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Only Corporate CRFFN members, not individuals, could vote and be voted for—–Onyemelukwe

Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation
—–an open letter to Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on forthcoming CRFFN elections.

By Sam C. Onyemelukwe

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.

The Act, if well implemented, would engender growth and development in the freight sector.

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.

 This is the only way to save the Council from retrogression and poor performance; anything short of this will put the future of the CRFFN in serious jeopardy.
Records clearly show that provisions of the Act had been variously violated in the past, leading to the abysmal performance of the body.

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 permanent secretary’s position that the CRFFN is the worst Agency under the Federal Ministry of Transportation is correct and verifiable.

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.

The essence of individual registration by the CRFFN was for the Council to recognize the individual that would represent the registered corporate member at the election.

 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.

In the case of CRFFN, the Act tailored the components into zones. We have three zones as follows: the western maritime

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.

 The MOU, among other items, stated that all other associations that applied alongside NAGAFF for the Customs brokerage category would be registered by the CRFFN.

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.

Meanwhile, CRFFN was yet to comply with the part of the agreement that IFFA will be registered once it applies.

 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.

We are duty-bound to do this for our industry and for the profession; but if the contrary is done by violating the CRFFN Act, we shall not fail to explore all legal means to ensure that we save our regulatory body from continuing wallowing without direction or focus.

Sam C. Onyemelukwe is the National President of  International Freight Forwarders Association(IFFA).

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Farinto urges Customs brokers to mobilise 5m votes for  presidential candidate who is freight forwarders- friendly

Kayode Farinto, Ag, Pre4sident, ANLCA
Eyewitness reporter
Kayode Farinto, the Acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has enjoined freight forwarders to use their votes to bring in a government that has a passion for the welfare of freight forwarders in Nigeria.
The ANLCA chieftain made this call Monday in his May Day/ Sallah message to the freight forwarders confraternity.
Farinto, who bemoaned the harassment and intimidation the freight forwarders are being subjected to under the outgoing government in terms of multiple charges, levies and extortions, urged the oppressed customs brokers to use their PVCs to bring in a presidential candidate who will end the misery and sufferings of freight forwarders.
Consequently, he asked that the freight forwarders should mobilise at least five million votes in the maritime industry for a presidential candidate among the legion of contenders who will work for the welfare of customs brokers.
“The inconsistency in government policies is an eye-opener and we will enjoin our members to give the over five million votes in the industry to a presidential candidate that will be explicit on how to assist the Freight forwarding profession viz a viz implementation of people’s welfare policies their support and endorsements come 2023.
Farinto said the present government has shown a lack of empathy for the suffering and harassed freight forwarders who are even overburdened with all manner of charges in the face of an economic crunch.
“We won’t allow anyone to fool us like this outgoing government is doing.
“We are gradually losing our profession to foreign domination courtesy of lack of law that will protect indigenous practitioners”, he lamented.
While urging the freight forwarders to brace up for the reintroduction of the revised Vehicles Identification Number (VIN) valuation policy this month, the ANLCA Chief warned them to be on their guard against people who may wish to compromise the process to the detriment of freight forwarders.
“Let me commence by saying that, it is obvious that the NCS will be implementing the VIN VALUATION this month, going by the news filtering around us in the industry and we need to monitor this because people will not want the process to be successful may introduce things outside our agreement into the procedures”
“I have released the agreed procedures on clearance of Standard Chassis vehicles that fall within VIN valuation and Non-Standard chassis vehicles,salvage, and accidented vehicles a few days ago.
 “We need to allow these new changes going by all we go through in the hands of customs various units to clear vehicles in the ports”
He recounted the horrific process of a clearance procedure, especially of vehicles, which he said is laced with extortions by the Customs
 “Even when you take your valuation, many alerts are put on our declarations and it takes the grace of God and difficult conditions to get them out of the ports.
“As if that is not enough, you need to know the numbers of calls we receive from our members delivering these vehicles within and outside the Lagos environment.
“Many customs units will say, your values are compromised, it must be jacked up and many of us are at their mercies pleading that DN should not be issued on already exited vehicles.
“This and many more things are what we believe The VIN valuation will eliminate.
“Many agents have been given forged and mutilated valuation papers by the third parties and are left to suffer the consequences of whatever happens.
“We do not need all this to get our vehicles released and we promise to challenge any command that may want to use the office of monitoring to extort money from our members when this new process commences.
The ANLCA Acting President also promised that the controversial issue of the National Automotive Council (NAC) 15 percent level will be pursued to its logical conclusion through the involvement of the national assembly and the instrumentality of the soon to be inaugurated Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN).
“The issue of 15 percent NAC turn levy will be pursued vigorously immediately after the Sallah break
because we will engage the National Assembly on the need for them to know that, this government is not sensitive to the plight of the masses to have introduced a levy at this period when the economy is in comatose.
” And we will also ensure that the Federal Ministry of Finance is dragged before the people’s representatives on this matter.
“Since the CRFFN governing council may also be inaugurated this week, it will be our first issue to be raised at the plenary which needs urgent national attention.
“All our efforts to eliminate NAC turn levy is being done in collaboration with the motor dealers association”
Farinto however said that before these lofty objectives of the leadership of the freight forwarders could be achieved, the members of the confraternity must be united to achieve their common goal.
“We must however come together to achieve greatness. An injury to one should be an injury to all” he declared.
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