This is about the second time this year that our Editorial Opinion is focusing on issues pertaining to the once-troubled Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). The reason for this is not far-fetched. As a maritime media organisation, we were part of deliberations and legislative processes leading to the passage of the Act that established the Council, and we grieved that the Council was being killed by those it was created for.
Naturally, like others in the sector, 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 such that it could not fulfill its destiny.
Those that will be in the Governing Council are already known, what is left is for them to be inaugurated. They are: the six that the President appointed, namely: Donatus Ozoemena, Otunba Moshood Tijani, Benson Edosomwan, Abubakar Tsanni, Hassan Jonga, and Senator Bisi Oyewo.
Apart from the six, there are statutory members from government agencies, institutions and the organised private sector. The last batch of members are those elected recently in Lagos. They include: 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.
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, at different times. It has been bruised and beaten severally to a pulp.
With all the troubles and hurdles apparently scaled, all eyes are now on the new governing council to right all the wrongs 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.
Since the approval became public knowledge, peace eluded the freight forwarding family again. It is a surprise that all efforts to end the feud failed, including the intervention by the then- minister of transport.
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 has been impossible for the CRFFN to control its registered associations and members.
After the introduction of ‘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 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 council, the five registered freight forwarding associations (especially ANLCA) appear happy about the outcome of the elections.
We think the rancour-free outcome should be attributed t the magnanimity NAGAFF. It had more registered freight forwarders, than the four associations put together, yet it did not insist on its members dominating the council.
We are happy that the associations took our earlier advice that they should not boycott the election, because if any one of them had done that, it would have no choice than to subject itself to the authourity of the Governing Council, which is the highest decision-making organ of the Council.
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.