At Last, Collection of POF Commences

• ANLCA Protests, Sues Terminal Operators, NAGAFF Falls In

After what appeared like unpreparedness to actualise the Ministerial order on collection of Practitioners Operations Fees (POF), the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) yesterday flagged-off the process.Shipping Position Daily confirmed that terminal operators have added the fees to what the freight forwarder would pay.The development however elicited protests and fresh litigation from the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) whose members protested at the offices of some terminal operators in Lagos yesterday. The ANLCA joined terminal operators as defendants in a suit it had filed in 2015 against the collection of POF by the CRFFN.National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto confirmed this to Shipping Position Daily exclusively when the association staged a peaceful protest at major seaport terminals at Apapa port and Tin Can Island Port.Our correspondent who witnessed the protest reported that ANLCA members trooped out in their numbers at Tin Can island and Apapa port carrying placards with different inscriptions among which were: CRFFN is a failure, POF is not backed by the law, POF is going into Amaechi’s pocket, we will never pay POF, Amaechi is a tyrant, POF is not real, Amaechi’s POF is not real among others.Giving reasons why the terminal operators were joined in the suit, Farinto said that regardless of the existing court case, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has issued a directive to terminal operators to begin collection of POF as from 1st of August."Last week we got it from the grape vine that the Minister of Transportation has given the approval that terminal operators should now collect the POF, and this issue has been very contentious because we are in court, so what we had to do was go to court and join the terminal operators in the suit and restraining them from going ahead to collect the POF" "What you see this morning is peaceful demonstration from all our members, we are not picketing anybody or stopping them from doing their work, we are just reminding them that once a case is in court, the two parties are expected to maintain status quo, and we have given STOAN a copy of that summon", he saidThe ANLCA spokesman also confirmed that the CRFFN, NPA and port police have all been served a copy of the summons.He reiterated that the first suit does not include the terminal operators, but that since the CRFFN has come in from another angle by bringing in terminal operators to collect POF on their behalf, this was why ANLCA included terminal operators to restrain them.He said that though the Judges are on holiday, the case would today be handed over to a holiday Judge, assuring that in one week, the case should be mentioned. "I am happy that the summon was received by their legal practitioners and he knows the implication. Going ahead to collect the money is contempt of court and it is tantamount to you slapping the court in the face. This means that we are no more in a civilised country and the government does not respect rule of law"Also speaking with our correspondent at PTML Chapter, the Public Relations Officer of the chapter, Mr. Ayo Sulaiman argued that collection of POF would not give ANLCA any relieve rather it would be another constraint on her profession.He said that the protest is a peaceful demonstration to caution the transport minister from incuring contempt of court as the case of the POF collection is already in court."The minister has directed that every payment must be made by the Declarant which is the clearing agent, we are licensed by the Federal government to carry out our profession as customs agents and brokers, we are being regulated by CEMA, and if CRFFN would have to impose POF on us then it is counter regulation, we have had enough of increment in shipping and terminal charges""You can imagine the federal government telling the Nigerian Bar Association to pay their professional fees to the Federal government, mind you this money goes to a separate account and not even federation account. And ANLCA is in court, so why should the minister submit that the payment should go on, I don't want to say the Minister is gullible but it is quite unfortunate""On POF they are being silent for a sinister motive, they want the terminal operators to put it in their debit note so that we can pay"The peaceful protest was held simultaneously at Tin Can Island, Apapa and Tin Can Island Port.Secretary of STOAN, Barrister Boye Uzamot received a copy of the court summon for his association while the General Manager Western Ports of NPA, Ach. Abiodun Gbadamosi received a copy for NPA.While receiving the summon from the Apapa chapter chairman of ANLCA, Olumide Fakanlu, Gbadamosi assured the ANLCA members that he was going to pass it to the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman.He however charged them to also serve the NPA Headquarters a copy of the summon through ANLCA National Secretariat since it’s a national issue.Speaking to journalists during the protest at Tin Can, the Special Assistant to the ANLCA Chairman Prince Segun Oduntan on Revenue, Mr. Shittu Akande Balogun said that they embarked on the protest to sensitize their members not to pay the POF which was to commence on the 1st of August, 2017.Balogun stated that the ANLCA was bent on its insistence that only a well constituted Governing Council of CRFFN had the power to determine monies to be collected by CRFFN and not the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Registrar of CRFFN, Sir Mike Jukwe.According to him, “we told them, this money, you cannot collect it without the Board, it is only the Board who can approve the collection of this money. But now, there is no Board, only Amaechi and Jukwe, the CRFFN Registrar that now took the decision and they impressed it on the registrar that he can use his power to collect"But, its rival; the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) threw its weight behind the CRFFN, even as it urged its members to Confirming the commencement the NAGAFF in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Stanley Ezenga advised its members who are in the dark about how to go about making the payments to approach any of the association’s offices.“You are expected to present your original import bill of lading and/or certified copy for proper assessment.  The declarant in this regard shall be based on your RFF number given to you by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria as a registered freight forwarder.  All payments are made to the TSA account of the Federal Government of Nigeria”.It also distanced its members from the ANLCA protests, even as it cautioned that none of its members should be dragged into the protest.“All freight forwarders are hereby advised not to be dragged by anybody or organization against the payment of POF as instructed by the Federal Government of Nigeria.  While appreciating the rights of Nigerians to protest, the need to be law abiding cannot be overemphasized.  Any person or group is at liberty to approach the court for a restraining order to stop collection of POF by the Government if one is in disagreement.”  

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