All so soon, Prince Olayiwola has 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.
Arguably, ANLCA has transformed from its pre-2010 image of an isolated and a ‘threatened’ association to a new brand that is the envy of all licensed customs agents, perhaps worthy of the confidence that its teaming members reposed in Prince Shittu when he in 2010, went seeking for their votes.
Even though 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 has 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.
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 a means to a new lease of life for ANLCA. 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.
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 Prince Shittu brought discipline, candour, honour, robust engagement and accountability into ANLCA.
These are the legacies that Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike will have to sustain.
Lastly and very important is the prolonged and contentious collection of Practitioners Operations Fees (POF) which has pitched ANLCA against other freight forwarding associations. The new executives may have to rethink the position of the association and find a middle way out.