POF: Custom Agents Raise Alarm, Questions Amaechi Over N4.2billion CRFFN Budget

Customs agents under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has queried Minister of Transportation,  Rotimi Amaechi and the Registrar of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) over alleged misappropriation of N4.2billion budgeted for the CRFFN in 2016 and 2017.National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA; Dr. Kayode Farinto while addressing members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Apapa, Lagos on Tuesday alleged that so far, both the Minister and the CRFFN Registrar could not account for how  the N700 million allocated to the CRFFN in 2006 and N3.5billion to the council in 2017 budget have been spent.He raised alarm that the Minister is currently flouting a court order by imposing an illegal levy on licensed customs agents through the collection of Practitioners Operations Fee (POF). He said that POF collection would increase the cost of doing business at Nigerian ports as against recent efforts of the Federal Government through the Ease of Doing Business Committee.Already, there is palpable anxiety at Tin Can Island Port and Apapa port as the clearing agents staged a protest at two major ports on Monday to protest the POF collection.Farinto noted that POF is an illegal collection over which his association had in 2015 dragged the Transport Ministry, Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Inspector General of Police and the CRFFN to Federal High Court in Ikoyi Lagos to challenge it's collection.He told the gathered MARAN members that the court case notwithstanding, Amaechi had issued a directive last week through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry directing seaport terminal operators to commence collection of the POF.In order to restrain the terminal operators from collecting the POF however, he said that ANLCA had sued terminal operators to court and joined them in the existing suit earlier filed in 2015."We completed the filing and we have submitted the summon to Secretary of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) Barr. Boye Uzamot. He has however promised to ensure his association does not flout the law because a case is already in court"."Talking about funding of CRFFN, last year, over N700million was allocated to CRFFN, in 2017 alone, over N3.5 billion has been allocated to the council, the budget has been passed, so what the Registrar doing with money, who is he regulating single-handedly, who has he trained? The money that has been allocated to them last year and this year, nothing has come out of it, who has been spending the money? is it the registrar alone or it is the registrar and the minister? We cannot pay POF" "The Act that set up the CRFFN has not been tested and and so it should not be amended, also the board is not in place, it is only Jukwe (Registrar) that is singlehandedly running the CRFFN. the Registrar is making subtle moves to change his position to executive Secretary""So far, it is still only one council that has been tested. The second council was an appointment from the minister""Somebody is bringing the idea of POF through the back door just because such a person has access to the honourable minister of transportation. We believe that this is not the time, it is illegal and very wrong""POF means that they want to collect money from every cargo that leaves the port, the licensed agents does the clearing" he said.The ANLCA spokesman argued that the CRFFN Governing Council must be properly constituted through an election before any talk of POF can come up.