my clarification of their falsehood over the certificate.
Others in the group have maintained a dignified silence. In my clarifications which I made in my first interview, I made clear references with dates, mentioned names of individuals who are living, and even showed proof of the withdrawal of their certificate with a letter from the CAC.
They should refute it.
I also quoted court judgments, with references, the name of the court, dates of the judgment with the names of the Judge who gave the judgments against them.
Let them refute it.
I don’t want to join issues with a loafer called Joe Sanni.
If you don’t know, let me inform you that the first and only car Joe Sanni used in his life was given to him by Prince Ozo Chukwurah, free.
A lemon-colored Hyundai Car.
Anybody in ANLCA who knows the car Joe Sanni is using, I gave it to him. That will show you how close we were.
He once came to me that Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the former President of ANLCA was not doing anything to enhance his life. It was in my house I gave him that car.
After that, we started relating and I was opportuned to meet one of his brothers whom I complained to that Joe Sanni was behaving in an erratic manner in recent times.
That one told me a lot about his behavioural deficiencies.
Since I came to know his behavioral challenges, there was no abuse he could haul at me that will make me get angry.
Q. Sir, let’s quit being personal and address the real issue. What the other group is saying is that the letter which you mentioned that the CAC used to withdraw their certificate has been contested in court and the CAC has withdrawn it.
A. While the rabbit hardly enters the Lion hole is that he saw legs going inside but never saw the ones coming out.
If I showed the letter withdrawing their certificate, the onus of proof is on them to show the public the one restoring the same certificate.
Not for me to showcase it to them.
They should show us the letter, with dates and reference numbers, restoring the certificate.
They should also cite the court judgment with dates, reference numbers, and the Judge who restored their certificate.
All these I did for verification.
That is the most logical thing for them to do in order to disprove my claims, not resorting to incoherent, inconsequential, and banding falsehood as Joe Sanni was doing.
Our own certificate was signed by the same Judge who signed their 2020 certificate before the CAC eventually withdrew it.
Therefore, the judge is still alive.
It is easy for them to write to the Judge that someone has forged his signature and stamp. It would then be possible for the judge to cause my arrest and possible prosecution for forgery.
They know my house, am ready to face the consequences.
I never said their own certificate was fake or forged but at a stage, it was withdrawn.
They were registered January 2020. They were removed, and they became inactive 26th of August, 2022.
The Taiwo Afolabi-led BOT became active in September 2022.
This is the issue I want them to react to, they should prove that am lying.
We all went to the police to meet the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and the whole document have been submitted to him and the Area Commander, Festac.
And I submitted the document with a letter that the police should investigate if the certificate is fake.
Q. What is your group going to do to stop the other group from parading themselves as the authentic BOT despite the withdrawal of their certificate?
A. ANLCA is an association for voluntary members.
Many of these people fomenting trouble in the association have been sacked in accordance with the constitution of the association. They are not paying the mandatory annual subscriptions, so they are no longer our members.
The truth is that they know they have no standing. We remain the authentic BOT members, recognized under the constitution, for the next four years and there is absolutely nothing they could do about it.
Q. But they are still causing problems in the association.
A. Is Boko Haram not causing problems in Nigeria? Have they taken over Nigeria?
The minority will have their say but the majority will have their way. They are in the minority.
The most intelligent person among their group, in fact, the most intelligent freight forwarder in Nigeria that i recognize is Sir Ernest Elochukwu.
He knows the truth. If he is not saying the truth now, one day he would say it.
I know him and he knows me. We know ourselves and we have a group that is loyal to him.
Why he decided to join the Mustapha group is still a puzzle for some of his loyalists.
Q.Who is in control of the secretariat of ANLCA?
A. For now, the secretariat is a biblical child in the hands of King Solomon.
When we went to the Commissioner of police, he was asking for solutions, if we can do the 4-4-1 reconciliatory arrangement.
I was the one who told the Commissioner of police that we are no longer interested after the collapse of our initial reconciliatory efforts which they jeopardised.
Musthapha’s group is like a rampaging bull in a Chinese shop. The bull in a Chinese shop is for destruction.
In the biblical child in Solomon’s hands, the real and authentic mother is protecting the child while the other woman who is fraudulently claiming the ownership of the child when her own is dead, was saying the child should be divided into two. She preferred the child dead because it doesn’t belong to her.
So for those who have the interest of the association at heart and do not want it dead, we want it protected, but for those who do not have the interest of the association at heart, wanted it to die and many of them were not born when the association was formed.
