—says crisis unnecessary, time, resources wasting
The Eyewitness reporter
The battle-weary Board of Trustees of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) led by Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, has offered to collaborate and integrate the warring group of Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha into their fold if they are ready to embrace peace.
It could be recalled that the freight forwarding group, reputed to be the oldest freight forwarding association in Nigeria, has been embroiled in a long-drawn battle of supremacy and show of powers between two parallel BOT that were contending for the soul of the association.
This has thrown the association into an energy-sapping crisis for almost five years without any sign of abatement.
However, after rigorous court processes and internal realignments, the hybrid processes of legal and constitutional mechanisms threw up Dr. Afolabi- led BOT as the authentic group whose genuineness was further reaffirmed and reinforced by the reopening and handling of the association’s secretariat to the National Executive Council of the Association led by Tony Iju Nwabunike by the police last week Friday
However, refusing to bask in the seeming victory and get intoxicated by the vindication of its stance as exemplified by the possession of the reopened secretariat, the Afolabi-led BOT has returned no victor, no vanquished verdict but called for the unification of the warring parties for the peace and unity of the war-weary association.
Speaking on Tuesday in Lagos, Price Ozo Chukwurah, the Vice-Chairman of ANLCA BOT declared that the board is ready to bend backward to accommodate the other warring group in order to end this seeming protracted crisis.
According to him, the board was willing to make concessions to the other group to foster the elusive peace in the association.
”This is a new year, I plead and sue for peace, even if it means going down on my knees. I will do everything possible for us to achieve peace.
”We should embrace peace and shun bitterness because time is fast running out.
”I will make a proposal to our board and NECOM so that we can convene an AGM/NEC meeting where the suspension of some members could be reversed and they would be reabsorbed into the association for peace to reign.
”Most of us in the elective positions in the association are on the final lap of our tenure. We need youths to come up and take over.
” Only four people from the Mustapha group are qualified to recontest their positions and they are Dayo Azez, Ernest Elochukwu, Taiwo Mustapha and Dennis Okafor who can join the nine members of Taiwo Afolabi-led board. We need to amend the constitution to accommodate them. This should not be a problem because laws are made for man and not man for the law.
”This is the part of the peace efforts the board is willing to make to ensure that this crisis is resolved and lasting peace is restored back to the ANLCA.
” Even these people I mentioned, some of them don’t have time for the association again because they are heavyweight. They don’t even have enough time for their numerous business interests. So we need to start to groom some capable youths to take over the leadership of the association.
”The second aspect is we should allow all the actions and inactions of Tony Iju to pawn off. Every chapter where he conducted elections should be allowed to serve out its tenure.
”Also, if we come together, the board will allow them to be part of the ASECO that will conduct the next elections.
”They are too big to be ASECO members but they can send in their representatives to the association electoral body.
”We run an inclusive government not by appointment but elections.
”I was elected as a member of the BOT for six years and I have served out two years, remaining four years. I am not willing to resign but intend to serve out my tenure.
” I have supported all the past members who have served on the board, I never called for their sack or resignation before they served out their tenure, including Taye Oyeniyi, until this crisis started.
”Therefore, I am begging everyone concerned to allow peace to reign in the association.
”I am calling on all of them to an enlarged meeting where we all jaw-jaw and not war-war so that we can bring the association back from the brink of collapse to the path of peace.
”No victor, no vanquished. We are all winners in this matter”, the BOT Vice Chairman declared.
He also explained that all the court cases that could have acted as barriers to the peace deals have all been disposed off except one that will be decided in February but which he said have been overtaken by event.
Prince Chukwurah further noted that the only one that could have presented a bit of challenge was the one instituted by Tony Iju Nwabunike when he was attacked by hoodlums loyal to the other group.
He however promised that if the Mustapha group could embrace peace, the BOT will prevail on Nwabunike to withdraw the criminal suit from court to give peace a chance.
”Another criminal case pending was the one where Tony Iju and his group were attacked. We shall look into that and prevail on the complainants to withdraw it if only the other group agrees to embrace peace”
The ANLCA chieftain lamented that the crisis has taken a heavy toll on the association, appealing to all aggrieved parties to sheath their swords and allow peace to reign.
He however claimed that it was only Joe Sanni, the Senior Assistant on Media and Publicity to the immediate past President of ANLCA, Price Olayiwola Shittu, who was profiting from the crisis.
”He is the only one feeding fat on the crisis, hence his intention to continue to fan the ember of discord with his inflammatory statements that are bare-faced lies and falsehood” Ozo alleged.
(Read the full interview Thursday)
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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