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Freight Monitor

Freight forwarders flay compromised posture of government agencies in containment of unfair trade practices of  shipping companies

Ibrahim Tanko

 

Eyewitness reporter
Freight Forwarders, who ply their trade at the Lagos ports, have accused the Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), Nigerian Shippers’Council and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) of a sell-out in the struggle to have fair trade practices with the shipping companies.
It would be recalled that the amalgam of the freight forwarders from the National Government Approved  Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian  Licensed Customs  Agents (ANLCA)  has engaged the predominantly foreign shipping companies over operational issues of extortion, indiscriminate and arbitrary charges.
In the course of the trade dispute, the angry freight forwarders had twice issued notices of service withdrawal if their grievances were not met.
However, in order to stave off service disruption, the CRFFN, in collaboration with the Shippers Council and NPA, had called for a truce by calling for a peace meeting between the two warring parties.
Unfortunately, the peace meeting was deadlocked.
However, the freight forwarders have accused the three government agencies of high level of insincerity and deceit over their mediatory roles in the conflict.
Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, the National Coordinator of the 100 percent compliance team of NAGAFF, who is one of the leaders of the protesting Customs brokers, lamented that the three agencies have abandoned the freight forwarders in their struggle with the shipping companies.
While ventilating the feelings of the aggrieved freight forwarders, Ibrahim accused the three agencies of grandstanding and playing the ostrich.
“We trusted them ( the three agencies) before and that was why we listened to them when they called for a truce.
“But event in recent times and the body language of the officials of these agencies have demonstrated their insincerity and deceit.
“We do not trust them anymore as they have abandoned us in the hours of our struggle and betrayed the trust we had in them” Alhaji Tanko lamented.
He alleged that the agencies may have been compromised for them to look the other way while the foreign agents are milking the Nigerian freight forwarders through unbridled extortions and arbitrary charges.
Tanko further disclosed that the attitude of the three regulatory agencies, which he said are supposed to protect the interests of customs brokers, has further emboldened the shipping companies in their exploitative practices which he lamented, are being perpetrated with undisguised impunity.
“Maybe the three government agencies are enjoying the problems we are going through. If not, they should do something before something gives” he warned.
Tanko declared that the level of disenchantment among the freight forwarders is so high that if the leadership should ask them to give vent to their anger, a lot of harm could be unleashed on port businesses.
“That is why the leadership of the freight forwarders is still managing the situation by not allowing them to disrupt port operations through strike action.
“We know the maritime business is very critical to the economic well being of the country, therefore we are still showing restraint despite the compromised posture of those whose statutory duties are to protect us.
“We are still pursuing the path of peace through continuous dialogue not because we are afraid to make good our threat to go on strike but because of the responsible leadership which does not wish to hurt the economy and the people we lead” Tanko claimed.
He however warned that if the relevant agencies of government fail to call the recalcitrant shipping companies to order in their punitive operational practices, the leadership of the freight forwarders may be left with no other option than to call the restive freight forwarders out on strike.
“It is not over until it is over. The struggle continues but we may not be able to contain the agitations of the oppressed freight forwarders much longer if the impunity of the shipping companies is not quickly checked” the NAGAFF chieftain declared in an ominous tone
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Freight Monitor

My comments on anti-trade practices of some freight forwarders misconstrued—-Tanko

Tanko Ibrahim
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Freight Monitor

CRFFN member tackles Tanko over claims that freight forwarders are corrupt

Princess Chi Ezeh, NAGAFF Chieftain
—- says claims are false, blackmail, self-serving
Eyewitness reporter
Two frontline members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and incidentally members of the fourth governing board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), Princess Chi Ezeh and Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko, have disagreed over the conduct and professional integrity of freight Nigerian forwarders.
While Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko believed that freight forwarders, of which he is one of their stocks, are corrupt and wilfully connive with Customs officers to circumvent the new Vehicles Identification Number (VIN) valuation policy in order to cheat the federal government of its revenue, Princess Chi Ezeh holds contrary views, saying freight forwarding is an ethical profession which is an integral part of value chains in the transport industry.
Recall that Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko had declared that freight forwarders evade customs duties with the collaboration of corrupt customs officers through the manipulation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), stating that “most freight forwarders have started cutting corners by conniving with valuation officers and releasing officers to get the ex-factory price as value payable on used vehicles.”
Princess Ezeh, the only female member on the fourth governing board of the CRFFN,  however, took a swipe at Alhaji Tanko, the National Coordinator of NAGAFF’s Compliance team, over his comments, saying they were self-serving, meant to gain cheap publicity and blackmail government agencies.
She said that the fourth CRFFN board, of which the two contending NAGAFF members are part, is concerned about effectively regulating freight forwarding in a bid to stop the practice of using false statements to gain popularity or blackmail government agencies.
“In my professional opinion, condemning freight forwarders because of PAAR is wrong because PAAR isn’t the final document for clearing cargoes.
“It is advisory as the cargoes and the accompanying declarations are further subjected to either physical or documentary checks at the ports.
“CRFFN is concerned about correcting this wrong perception about freight forwarders,” she said.

According to Chi Ezeh, PAAR as it is, is a function of valuation principles based on general agreement on Trade and Tariffs, quality and quantity of the items, and even the application of rules of origin.

She condemned what she described as the de-marketing efforts of Alhaji Tanko which she believed negatively affect the image of the freight forwarding profession in particular and the maritime industry in general in the eye of the international community.
She also condemned the act that she described as unpatriotic and capable of undermining  Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).

Chi Ezeh further disclosed that the industry practitioners are professionals for whom such a blanket label of unethical conduct is not only false but unpatriotic.

She said the cargo clearing system is a chain involving many agencies, all of whom ensure that best practices are applied in cargo handling towards Customs revenue generation and national security.

Chi Ezeh who is also the Vice President in-charge of seaports at the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), stressed that every ex-factory price given in valuation is always approved by the Customs Area Controller while the physical examination is conducted for vehicle declarations by Customs and all other approved government agencies in the ports.

She posited that it is not possible for all the agencies involved in cargo clearance to standby and allow the false allegations raised in the publication.

“Freight forwarding is an ethical profession where the practitioners have high-level integrity.

“Like the profession of doctors, accountants, lawyers, among others; there are ethics, principles, and standards.
“I totally disagree with the insinuation that all freight forwarders are corrupt.
“We are an integral part of the national economy who contribute greatly to the economic and physical security of the nation through the huge revenue profile announced by customs annually.”

“The truth is that these cargoes are being examined. So, does this mean that everyone in the entire supply chain is corrupt?

“If Customs is being accused of corruption in connivance with freight forwarders, how about the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other agencies because examination of cargoes isn’t done by Customs alone.
“So, this accusation is wrong and demarkets freight forwarding as well as the entire players in the industry,” Chi Ezeh said.
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Stakeholder calls out Amaechi to account for millions of Naira in remittances made by freight forwarders under CRFFN.

Segun Musa
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