September 15, 2021.
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi
Hon. Minister of Transport
Bukar Dipcharima House,
Central Business District,
Off 3rd Avenue, PMB 0336
ATTENTION: Chairman, Electoral
Committee, CRFFN Headquarters
IN THE MATTER OF THE CRFFN ELECTION INTO THE GOVERNING BOARD-2021
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), being one of the five accredited Associations by the CRFFN considers it very expedient to draw your attention to some potential dangers that may impede a free and fair conduct of the October 9, 2021 Governing Council election.
May we start by congratulating you on your appointment as the Chairman of the Electoral Committee to conduct elections into the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). It is our hope that going by your impressive track record, you and your team, will make a success of this gigantic National assignment placed on your shoulders.
Sir, we wish to draw your attention to some aspects of the Electoral Guidelines, which in our opinion, might impede the conduct of a free and fair election come October, 9, 2021.
i. TIME FRAME-
We observe that the Time frame of one-month given by the Electoral Committee for the entire process beginning with Collection of Forms up to the actual voting is inadequate for preparations for an election of that magnitude. We therefore suggest a three – month time frame to ensure a robust implementation of the election guidelines. The extention will enable a joint stakeholders meeting involving the Electoral Committee and other critical participants in the CRFFN family, especially the Five Registered Associations to cross- fertilize ideas on how to fine -tune the process for the CRFFN Governing Board’s election for a better result.
If the election is for Freight Forwarders, it is expedient to engage them before critical decisions are taken on their behalf, in line with an African Proverb which says, “You cannot shave someone’s head in his absence”. We wish to draw your attention to similar exercises whereby the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) interacts with stakeholders, including political parties in the interest of sound Electoral processes. It is our belief that the CRFFN Act 16 of 2007 envisages this kind of rapport between the CRFFN and the Freight Forwarders and mandated the Council to accredit Associations for recognition and specific roles, one of which is their involvement in the regular election into the Governing Board.
ii. VENUE FOR THE ELECTION
Mr. Chairman, we also wish to plead with your Electoral Committee to take a second look at the venue for the election. While we appreciate the powers of the Committee to fix date and venue for elections, we are however compelled to suggest that the election be moved to Lagos for obvious reasons.
First, it is on record that about 85% of cargo clearance is carried out in the Western Ports. In other words, the bulk of freight forwarders are domiciled in South Western Nigeria. The consequences of moving this huge number of people to Abuja might be too enormous on the infrastructural facilities of the country as well as the safety and security of the voters. We are making this plea in the face of the deplorable state of the roads and the security situation in the country. While praising the efforts of Government and security agents in bringing the situation under control, we believe Nigerians should reduce the rate of exposing themselves to danger, especially long travels on the highways. We are also conscious of the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, it is possible to observe all the COVID-19 safety protocols at voting centres, it might not be possible to ensure this while moving thousands of these voters to Abuja, in view of the attitude of most road transporters who are more concerned with profits than any other considerations. Governments at all levels are battling to contend with the challenges of this time, especially with the pandemic, and we as citizens must complement these efforts by avoiding situations that might escalate the pandemic.
Sir, we at NAGAFF, because of our role in the establishment of the CRFFN right from the conceptualization level through the legislative processes until it was signed into law, have continued to work for its well-being, so that it can deliver on its mandate to liberate the Total Logistics Management Chain Industry in the interest of our dear country. CRFFN is our baby and we will leave no stone unturned for it to live up to its name.
iii. ON-GOING REGISTRATION OF NEW MEMBERS
We are making all these suggestions as part of our Public Policy Advocacy mandate, and as a people genuinely concerned about the Freight Forwarder who is a natural person capable of acquiring skill and knowledge in the PROFESSION. Freight Forwarding is a PROFESSION only meant for someone skilled to perform some specific functions. This is what CRFFN was established to achieve. This is why we are concerned about the unwholesome behaviour of some charlatans in the ongoing registration of “Freight Forwarders” for the purpose of using them as mercenaries in the forthcoming election into the Governing Board. The same thing happened during the maiden election into the CRFFN Governing Board in Abuja. The CRFFN is yet to recover from the consequences of that electoral shenanigans, although we don’t want to bore you with the details. That is why major stakeholders have some reservations about holding the forthcoming election in Abuja so that we don’t have a repeat of what happened then whereby University Students and even Motor Park touts were turned to emergency “Freight Forwarders” and they voted.
