The unease in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents after Prince Olayiwola Shittu 

Prince Olayiwola Shittu served two terms of eight years as the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).

Although, there may not be accurate records as to when it was actually founded, its current leaders and members quote 1954 as its birth date.

There is however, no doubt about the fact that the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) is the oldest umbrella body for all licensed customs agents in Nigeria.

Dr Rafiu Oladipo, who is now known more as the president general of the Nigerian Football Supporters’ club is credited as being the first president of ANLCA, older generation members of the association also say that there was a an interregnum for some years before Alhaji Sani Kamba later stepped-in to become the national president of a new-look association at that time. 

Alhaji Kamba’s tenure was followed by that of Mr Peter Okocha, Aare Sanni Shittu, Alhaji Inua Mohammed and Chief Ernest Elochukwu as national presidents (in that order). 

Prince Olayiwola Shittu is officially, the seventh national president of the association. He has now been succeeded by Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike as ANLCA’s eight national president.

The calibre and number of personalities who thronged the Golden Tulip Hotel venue of the Colloquium and 68th birthday celebrations last Monday was enough testimony that he started well and ended well as the President of the association.

Certainly, under Prince Olayiwola Shittu’s watch, ANLCA was transformed from its pre-2010 image of an isolated and a ‘threatened’ association, to a new brand that is now  the envy of all licensed customs agents. 

Even though it was not a gamble to have entrusted the then-uncertain future of the association in his care, it was a choice that paid off, going by events, post-2010.

Certainly, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has transformed into a good example of how a freight forwarding body should be. It has changed from being just an assemblage of clearing and forwarding agents (as of old) into an internationally-recognised body of professionals, all these under the watch of its immediate National President; Prince Olayiwola Shittu, who turned the fortunes of the oldest freight forwarding association round.

We remember quite vividly that the campaign team of Prince Olayiwola in 2010, promised, among other things to :  professionalise the business of customs clearing, provide a modern, functional and befitting national secretariat, engender harmony with other stakeholders and provide an effective customs- agents’ relationship.

Even though he didn’t give a time frame within which these promises would be fulfilled, even his critics will agree that he delivered on these promises!

We remember quite vividly that, prior to the emergence of the Olayiwola Shittu-led national executive council; there had been pockets of events that actually threatened the association.

It was towards the tail end of Kamba’s tenure that scandalous non-Import Duty Report (IDR) came up and led to the revocation of operating licenses of virtually all registered customs agents for alleged complicity in the clearance of questionable imports.

This development led to the emergence of the first rival body within the fold of licensed customs agents. The birth of the Mr Lucky Amiwero-led National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents temporarily took the shine off and also diminished the influence of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents.

And as if that was not enough, Dr Boniface Aniebonam stepped down as ANLCA’s chairman of customs agents’ relations committee to found the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and with this, the journey to irrelevance for ANLCA began. The battle to regain its lost glory took the better part of the short-lived tenure of Mr Peter Okocha, while the duo of Aare Sanni Shittu and Alhaji Inua Mohammed tried unsuccessfully to ‘repackage’ the association, all to no avail.

It was not until Chief Ernest Elochukwu came on board that expectations became high that perhaps the association would begin its match towards regaining its lost glory. He was in charge for four years, after which he handed over Shittu. He tried his best but he was overwhelmed by the numerous challenges of the association.

Some people have argued that since the exit of Alhaji Kamba, the association has not been fortunate to have a purposeful, goal- driven and altruistic leadership. 

According to these people, successive leadership has always looked at the office as a means to their self-serving end and not as an opportunity to take ANLCA to the next level.  Others have also pontificated that the problems of the association stemmed from the loss of its previously unrivalled status as the only voice of teeming number of licensed customs agents. To these people, the emergence of NAGAFF and Council of Managing Directors, coupled with type of leadership which had been previously foisted upon ANLCA were the contributory factors to its long sojourn in irrelevance.

Since 2010, ANLCA has reclaimed its glory among stakeholders in the Nigerian shipping sector; its admission into the International Federation Customs Brokers (IFCB) is quite commendable.

A lot of people may point at the acquisition of a permanent secretariat for ANLCA as probably his greatest achievement, but we say, no.

 As a maritime media firm, we can boldly say that the calibre of persons who currently occupy the office of members of the association’s Board of Trustees (BoT), is  perhaps the loudest  confirmation of the fact that ANLCA has really moved far above its projections; pre-2010. The zeal with which members now jostle for positions in the association confirms that it is a new brand.

Without necessarily sounding patronizing, we are encouraged by how good a brand ANLCA has become.

Yes, the secretariat is a befitting legacy, an indelible achievement, but above all of that, Prince Shittu brought discipline, candour, honour, robust engagement and accountability into ANLCA.

Having said all these, the greatest challenge that ANLCA may have and which is already rearing its head is who fits into Shittu’s shoes and how the successor emerges. This is not to infer that there is no successor as yet.  Far from that, it is the sharp division that the emergence of Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike that is worrisome and we think it should give Prince Shittu concerns.

No doubt, the ANLCA that Prince Shittu inherited in 2010 is more united than what he handed over to Tony Nwabunike. 

Truth is, the division in the association was so glaring last Monday at the event that was put together to celebrate Prince Shittu, but the division  was so glaring; there were two factions in the well-attended event. 

After last week’s event,  we think that the immediate past National President of ANLCA should spend time and take the association back to what he made it to be- One indivisible ANLCA. After that, he can enjoy his retirement from ANLCA politics, and enjoy the dignifying title of ‘President Emeritus’ that some are already appending to his name. 

If ANLCA nosedives into crises and irrelevance after him, then what is success without a successor!