- … As clamour for excision from Customs’ license stranglehold heightens
By Ray Ugochukwu
Freight forwarders involved in the logistics management chain have been told to desist from branding themselves customs brokers but should go by the nomenclature freight forwarders.
They were told this by their regulatory body, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Thursday, at the flag-off of a three-day capacity-building programme organized by the agency in Ikeja, Lagos.
Incidentally, this advice came on the heels of a general demand by the freight forwarding practitioners to be excused from what they call excessive Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) license control highhandedness.
Speaking at the training programme was the Director, Education and Training, Dr. Alban Igwe, who represented the CRFFN management, explained to the freight forwarders that they were so called because that was what the law stated.
He made it clear that the Council where they were all members, regulated freight forwarding practice and not customs brokerage; hence they should by law bear the nomenclature, freight forwarders and not customs brokers.
Igwe, who is a lawyer, also reminded them that customs brokerage was just an aspect of the all encompassing freight forwarding practice, pointing out that for the fact that some of them veered into that in the course of duty did not make them customs brokers.
“The CRFFN was set up to regulate freight forwarding in Nigeria. You’re all members of the Council by the Act establishing the CRFFN. So, you’re freight forwarders. For the fact that some of you have Customs license does not make you customs brokers.
“Customs brokerage is just a segment of freight forwarding practice. For you to be a Customs broker, you need a Customs license but for you to be a freight forwarder you don’t need Customs license; you just need to be a member of the Council”, he said.
Citing some examples, he remarked, “I’m a lawyer; you know one can be a lawyer without being a Barrister; one can be medical doctor without being a surgeon. In the same way, you can be a freight forwarder without being a customs broker; but if you’re a customs broker you are a freight forwarder. Custom brokerage is a small aspect of freight forwarding”.
Seabreeze News reports that the gathering of who-is-who in freight forwarding in the Lagos area sparked off a serious clamour for the freight forwarding practitioners to extricate themselves from alleged draconian licensing regime of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Majority of the advocates of the move posited that apart from the high cost associated with procuring license, the service used it to oppress freight forwarding practitioners, putting hurdles on the way of seamless clearing business at the ports.
Many of them demanded that they be permitted to fully operate with license from their regulatory body, the CRFFN, without any recourse to the Customs any more.
However, Dr. Igwe made an intervention, pointing out that as far as the law was concerned presently, for anyone to delve into customs brokerage; he had to be licensed by the Customs, the authority incharge. Until the law was changed, he maintained, there was nothing anybody could do about it.
The freight forwarders were however united in their resolve to escalate the clamour for “liberation from Customs” to as far as the National Assembly (NASS), because according to them, the service had posed a major obstacle in their operations.
Earlier, Igwe had told the trainees that the exercise was part of the capacity-building effort of the Council to empower freight forwarders to be in tune with modern trend in the profession.
He therefore urged them to take the three-day event seriously, as according to him, it would go a long way in aiding them in their operations. He said the exercise was free of charge as it was being sponsored through the instrumentality of the NASS.
Igwe disclosed that due to the importance of the programme it was held in three zones of the country namely Port Hourcourt, Kano and Lagos, representing east north and west.
In attendance at the opening segment of the training was the Secretary General, Abuja MoU, Captain Sunday Umoren, who charged the trainees to urgently brace up for the fast changes taking place in the profession globally.
He recalled that in the UK for instance Amazon, a renowned logistics entity, was now delivering goods with unmanned drones, Umoren noted that that could be a major challenge to freight forwarders should such a system got to this clime.
He made it clear that government had noted some of the militating challenges facing the trade and would address accordingly.
All the freight forwarding associations were adequately represented on the first day of the programme.