—–condemns Oforbike, Ezeh reactions as unprofessional, uninformed
The National Coordinator, 100 percent Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko has described as unfortunate the reactions of John Oforbike, a Chieftain of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and Princess Chi Ezeh, a member of the governing council of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), to his complaint against the false declaration that is making honest freight forwarders to lose money and customers.
The frontline maritime player is not finding it funny that his complaint against the false declaration of goods is generating controversies when it was meant to protect the businesses of those doing the right thing through genuine declarations.
Tanko, who denied ever saying that freight forwarders are corrupt, said that he only lodged a complaint with the Area Controller of Apapa Customs Command, Compt. Yusuf MI, that the recent jack-up of PARR is making freight forwarders to cut corners by declaring different things entirely.
According to him, the discrepancy is making Importers/ agents pay varying duties on the same goods where one pays N3 million and another pays N6 million.
He said that the variance in the duty of the same goods for different people is making honest practitioners like him who could not cut corners to be losing money and customers.
The Compliance Team coordinator said he complained to the Area Controller to look into it as those of them who like to stay on the side of the law are losing customers.
Specifically, Alhaji Tanko disclosed that he cleared four containers of wine for a customer which attracted a debit note of N32 million.
He stated that the debit note was issued by the Officer in Charge, Query and Amendment which the Importer told him to pay on his behalf because he didn’t have money.
He stated further that the importer gave him documents for another four containers but later asked him to come to his office.
The NAGAFF chieftain narrated that on getting to his importer’s office, he threw some documents at him, calling him names and saying that he would not pay the N32 million because others are clearing the same goods for a lesser amount.
Alhaji Tanko said that when he checked the documents, he saw that wines were declared as used vehicles in order to pay less duty.
This he complained to the controller to save honest freight forwarders who are doing genuine declarations from losing their customers and closing shop.
Alhaji Tanko said he was disappointed with the comments of Oforbike, for calling for his arrest and prosecution because he was fighting to protect the businesses of honest freight forwarders and shippers.
He described the attacks on him by Oforbike and Princess Chi Ezeh over the issue as unexpected of professionals like them.
He stated that the two freight forwarders who are occupying high positions in the freight forwarding industry ought to be on the side of the law as advocates of genuine declarations, adding that they have failed to show examples of good leaders.
CRFFN’s desperate gasp for survival
The Eyewitness Reporter
Like a sinking man, the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN) is currently gasping for breath.
The council, created by the Act of the National Assembly No 16 2007, to regulate and control the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria, has largely remained ineffective and redundant over the years.
Under its watch, the freight forwarders, its primary constituents, have been subjected to several operational challenges which have crippled their businesses, without the Council raising as much as a finger to stand in the gap for them.
Under the nose of the CRFFN, the shipping companies and terminal operators have turned the hapless freight forwarders into punching bags through arbitrary and frivolous charges.
Under the nose of the Council, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has severally increased the Customs duty exchange rate to the point of suffocating the freight forwarders out of business.
In all of these several challenges, the CRFFN stands arms akimbo, watching as the freight Forwarders are being buffeted from all sides without any glimmer of intervention.
Curiously, these are the same distraught and bruised freight forwarders from whom the Council expects to collect Practitioners Operating fee(POF).
A responsible and responsive Council, which is charged not only with regulating the freight forwarding practice but equally charged with ensuring that the operating environment for the freighters is conducive for thriving businesses, would have been seen fighting for the welfare and well-being of its constituents.
A caring Council should have been seen liaising with the CBN, Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service on ways to ensure that the operating environment for the freight forwarders is guaranteed amidst the frequent changes in customs duty exchange rate.
We are not saying the council should or could stop the increase as they are subject to fiscal and monetary policies of the government but at least, the council, through such discussions, interaction and collaboration, would have not only passed the message to the authorities but be seen by the freight forwarders that they have a trusted ally in the council.
Similarly, an effective council should have been seen to have severally engaged the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, which regulates the commercial activities of the terminal operators and shipping companies, over the arbitrary charges of these entities.
But CRFFN, over the years, didn’t do any of these. Rather what its management is concerned about is the collection of POF.
No wonder the Council is not popular among the freight forwarders who regard the body as ineffective and which made them resisted the payment of POF.
It took the bully and ministerial directive of the erstwhile Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to coerce the hapless freight forwarders to pay the controversial POF.
That is why we see the current effort of Mrs Chinyere Uromta, the Acting Registrar of the CRFFN and her team to “befriend” the freight forwarding Associations as a desperate bid to make the council survive and remain relevant in the industry it is supposed to regulate and superintendent over.
When last had the council made this kind of gesture towards its constituency?
But when the Federal government pulled the rug under the council by removing it from its budgetary allocation , that was when the CRFFN suddenly found its subjects as beautiful brides.
It is even more disheartening to note that throughout the engagement of the council with these Associations, how to raise revenue through the enhanced formula of POF collection was what dominated the discussion of the council.
We are not aware where the council, during its tour of its constituents, raised the operational challenges of the freight forwarders such as the indiscriminate and sometimes frivolous charges by the service providers.
Not once did Mrs. Uromta express concern and probably sympathy with the freight forwarders over the frequent adjustment of customs duty exchange rate by the CBN.
Her preoccupation was how can the council remains financially stable following the removal of the CRFFN from the federal government “freebies”
“We are expecting a final meeting that could lead us to collection of POF at the airports because we know that our money is still there.
“We pray that by the support of the Ministry and the cooperation of stakeholders, that meeting will be called any moment from now.
“It was the same meeting the former Minister of Transportation, the same letter that was written to the NPA that facilitated our collection at the seaport, the same letter the Minister had written to the aviation to direct NCAA to initiate that move.
“So, we are looking forward to the fruitfulness of that meeting and when it is done, we solicit for the cooperation of stakeholders because any money realized, part of it will still go back to stakeholders for training and every other challenge that we have in the ports that has to do with our mandate.”
That was Mrs. Uromta discussing how to collect enhance the collection of POF at the seaports and commence its collection at the cargo airport and the border post and the modalities for sharing formula.
Not once did she mention the operational challenges the practitioners are currently facing.
Even if the proposed review of the Act that established the Council eventually sails through ( that might take quite some time) the popularity rating of the Council will not improve if the regulatory body continues to ignore the welfare of the freight forwarders.
The previous Registrars, especially the immediate Registrar, Sam Nwokohu, have done great harm to the psyche of the freight forwarders through his alleged arrogance, high- handedness, and gross financial impropriety which have combined to make the council a pariah among its constituents.
Mrs. Uromta and her team should be more creative and proactive in their approach toward reflating the burst image of the council.
In as much as she has the right to ensure the financial stability and survival of the council, Uromta should not forget that her constituents, the agonised, distraught and highly bruised freight forwarders equally have the right to business stability in an operating environment that would stimulate and sustain their economic survival.
Part of the strategic agenda of the council as contained in its Act includes “to promote enabling entrepreneurial environment for Freight Forwarding business, thereby creating employment opportunities for teaming Nigeria”
“To embark on rigorous research to enable the Council benchmark Freight Forwarding in Nigeria with international best practices”
“To make the Council an international training hub for Freight Forwarding, logistics and supply chain management”
“To develop a comprehensive Freight Forwarding policy and to re-position the sub-sector”
To what extent has the council fulfilled this mandate since its creation?
The incumbent management of the council should do more to meet some of these mandates rather than its present panicky and desperate measures for survival.
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