By Ray Ugochukwu
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) climaxed its election into various chapter offices in the Western Zone with the September 7, 2022 inauguration of those elected at the Rockview Hotel, Apapa, Lagos.
Chapters involved in the election were Apapa, Tin Can Island Port, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, PTML and Murtala Muhammadu International Airport.
Though the exercise has come and gone but it left in its trails some salient lessons for the future both for the association and the industry.
A key lesson in the election is transparency. At the flag-off of the election processes and procedure, the Chairman, NAGAFF Electoral Commission (NECOM), Engr. Chukwunonso Ejikeme, promised to deliver not just a credible exercise but a transparent one at that. He did just that; hence the 2022 election is seen by many as the most credible in the history of the association.
Aniebonam, NAGAFF Founder
At the buildup to the process, various chapters threw up membership lists that included mercenaries recruited from different parts of Lagos as part of the voters’ register. This has been the practice over the years. A particular chapter was said to have bandied a list of over 500 voters with majority recruited from among touts and Okada riders. A prominent chieftain of the association was fingered to be behind the act he allegedly masterminded over the years.
It was a herculean task for the uncompromising Ejikeme and his team to sieve the chaff from the wheat. The NECOM instituted a rigorous screening process for both the aspirants and the voters in line with the electoral guidelines. It was gathered that tempting offers were made by those who hitherto thrived in the previous wuruwuru and magomago system but this time, met a brickwall in the team.
Seabreeze News learnt of a case of a potential voter from supposedly Apapa chapter, as his ID card indicated, but who on interrogation, claimed to have come from Igirima chapter. Igirima chapter indeed! He was hired to vote but he forgot the name of his ‘chapter’. When asked the name of the National President of NAGAFF, he could not say. He was again asked to name the Founder of the association. It was at that point the Igirima chapter man confessed: “Walahi, me I no know. Me, I be okada rider for Mushin! They tell me make I come vote, walahi!” There were others like him from some of the chapters so recruited but they were all shown the way out.
Ejikeme, NECOM boss
At the end of the day, all the chaff were sieved out from the long lists of potential voters, virtually in all the chapters. A chapter that, for instance, paraded a list of over 500 potential voters, eventually came down to a little above 100. By this painstaking efforts of the NECOM team, credible candidates emerged for the election after all. There was little or no rancour after the entire exercise. However, NECOM should have gone a step further by apprehending these hired mercenaries and their paymasters and hand them over to law enforcement agents for prosecution to serve as a deterrent.
Kudos should be given to the National President, Fwdr Tochukwu Ezisi and the entire NAGAFF leadership for allowing the NECOM unfettered freedom to conduct the election dispassionately. This is a total departure from the past where preferred candidates were at times assisted by the leadership to have their way. The association should build on this for the future. All the same, there was one or two complaints about contesting incumbents perceived to have been given automatic return tickets from above as compensation for their good first tenure outing. Democracy should be total. Let the followership confirm or reaffirm performance through the ballot!
Presently, NAGAFF is the only freight forwarding association in the country that boasts of an accredited Academy for the training of practitioners. With the Academy, the group is building a “NAGAFF Culture” of professionalism as espoused by its Founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, whose mantra is capacity-building. Consequently, passing through the institution was incorporated as a criterion for eligibility to contest for any position in the election. This proviso led to about 40 per cent of elected officers being young freight forwarders, who are currently students of the Academy. This is worthy of commendation as, a policy if maintained and retained, would continue to grow the “NAGAFF Culture”.
However, our correspondent gathered that over 30 per cent of student population dropped immediately after the election as some of the candidates merely used their enrollment into the school for purposes of achieving their chapter ambitions. This is not good enough and should be looked into by the NAGAFF High Command. If such practice persists, it would not only kill the “NAGAFF Culture” but would erode the credibility of the Academy. It should not be forgotten that half education is dangerous!
Finally, a good election process that commenced on June 3, 2022 and ended with the inauguration of elected officers on September 7, 2022 ought to have been a celebration of excellence. The grand finale was however an anti climax! The inaudible public address system coupled with shoddy entertainment of guests turned antithesis.
The malfunctioned audio system rendered the fire-spitting epic speech of Dr. Aniebonam too long and boring as those beyond the front row could hardly hear him. The last straw on the over 500-capacity full Banquet Hall of Rockview Hotel event was the mishandled entertainment of guests. Food and drink was more than enough to go round. The caterers were set to commence service according to designed plan. Gbam! A set of ladies described as “vocal and influential” NAGAFF women interjected, redesigned the entire service arrangement, as they took over from the caterers, preferring “look at face” option. Those whose faces were not familiar got nothing while known faces got over satisfied with food and drinks.
It became complaints galore! At some point, a national officer (names withheld) was forced to intervene and momentarily halted service. He immediately called up the sidelined NAGAFF Welfare Department to take over. The intervention restored some sanity but it was already too late for impact as half of the invitees disappointedly and angrily left, tasting nothing in the midst of plenty.
Chidiebere Enelama, BoT Chairman
Our correspondent gathered that at the end of the day, a lot to eat and drink was still available but without those it was meant for and eventually carted home by the same people who bungled the entertainment order. The question begging for answer is, why was the NAGAFF Welfare Department left out of the scheme of things ab initio?
On the whole, the NAGAFF election can be scored over 80 percent. Kudos to Hon. Ejikeme, a young man and board member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), and his team. He pledged to deliver a credible and transparent election to the group and did just that. It is worth stating that the association should build on this for the future while correcting some of the observed missteps in the process.