“Between now and December, you would see a lot of development in the freight forwarding industry”
Last week Thursday witnessed the inauguration of the 3rd Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi at the ministry’s office in Abuja. In the process, Retired Colonel Abubakar Tsanni emerged as the new Chairman of the CRFFN. Shipping Position Daily correspondent; Dapo Olawuni had the opportunity of being the first journalist to interview the new CRFFN Chairman.
“This is an industry which I belong to; I am a freight forwarder and an exporter”
Congratulations on your emergence as Chairman of CRFFN, what are your plans to reposition this Council?
This is really a challenging time whereby we are starting everything afresh, because it is a long time since this board has had a governing Council; about six years ago. By God’s grace, with our coming into this Council, we would do our best, it is an industry which I belong to, I am a freight forwarder, an exporter that has stayed long in the system and I know the problems and the challenges, we would try our best to move the industry forward. Immediately we finish the inauguration, the next thing is to see how do we start, what is the first thing for us to do, when you look at the industry, there are so many challenges, especially educating our members, when you look at the freight forwarders we have today, they need to be trained, they need to be educated in the profession, there are so many people you would see that they would just go and register their company, come straight into the industry and start to operate, so one of the first things we would do is embark on training of our people. Secondly, we intend to look into the relationship between freight forwarders and customs, port authority, and the shippers’ council as well as other government agencies; all needs to be addressed, by God’s grace, between now and December, you would see a lot of development in the freight forwarding industry, we are not here to sleep, we are not here to joke, we are here to grow the industry because we are part of it, we know the challenges and we are here to move the industry forward. We are not here to look at rivalry amongst associations, we are all one, and as we have come onboard , we would unite everybody together, whoever comes into the Council as a government appointee, elected member or under whatever status, we would all come together in the council and put the industry forward. On the collaboration with Customs Service vis-à-vis registration of freight forwarders before licensing, how do you intend to make customs agree with you?
One of the issues we want to tackle is the relationship between the Nigeria Customs Service and the freight forwarders. Today, immediately we left the Minister’s office, we went straight to the Customs CGC’s house where we paid him a courtesy call, initially, he had given us an appointment for Thursday 1st of November and tell him more about our mission, I have met him earlier and I told him about it and he is ready to accept the proposal and work with us, I don’t think there is any problem with customs because the CG has partnered with us. Apart from this, there is a DCG who is also a governing council member; DCG Talatu, with her on the board, we would not have any challenge with customs.
How do you intend to address the issue of foreigners coming into our ports to do the job of indigenes?
This is one of the major problems, especially to us who are exporters, if you are exporting a commodity like wood, you would be surprised that a Chinese man would come to Nigeria, he would go to Taraba to buy wood, after this he goes to Shagamu and do all what he is supposed to do while you as an exporter is there doing nothing, you have no choice but to just collect it from him and export as a third party. This is wrong, so this is one of the major issues we want to tackle, everywhere in Nigeria you would see foreigners coming to run things by themselves which is not supposed to be, if you as a foreigner wants to carry out a process in China today, you cannot just go ahead and do it, they have processes you must follow which is not the same in Nigeria.
There are some freight forwarders who are aggrieved about your emergence as Chairman, how do you intend to reconcile everybody?
One of the first things I did immediately I came out of the election, the first person I called was the leader of one of the associations, to tell him that I have emerged as the Chairman, secondly we invited other associations for us to meet together and you witnessed it yourself . But you know that sometimes, there is nothing you can do, people must talk, we all saw how the process went and how I emerged as CRFFN Chairman, but still you have different people saying that the minister imposed me on the council, for some people, you cannot stop them from saying what they want, but what is important is that everybody has seen how it went and nobody imposed me on the CRFFN, we followed the proper channel, the right thing has been done, and the election was conducted, nobody opposed what has happened.
There is the issue of sharing formula of the Practitioners Operations Fee (POF) which has torn practitioners apart, how do you intend to resolve this?
The issue of Practitioners Operating Fees should never be an issue, but as you know, this is Nigeria and a lot of things are done with an uphill task motivation process which is really not supposed to be, there is nothing that can be done on POF until the board has properly taken off, everything depends on regulatory processes, we are a regulator and we can never be anything less, there is nothing that a regulator and those who are to obey the rules can do without the law, so we would follow the law and the process. I want to advise the media not to be sensational in affairs that are not just pertaining to freight forwarding, but to every aspect of the economy.
The tenure of the government appointees into the Council started counting since April 2018 when they were inaugurated; do you think the short period remaining is enough to bring about the needed reforms?
The board’s tenure starts counting from when the Minister pronounces an inauguration, the board was partially inaugurated in April and therefore could not swing into action, the board is formerly inaugurated with effect from 1st of November 2018 and they would run their full tenure, and their tenure is not two years, you need to read the gazette to know the tenure of the board, don’t listen to stories, there is only one gazette which was not divided, there is no elected member or appointed member, the Act of the CRFFN does not say the government appointees have just two years, it is one tenure for everybody that is onboard. Don’t forget that the elected members were supposed to be eight, but it has been amended to 15, the board is made up of 32 members, we have those nominated, it is wrong to use the word ‘appointed’.
We noticed there are two extra candidates, the appointed members are supposed to be just 15?
There are no two extra, it has always been 17 from day one in 2007 when the law was passed, and the elected are supposed to be eight, but there has been an amendment by the National Assembly to increase it to 15, this tells you that this is a council that is dynamic.
We want to know the position of the Act on the emergence of the Chairman and the Vice, is it supposed to be through consensus or by election?What we did today was an election, the Minister came in and said that he didn’t come for an inauguration, he was technically clear and very sound, he said he has come to know whom the chairman is and to seek the opinion of members, what is an opinion? An opinion is a vote, and when the process was put in focus, nominations were made and secondments were made according to the Act of the Council, the process went back and forth until eventually the Minister asked whom we preferred and we all said it is Abubakar Tsanni. To me, this is not an imposition but an election, an election can either be by ballot, by voice vote, and furthermore, the election was ratified by the whole board. The Vice Chairman was elected the same way; the only difference was that the Registrar who was the returning officer was there to conduct the election. Don’t forget that the CRFFN is a self-regulatory council, we can give laws to ourselves that would develop the industry.