Q. If this matter is not resolved, don’t you think they will make ANLCA ungovernable for the authentic BOT and NECOM?
A. Yes, they have already made ANLCA ungovernable for Tony Iju Nwabunike and his executives.
But I would not be able to tell you what will happen after the expiration of Nwabunike tenure in April 2023.
That will be when there will be proper clarification of who and who are the authentic BOT of ANLCA.
Our constitution is very clear on this.
If there is a crisis and there is no NECON, who should take over?
Our secretariat is under lock and key because the Mustapha group has no stake and that is what they want.
Q.Do you think there would be a peaceful transition after the expiration of Nwabunike’s tenure in April next year if this crisis is not resolved now?
A. When we get to the bridge, we shall cross it. They are not immuned to the laws of the country. The law will take its course at the appropriate time.
They can go their separate ways while we go our separate ways.
They can answer ANLCA 2 while we answer ANLCA 1.
Q. So you want them to factionalise ANLCA?
A. They have already fictionalised it.
They are answering ANLCA Western Zone but could not factionalise it in the East or North.
It is only in the Western Zone here that Musthapa can come to foment trouble. He dared not try it in the East.
Q. But how long will this destabilisation continue and be condoned?
A. As long as it is within the ambit of the law not to cause violence.
The inordinate struggle for power in ANLCA does not worth the drop of any member of the association.
Q. Are you now saying that the window of reconciliation is now closed after the initial peace move collapsed?
A. They are the ones who asked for a reconciliation in the first instance. Before the peace process ever commenced, they started to bring stringent conditions which eventually make the effort for peace dead on arrival.
Q. What happens if they now offer the hand of fellowship for reconciliation after the collapse of the first move?
A. The way things are now, I can’t see any possibility of reconciliation.
This is because we have made so much efforts at reconciliation which they sabotaged. The last peace move was the one we said they should bring four members, excluding Taiye Oyeniyi, to form a joint BOT.
That is the only one available but they seemed not interested as they were foot-dragging.
Q. Are you going to pardon those who you said were sacked if they show any interest in reconciliation again?
A. Why, Yes, the same process through which they were sacked will be activated for their pardon and reabsorption.
Q.But they said they never recognised their eviction from the association
A.But it is on record. It is still hanging on them. For life, the record is there.
Assuming ANLCA ceases to exist and you want to write the history of the association, that decision to sack them will be recorded for posterity.
Q. From your narratives, are you now foretelling that ANLCA will remain factionalised since you said they could bear the name ANLCA 2 while your group bears ANLCA 1? And you know other associations like NAGAFF have taken advantage of the crisis in ANLCA to wax stronger than the association reputed to be the oldest freight forwarding group in Nigeria.
A.Let me say this, NAGAFF is very powerful and has been able to square it up with ANLCA because of the crisis which did not even start now.
There have been crises intermittently from time to time in ANLCA which led Dr. Aniebonam to pull out from ANLCA to form this formidable association called NAGAFF.
But despite this, ANLCA will continue to exist.
Q. You said the Mustapha group has succeeded in factionalising the Western zone of the association. Does that me there will be two NECOM elections in the Western zone, having conceded the Western zone to them?
A.They have been doing their thing in the Western zone. They have been appointing people. But I am not interested in who they appointed.
They are entitled to their own decisions and actions and what they want.
Q. So they can be running parallel executives without any challenge from the authentic BOT?
A. They are entitled to what they want to do
Q. That means you have already conceded the Western zone to them
A.You are talking about conceding but am talking about legality.
Q. Why am saying this is who do the members defer to, the Mustapa group or your group?
A.That is where the main crux of the issue is. How many of the members believe in them? and how many believe in the authentic BOT?
If we have about 1000 members but about 10 or 20 are pulling us back, does it makes ANLCA collapse? Nigeria is moving forward, is there peace in Nigeria? Boko Haram and bandits are terrorizing the people.
Do you think President Buhari like the way these bandits are terrorizing the people? He would do everything within his power to stamp them out.
Q. Are you by any chance regarding the Mustapha group as terrorists of ANLCA?
A. I only make a proverb. I am not linking them to bandits or Boko Haram. I am only telling you that as big as Nigeria is, a few small boys are terrorising us in Nigeria.
Q. Are you then regarding them as dissidents in ANLCA?
A. I don’t, but you did. I told you one of them is my boss who I respect so much. So there is no way I can regard such a referred person as a dissident. Denis Okafor is also my friend. I must choose the right words to describe them. I still have respect for them.
