By Ray Ugochukwu
The ‘100% Compliance Team’ set up by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) is meant to expose the rot in the nation’s seaports, airports and border posts.
This explanation was given Tuesday in Apapa, Lagos, by the founder of the association, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, while briefing news men on the activities of the body and the attendant controversies arising from its coming on board.
He explained that NAGAFF was highly disturbed by the avalanche of avoidable seizures usually recorded by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on traded goods; hence the decision to halt the trend by setting up the body.
“As freight forwarders do you think we’re happy with the huge seizures Customs records on trade goods? People are losing their investments on daily basis due to non-compliance to regulations. Must we continue to keep quiet in the face of this huge loss? No, that is why we set up the Compliance Team. Our people, our brothers, our principals are losing their means of livelihood. We can’t keep quiet”, Aniebonam said.
The NAGAFF founder, who doubles as the National Chairman of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) debunked the notion in some quarters that the team was a witch-hunt. He remarked that the taxpayer’s money was used to maintain revenue gatekeepers to ensure that business men, known for cutting corners in order to maximize profits, did not succeed. If the agencies of government entrusted with such responsibility failed, they ought to be sanctioned. He added that it was why NAGAFF decided to embark on the yeoman’s job to assist government and the country.
“Let me say to those who want freight forwarders to also be sanctioned that we are not going that way because somebody is being paid to stop them from cheating. That is why the person is kept there and paid with taxpayer’s money. So if he fails in his responsibilities, he should be made to answer for it. Government knows that a business man will always cheat, that is why it put the gatekeepers there”, he added.
On the possibility of the exercise turning out to be mere smokescreen, Aniebonam assured that the reports being collated from port terminals, bonded warehouses and other such structures would be forwarded to the appropriate quarters of government. He however made it clear that it was not the duty of the association to determine the outcome of such submission.
He made reference to the threat by the association sometime ago of publishing the names of corrupt Customs officers in the ports and said it was a continuing exercise.
He asserted that NAGAFF was in strong partnership with the Comptroller General of Customs, hence reported infractions by officers in the course of duty was never swept under the carpet by the service.
He added, “I therefore enjoin other sister associations like ANLCA (Association Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents) to join hands with NAGAFF in this crusade for the benefit of all.
“They should stop fighting NAGAFF who is not their enemy when the real enemy is the rot in the system which is affecting all of us and the country”.
He regretted that it was this same antagonism against NAGAFF that had left the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) in comatose state since its inception.
He expressed optimism that the Council would not remain prostate forever, saying it would someday overcome its present challenges.