About 10 months after the end of tenure of the immediate past Registrar for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Mr Sam Nwakohu, freight forwarders in the nation’s maritime industry have expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of a substantive Registrar after several futile attempts were made.
Their discontent has led to a resounding vote-of-no-confidence on the current headship of the CRFFN.
Amidst these concerns, stakeholders are now demanding substantial reforms, pointing to allegations of regulatory neglect that have left them deeply dissatisfied with the council’s performance.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that upon the expiration of the tenure of the immediate past Registrar of the Council on January 31, 2023, the Governing Council directed its outgoing Registrar to hand over the affairs of the regulatory body to the most senior officer in the agency; Mrs Chinyere Uromta who was a Director.
After several attempts to recruit a new Registrar, stakeholders have doubted the sincerity and legality of the process, alleging that such an appointment is currently suffering setbacks due to nepotism and self-interest from the key players in government.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily last week, a prominent Chieftain of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA); Sir John Oforbike raised questions over CRFFN’s adherence to the legal framework that established it. He also faulted the election process for the members of the CRFFN board, highlighting concerns about whether the right procedures were followed.
Oforbike believes that the change of baton in government is one of the major factors delaying the appointment of a Registrar for the Council since a new minister has just been appointed. He emphasized the need for the Council to align its actions with the mandates outlined in the Founding Act.
The ANLCA Chieftain specifically suggested that since CRFFN has failed to live up to its intended role as a regulatory body, it should be scrapped, characterizing it as a “conduit pipe created to extort people” and a means for “personal aggrandizement.”
“What does the Act that established CRFFN say? Did the election that brought in the members of the board of CRFFN follow due process to see those who were elected or those who were appointed to take some positions? Were procedures followed? According to the Act establishing CRFFF, what are the works of CRFFN? Have they been able to live up to the position of the Act that established them?
“Now, what have they been able to do? They were only interested in sharing the loot. What has been their impact in the maritime industry since their establishment? Rather they created where they will be collecting POF. Amaechi (former Minister) was the problem that destroyed the CRFFN through his undue interference and not following what the Act says, he alleged.
“They have just appointed a new minister of Marine and Blue Economy. So I believe the change of baton is what is delaying the appointment of the Registrar. But having said this, the chairman, Tsani Abubakar has to be prosecuted because so much money was embezzled and went under the carpet which we are aware of. I believe the new administration is trying to take their time in order not to make the mistake of the past. That is my thinking.
“From my own view, CRFFN is a conduit pipe created to extort people and for the personal aggrandizement. I think they should be scrapped because they are not important. So I believe appointing a new Registrar cannot change anything because we cannot feel their impact and there is nothing they have been able to bring to the table all these years. The issue of appointing a Registrar of the governing council is political and it has nothing to do with improving the life and the condition of the people in Nigeria” Oforbike noted.
Also speaking, the Deputy National President, Air and Logistics of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Segun Musa expressed a more optimistic perspective, suggesting that the previous minister overseeing CRFFN may have left the council in disarray.
Musa also believed that the current minister is taking the necessary time to understand the political scene of the CRFFN for a best approach to address the issues. While expressing hope that positive changes would come soon, he added that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Magdalene Ajani has probably not got the approval of the new minister to proceed.
Against the popular opinion that CRFFN has not got a Registrar because it is not a “juicy” agency, Musa stressed that there is a lot of money in CRFFN, aside from the collection of the Practitioner Operating Fees (POF) which according to him members of the council are more interested in. He alleged that unfortunately, the leadership cannot give an account of the funds.
The NAGAFF Vice President also specifically stressed that if the council members do not know how to generate revenue or run the council and the government is not able to allocate budgets to run the council, then it should be closed down.
In his words: “With all sincerity, I want to believe that the last minister that superintendent over the CRFFN at that stage abandoned the council and probably, since we have a new minister in place, the new minister is trying to take his time to study and understand what the CRFFN is all about, and how to come into the political scene because he met too many issues on ground and I think he is trying to take it one after the other. So, I don’t think there is any cause for alarm as to CRFFN as nothing is happening. It is unfortunate that despite the expectation was so much, eventually we will not get anything from CRFFN. So, I just want to believe the new minister will do something about it soonest. Probably the Permanent Secretary has not got the approval of the new minister. So, we should not be negative about anything. But, I believe something will be done.
“It is unfortunate that the council has been bastardised and a lot of people have messed up the place. If you look at the election into the board, it was a ridiculous one. The members have not been too active. Nothing seems to happen. There is a lot of money in CRFFN, aside from the illegal POF that they are clamouring for. There is a lot of money in the council. Unfortunately, the leadership does not even know where the money lies. They are only clamouring for POF which is an illegal collection. I think that is where the main problem of CRFFN started from. The CRFFN was established to start taking advantage of practitioners that is why we keep having issues.
“If the council members do not know how to generate revenue to run the council and the government is not able to give budget to the council, then let them close it down. What is the essence? The council has never impacted anything in the industry. Probably the council members do not even know what the necessity is or probably someone is frustrating them by doing the right thing to improve the industry” Musa noted.
On his part, the National Public Relations Officer of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN); Taiwo Fatomilola described CRFFN as an ineffective entity that had failed to live up to expectations. He argued that CRFFN should play a pivotal role in regulating the maritime sector, but it has not fulfilled its potential.
Fatomilola claimed that CRFFN appeared to be more of a political tool than an effective regulatory body. He alleged that the positions in the Council are only used to settle political cronies and loyalists in the system.
“CRFFN is just an ordinary dog in the paper; that can never bark. It is just there as a caricature. CRFFN has never lived up to its expectations because if they are shouting that the associations are not working, then what is the job of CRFFN?
“When the former Registrar was there, what did he do? The major purpose of CRFFN is to educate all agents, so that they will be aware of developments in the sector and be up and doing through training. They have not been doing that. They have never intervened in any of the issues prevailing in our maritime sector, so there is no point stressing ourselves” Fatomilola said.
Also, another freight forwarder; Mr Stanley Ezenga highlighted the bureaucratic nature of the appointment of CRFFN Registrar and expressed hope that changes might be in the horizon.
Ezenga also noted a lack of ownership and control by freight forwarders in CRFFN, emphasizing the need for a more professional and independent approach to governance.
“This agency is supposed to be owned and controlled by freight forwarders without interference of the government in any form. But, at the same time, maybe the government is taking the time to study the reports before they make the appointment. I believe in no distant time, the CRFFN will be remembered” Ezenga concluded.