Can we really say that the CRFFN is now back on track?

As a maritime media organisation, we have devoted ample attention to the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

The reason for this is not far-fetched; we were part of deliberations and legislative processes leading to the passage of the Act that established the Council. It thus grieved our heart that the Council was almost killed by those it was created for.

Like others, we had high hopes that the Council would live up to its name as the regulator of freight forwarding in Nigeria. But this was not to be, as the Council became entangled in different crises for many years such that it could not fulfill its destiny.

After the appointment of six members into its Governing Council by President Muhammadu Buhari, everyone thought the solution to the Council was on the way.  But the appointees had to wait for elected members of the Council to emerge.

The appointees are: Donatus Ozoemena, Otunba Moshood Tijani, Benson Edosomwan, Abubakar Tsanni, Hassan Jonga, and Senator Bisi Oyewo.

Later the elections were conducted and the following emerged: Agubanze Emmanuel, Ezekiel Chi Grace, Ozo Chukwura, Farinto Kayode, Austen Kelly, Aare Sanni Shittu, Tochukwu Emmanuel, Bakare Adeyinka, Henry Njoku, Daura Lawal Bala, Increase Uche and Peter Obi. 

And another round of waiting commenced, until penultimate week when the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi grudgingly inaugurated the Governing Council in Abuja. The process also threw up some controversies, especially about the process leading to the emergence of the Chairman of the Council; Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni.

There is a threat of litigation, especially by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), which felt shortchanged by the outcome of the election of Chairman and Vice Chairman.

We recall that the Council was conceived as the possible solution to the myriad of problems which had militated against freight forwarding and logistics in Nigeria.

Those who fought for its birth would never have envisaged that the CRFFN, whose birth was hailed by stakeholders, would shortly afterward ,  be faced with ‘life-threatening’ issues, such as have forced it not to have a governing council for  several years and also to become so cash-strapped as not to be able to meet its obligations.

Without fear of being contradicted, one can say that, since its creation, the CRFFN has not enjoyed peace. At different times, it has had to contend with freight forwarding associations and individual freight forwarders; it has also had to contend with Government and its functionaries. It has been bruised and beaten severally to a pulp.

The major investor and certainly the biggest loser in the battle for membership and the headship of the CRFFN Governing Council is NAGAFF. It mobilised, galvanized and glamourized the process leading to the Council’s elections, so much that it was calling the shot as to who got what.

Its fabled efforts were obvious in the number of freight forwarders that eventually voted in the election. Even though it mobilised new members and raised funds for itself for the election, only a little over 100 of them actually qualified to vote. So what happened to the millions of Naira that NAGAFF raised through that process? 

That aside, can the process that threw up the 15 so-called elected members pass democratic test? Goaded by NAGAFF, the 15 positions were shared among the five registered associations, and irrespective of the number of votes garnered, the 15 nominees all emerged victorious. How can someone who got only one vote claim to have been elected into the Governing Council of the CRFFN? That was what NAGAFF spearheaded, midwifed and executed! Little wonder that the Minister was reluctant to inaugurate the Council.

Irrespective of the shenanigans that heralded its emergence, all eyes are now on the new governing council to right the wrongs  and worked on the failures that the CRFFN has come to represent, especially in the last six years that it has been bogged down with trivial issues.

We recall vividly that after its birth, it took a long while to have a governing council and the pioneer governing council spent most part of its two years brokering peace between it and some individuals and between it and some institutions.

The little peace it enjoyed was during the tenure of Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju as chairman of the council and that was about six years ago!

 The CRFFN was enjoying an apparently blissful relationship with all its constituents, until the peace was disrupted by the directive from the then- minister of transport; Senator Idris Umar to the CRFFN that the Council could start collecting  what was then called ‘transaction fees’ on all imports into the country.  The associations stopped trusting one another as to how the fees would be collected and shared.

It was this mistrust that dovetailed into the dissolution of the former governing council, having served for the mandatory two years. And since the Council was dissolved, it had been impossible for the CRFFN to control its registered associations and members. 

After the ‘transaction fees’ failed; the Practitioners Operations Fees (POF) was introduced and hell was let loose among freight forwarders again.

It is the issue of collection and sharing of the controversial POF that led ANLCA to the law court against the CRFFN, the Ministry of Transport, and many others.

All that is history now; the CRFFN now has a duly-constituted council, the five registered freight forwarding associations (especially ANLCA) appear happy about the outcome of the elections.

We think the rancour-free outcome of the Council elections in July, should be attributed to the ‘magnanimity’ of NAGAFF. It had more registered freight forwarders, than the four associations put together, yet it did not insist on its members dominating the council or taking all the seats!

We think also that having contributed and sacrificed significantly towards the efforts that led to the resolution of the various issues that were weighing the CRFFN down, NAGAFF should in the same manner sheath its sword and allow the Governing Council and its leadership as presently constituted to function unhindered. 

Finally, we commend the Council’s Registrar; Sir Mike Jukwe for his  staying ability and for ensuring that the Council did not run aground , especially in the face of paucity of funds and various gang-ups against him and the council by various interests.