Empire Building In The Name Proliferation Of Freight Forwarding Associations 

Once upon a time, 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 self-acclaimed policy-driven 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 two, there have also been 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. There is also the National Association of 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 airfreighted cargoes.From all available facts, the birth of National Council 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.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, but there is 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 a 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 activities of the multitude of associations that are currently operating in the nation’s maritime industry, especially at the ports are certainly laughable and ridiculous.We recall also that, shortly after his appointment as CG of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd) had stylishly frowned at the multiplicity of the associations. Addressing stakeholders which included customs agents, the Customs CG Said: "Somebody will stand up and claim to belong to a‎ group, but when it comes to customs operations, we have to work with the mother association”. “When you now take an organisation which has a splinter, if the splinter group makes a case and the mother group makes a case, who do you pay attention to?" "So, in our operations, this really creates problems for us and this is why I advise that they should try to be intact so that we as customs service could find it easier to collaborate and work with them in the course of our doing business."  "You want us to treat you the way others are treated, but once you create a faction, it becomes difficult for us to work with you, so the cooperation you are looking for will be difficult unless you return to the mother association".In saying this, Col Ali was obviously informed about how the splinter associations came about. He was specifically told that the Association of Nigeria Licensed Agents (ANLCA) is the mother association, from where others sprang up.The birth of various 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 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.