Empire Building In The Name Of  Forming Freight Forwarding Associations 

Recently, a new freight forwarding association which called itself All Ports Unified Freight Forwarding Practitioners Association (APUFFPA) was unveiled. 

The group said it came into existence because of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and three other existing freight forwarding associations have failed to address the challenges confronting freight forwarders at the port!

Its President; Prince Mike Okorie told one of our correspondents that it has commenced registration requirement with the supervisory Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

With the dream of APUFFPA and Prince Okorie joining the list of CRFFN-accredited freight forwarding associations, there is yet no end to the rising number of individuals who are becoming emperors of freight forwarding in Nigeria.

There was once a time when there was only one association superintending the affairs of clearing agents in Nigeria. The pre-eminence of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) was eventually broken by the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents. This National Council of Managing Directors has sadly also broken into two factions. A few years after the Council of Managing Directors came to be, a new group was also born. The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), which has been giving its ‘mother; ANLCA’ a run for its money since its conception  was formed by Dr Boniface Aniebonam, who until his dream to float his own association was the Chairman of ANLCA Customs Agents Relations Committee. 

After these three, there is also the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and lately; International Federation of Freight Forwarding Association (IFFA), also widely known to be enjoying the backing of a member of ANLCA Board of Trustees. It’s funny that, Chief Peter Obih doubles as a member of the board of trustees of ANLCA, as well as Chairman the board of IFFA!

There is also the National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC), which is mainly domiciled at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport from where it claims to represent a group of freight forwarders who handle air freighted cargoes. 

From all available facts, the birth of National Council which was spearheaded by Mr Lucky Amiwero was borne out of the exigency of that time, when there was mass revocation of licenses of custom agents on account of non-Import Duty Report (IDR) scam. After standing in the gap, it refused to fold up, even after the crisis was resolved. Mr Amiwero was until the birth of National Council, the spokesperson of ANLCA!

As for NAGAFF, it took advantage of nomenclature of the meaning of ANLCA; that is an association that is meant for customs agents only. According to its founders, NAGAFF is for freight forwarders, which include customs agents. 

We stand to be corrected, that if not to build another empire, there is really no difference in what members of ANLCA and NAGAFF do; forget the nomenclatures of the two associations, they are all customs licensed agents!

The case of AREFFN is even more worrisome; its founders also got some members of both ANLCA and NAGAFF and fused them together to form yet another association, albeit with few followership.  

Let us look at NAFFAC which operates from the airport.  While to the best of our knowledge, ANLCA (and lately NAGAFF) is present at all international airports, NAFACC even though at the Lagos airport does not enjoy any recognition from government agencies and other operators there.

We recall the comments of NAGAFF leadership a few years ago, when the Police Area Commander in charge of Apapa port at that time visited the association. NAGAFF surprisingly frowned at the activities of the newest addition to the bourgeoning body of freight forwarding associations in the port; the IFFA.  It called on the Police chief to curb the activities of the IFFA in Apapa port! 

The birth of numerous freight forwarding associations amounts to empire building. We ask - what is NAGAFF doing, that ANLCA is not. What is AREFFN doing, that NAGAFF is not. What is the Council of Managing Directors doing, that ANLCA is not? What does the newly-formed IFFA hope to achieve, that others have not? Those who float these bodies are only interested in personal gains. Otherwise, what has been their impact?

What have NAFFAC, AREFFN, Council, IFFA done since coming on board as freight forwarding associations? We very much doubt if any of them have been close to or even any better than the duo of ANLCA and NAGAFF.

Promoters of these associations can no claim to be more patriotic than the founders of ANLCA and even NAGAFF. They are mainly empire-seekers and fame-chasers taking advantage of the nature of the maritime industry. The promoters of these associations also enjoy the questionable support of officials of government agencies. 

Whilst we agree that you can not decree death for an association, you can not also force its membership on anyone. It is however the nature of the maritime industry that encourages empire-building among its stakeholders. Examples abound here and there of how disillusioned members break away to float rival bodies, or how presidents or chairmen of associations or group after serving their terms, go ahead to clone their association, give it another name and continue to be president!

One can not also exonerate the CRFFN from the emergence of these associations. Four of them were registered even when it was obvious that they did not meet the Council’s criteria. Apart from ANLCA and to an extent NAGAFF, none of the so-called accredited freight forwarding associations met the criteria when they were registered.