By Ray Ugochukwu
Freight forwarders in the country have called on the National Assembly (NASS) to urgently intervene to save the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) from the stray journey it has embarked upon since its inception.
They regret that the august body set up thirteen years ago to regulate their operations and activities has derailed so much so that its impact could hardly be felt in the country’s port system.
Speaking for the group in Lagos, Monday, was Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), at an event to commemorate this year’s Freight Forwarders’ Day.
He lamented that a body couched in the mould of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a private sector initiative, had been made an agency of government in contravention of the intentions of the drafters of the law that set it up. Consequently, he regretted that at a time government needed to harness all the resources it could muster for economic development, people were through the back door, causing the CRFFN to collect money from it instead of being self-sustaining.
“It was through NAGAFF, with the support of some critical stakeholders, that the CRFFN was berthed. It was designed in the mould of ICAN, a private sector initiative. Surprisingly, some people have cornered it as a government parastatal in contravention to the Act that established the CRFFN in order to collect money from the Federal Government. Which agency of the Federal Government has its CEO elected or the management elected? That is why NAGAFF went to court to challenge the aberration, which is now in the Appeal Court”, Aniebonam said.
He added that “it is because of this wrong interpretation and implementation of the Act that the Council has remained comatose since its inception thereby derailing from the purpose for which it was set up.
The NAGAFF founder, who doubles as the national Chairman of the New Nigerian Peoples’ Party (NNPP), therefore called on the National Assembly to intervene in the CRFFN crisis by taking a serious look at the implementation of the Act they laboured to institute in 2007. By this, they should be in a better position to redirect the affairs of the body for it to fulfill the aspirations of those that to put it in place, noting that the derailment had given rise to the incessant crisis bedeviling the Council.
He expressed optimism that those who had been misappropriating funds in the Council would one day face the consequences of their deeds, pointing out that crime had expiry date.
In addition, Dr. Aniebonam has described the placement of the Council under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation a huge mistake and pleaded that the body be transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Investment. He reasoned that that way those who were in a better position to appreciate the importance of trade would know how to reposition it for success.
While commenting on the importance of freight forwarding in trade logistic chain, Aniebonam made it clear that the sub-sector was the engine-room for cargo movement. As a result, he made clear that practitioners must be fully trained to understand all the involvements in the business.
He added that it was for that purpose that the association set up the NAGAFF Academy in affiliation with Redeemers’ University for the training and retraining of freight forwarding practitioners. He therefore urged the freight forwarders not to be afraid, saying that “fear is the greatest danger to success”.
The former Customs officer reminded his colleagues that while they were celebrating the day they should not lose sight of the fact that those working against the CRFFN were not relenting at all; hence they should double or triple their efforts towards making it succeed.
In his word, “so if those working against the success of the CRFFN are working for three hours, those of us on the side of the truth should be prepared to put in at least six hours a day”.
Aniebonam explained that it was to ensure the position of freight forwarders was given attention in the scheme of things that the NNPP was founded as the political wing of NAGAFF to give voice to the views of the association on trade.
He therefore charged the practitioners, especially members, to embrace the political party, which survival he, noted was because of its wining of some seats in the last election; hence it escaped the deregistration hammer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to the NAGAFF founder “it is by finding yourselves in the corridors of power that some of the things the association has been crusading about since its twenty one years of existence can be implemented”.
He equally enjoined other sister associations like the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), to partner with NAGAFF in order to move the sector forward.
Every November 30 NAGAFF celebrates its anniversary as “Freight Forwarders’ Day” for which this year’s was twenty one in the series as the association was founded on November 30, 1999.
Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, founder of NAGAFF