Sir, if care is not taken, the forthcoming elections might be hijacked by moneybags who are everything but Freight Forwarders. Reports reaching us showed that some of these moneybags might be engaging in crowd -renting, registering non- Freight Forwarders for the purpose of voting in the forthcoming Governing Council election. This was never and can never be the intendment of some of us who worked for the establishment of the CRFFN. We may provide more details during the Stakeholders meeting we proposed to you to hold with major stakeholders to fine tune the electoral processes toward the scheduled October 9, 2021 election. We therefore urge you to put machineries in place to ensure that non-freight forwarders are not allowed to vote. For this reason, we want to suggest that any fresh registration after the announcement of the Guidelines for the election is barred from voting. This will ensure that only Freight Forwarders are eligible to vote in this election. Again, we make reference to INEC and elections. Registration to vote in an election has a time limit and no registration is allowed after certain time for a particular election.
We also want to bring to your notice some challenges freight forwarders are facing in the ongoing validation of membership status. We have received tons of complaints about the discrepancies in the membership status of our members. In essence, those members who have registered under Individual Status are being given Executive status, a situation CRFFN officials blame on their Portal. What that means is that something is wrong with the system and this brings to question the credibility of the data generated by such computer. All these issues might take some time to resolve, to engender free, fair and credible election.
Above all, some of the fears expressed by stakeholders, especially, the 5 registered Associations, concerning the general administration and in particular, the forthcoming election can be addressed only if the CRFFN accords recognition and relevance to the Associations. According to Act 16 of 2007 setting up the CRFFN, there are 3 categories of membership namely (i) Individual (ii) Corporate and (iii) Associations. The registered Associations provide the platform for easy administration and regulation by the CRFFN. However, the Council is not taking advantage of the vehicle provided by the Associations which it registered for effective service delivery. The most recent example being the ongoing electoral process into the Governing Board of the CRFFN.
We appreciate that the Notice for the election was issued to each Association, but the Associations are not giving their expected role in the election. Once again, we will delve into the larger Nigerian society where the INEC only allows political parties to field candidates in every election, one would have expected the Electoral Committee to fall back on the template which we used for the 2018 election into the Governing Board which gave birth to the seamless process whereby the registered Associations agreed on sharing formula of 6,6,1,1,1 for the 15 seats, based on the strength of each of the registered Associations. This process would avert rancour, and other forms of shenanigans usually associated with elections. The major thing would have been for the members of the Electoral Committee to monitor how Associations candidates emerge. It could even be by consensus. The Electoral Committee and by extension the CRFFN, should help the Associations to grow for better administration and regulation of the industry. Every Freight Forwarder should be encouraged to join any of the existing registered Associations. This election should have been used to drum this point home.
The template for election in Nigeria under INEC regulations and control should be the bases of other elections in Nigeria. If CRFFN who has the mandate to regulate and control freight forwarding profession in Nigeria continues to allow avoidable irregularities in their election into the Council Board, it shall be most unfortunate and regrettable. There must be time for everything including stoppage of further registration when the election is by the Council as pronounced. Therefore, every new registration from the time “Public Notice” was issued for the purposes of election should be avoided.
Mr. Chairman Sir, we want to use this medium to pledge our loyalty and support to your Committee and will be available for any cooperation you might desire, to make your work a huge success. We have confidence in your ability to deliver a free, fair, and credible electoral process. However, we sincerely want you to consider our observations and suggestions above.
Please be assured of our esteemed regards, sir.