Q. Despite doing what you thought was wrong in the association?
A. They could be making a mistake because they have been provoked by somebody. Not by Prince Ozo. Their provocation came from somewhere
We met the anger on the ground and what we need to do is to calm the anger down. However, every attempt to bring their anger down is not working. But that does not mean I should disrespect them.
Q. Despite all attempts to pacify them, they are still angry. Don’t you think there is more to it than meets the eye?
A. When a man is provoked, there should be a way of pacifying the anger. But if he insists to be angry despite your efforts to pacify him, it will get to a stage when you turn your back on him and ask him to do his worst.
So we are getting to a stage where we turn our back and tell them to kill the association so that it will be on record that they kill ANLCA. That is the stage we are at now, It is not a personal fight. It is only Joe Sanni that is taking it personal, hurling abuses at me.
But as I said earlier, I don’t want to bandy words with a loafer.
ANLCA crisis: Ozo Chukwurah goes tough
“Since I came to know his behavioural deficiencies, there was no abuse he could haul at me that will make me get angry” Chukwurah declared.
“Unfortunately, it is only Joe Sanni, who is a loafer and their media attack dog that has been spewing incoherent responses to my clarification on their falsehood over the certificate.
CAC exposes deceit of Mustapha- led ANLCA BOT
This was before we got our certificate.
I said those men could not continue to be in office because they have served more than six years.
At this point, there was no agreement on the third proposal because Musthapha was trying to accommodate his three chapter chairmen whom he elected.
He was also dillydallying on convincing Taiye Oyeniyi to withdraw his membership of the BOT.
The BOT then took a decision among themselves that they will have a chairman, Vice chairman and Secretary for administrative convenience.
This was not in our constitution though.
These changes sparked a crisis within the board and not in the NECOM.
It was five people against three people. That was the genesis of the whole crisis.
That does not make them illegal.
The crisis was internal wrangling within the board while the association was moving smoothly.
Their certificate was never and is not fake until the CAC withdrew it.
When their tenure expired in February 2020, the NECOM constituted ASECO and called for an AGM at Owerri to hold the election for the new BOT members.
The five people who only have served out their first tenure are entitled to contest in the Owerri election for their second tenure but they pulled out as a result of their anger with the President of the association, Nwabunike for not recognising them.
They haven’t appealed the court judgement to date.
Tony Iju, as the [president, conducted the BOT election through the ASECO appointed by the NECOM. So any decision made by him as the president was binding on all the members of the association.
We decided that the six-year two tenure of the BOT members should be reduced to a single term of six years.
The two-term four-year tenure of the President should be reduced to a single term of five years while the three-year two terms of Chapter chairmen should be reduced to a four-year single term.
However, Nwabunike said that having taken this decision, they should allow him to go for his second term of another four years.
We all said no, that will make it eight years.
So effectively, Nwabunike started the single term of five years and it was the decision ratified at the Owerri AGM/NEC meeting.
The Taiwo faction who did not participate in the AGM in Owerri where the decision was made said Nwabunike could not enjoy the law that he was part to make.
He advised me to get our newly elected board registered.
So we went to all the courts with pending cases and we vacated them.
The Mustapha group did not appeal any of them to date.
They only had restraining orders which have expiring dates.
With all the cases against us vacated, we once again approached the CAC for registration.
The CAC then said before they register us, we must settle all outstanding debts owed by ANLCA to date which run into millions of naira.
That our association has not made any financial returns for many years.
Myself, My BOT members and NECOM members started contributing money from our personal pockets because the crisis stalled the effective running of the association.
We eventually liquidated all the outstanding debts. We paid up till 2021.
Our own board led by Dr Taiwo Afolabi paid.
We put the notice in national newspapers for 21 days and nobody challenged it.
The CAC asked its legal department to scrutinise all our documents before we were eventually registered on the 7th of September,2022.
Also, old members ceased to be active on the 26th of August, 2022.
We got the certificate and took it to our Chairman in his house for presentation”
They can foment trouble but we do all within our power to protect the entity called ANLCA which was formed before some of them were born.
We shall serve out our tenure, irrespective of their violence and destruction.
At a point, we decided that the two groups should go their separate ways and that enough is enough.
We, therefore, decided to sack them from the association.
An individual cannot be bigger than the association.
Mustapha said they didn’t recognise the sack but I said it was hanging on your neck, and he could not do anything.
I have served them. I have supported them. Today, it is my turn. I am the Vice Chairman of the BOT and they should support me and my team.
There is nothing further from the truth. They are a drowning group looking for anything to hang on to save their impending doom.
But I will show the public the letter that the CAC issued to withdraw their own certificate”.
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