Amidst Stakeholders’ Outcry, NASS Goes Ahead With Amendment Of CRFFN Act

The House of Representatives is going ahead with the amendment of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act 2007.

The decision was confirmed to our correspondent last weekend by the Clerk to the House of Representatives Committee on Ports and Harbours; Mr Jide Funmilayo.

There has been apprehension over the move by the National Assembly to amend the Act which established the CRFFN, especially since the committee in the lower Chamber of the National Assembly attempted to hold a public hearing on the Act in May.

Shipping Positing Daily recalls that, the House Committee had in May this year, at the height of the outbreak of COVID-19, invited maritime industry stakeholders to a public hearing on the CRFFN Act amendment.

The event was later postponed indefinitely after invited stakeholders expressed opposition because of the timing of the public hearing.

But, our correspondents confirmed last week that, the House Committee has gone behind to receive memorandum and position papers from some groups and individuals as inputs to be considered for the amendments of the 2007 Act.

Even though various groups, especially freight forwarders complained that the timing of the postponed public hearing was inappropriate, the Committee headed by Mr Garba Datti Muhammad as Chairman House Committee on Ports and Harbour is unrelenting about the amendment.

Shipping Position Daily confirmed last week that, the Committee has received inputs from stakeholders who are favourably disposed to some aspects of the amendments, and it is going ahead with the amendment.   

Clerk to the House of Representatives Committee on Ports and Harbours; Mr Jide Funmilayo confirmed to our correspondents that the committee was going ahead with the amendment.

“We have received inputs from stakeholders on the amendment and we are still open to memorandum. You can even bring your own”, he told our correspondent.

“We have asked stakeholders to submit their memo, if you submit, we will work on it”, he said, even as he hinted that the legislature could no longer hold the public hearing and that, it would work with documents in the possession of the committee.

He confirmed that the committee was already working on the memo it has received and that the public hearing will no longer hold. 

“No, the public hearing can no longer hold, we can not wait indefinitely, it is the responsibility of the House and not that of any member to pass the amendment, We will turn in the amendment when they are ready”, he stressed.

Insiders told our correspondents that, issues such as: tenure of the current members of the governing council, appointment of the chairman of the council, and status of the CRFFN are key clauses in the amendment. 

They alleged that members of the governing council of CRFFN were behind the amendment. And that they want the tenure of members to be extended to four instead of two years as provided in the existing Act. 

The tenure of the current members of the governing council’s term of two years expires in October 2020.

Specifically, the amendment bill seeks to amend sections 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 21, 25 (3), 27 (5), 29 and 30.

The CRFFN Act which initially provides for a Chairman of the Governing Board to be elected from among the elected freight forwarders, now seeks to have the Chairman of the Governing Board appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister of Transportation, whereas one person who shall be elected by the Governing Board from its members shall serve as the vice Chairman.

The bill also seeks to replace the phrase “Governing Council” with the phrase “Governing Board” while the office of the Registrar of the Council who was initially appointed by the Governing Council is now to be replaced with the Office of the Executive Secretary who is now to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport.

Even though some members of the governing council claimed that the push for the amendment of the Act did not come from the CRFFN, but sources faulted the claim and fingered the leadership of the governing council.

A member of the governing council explained that, “after the Council’s election in April 2018, it took about three months before the inauguration of the Council and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult for the Council to really do much.”

He said the tenure elongation for the Council members will help the Council to do more, rather than calling for another election by November this year. “The issue of pushing for an amendment is not from the Council, but from the National Assembly itself. 

I think someone somewhere wrote that the Act is due for review, and we do know that once the Act is over five or 10 years, then it is subject to a review. “There are too many lacunas in the Act that need to be reviewed and when it was brought to the notice of the Governing Council, we deliberated on it. But, I am surprised that people are reading more to the tenure elongation, which I will say is normal anyway. What we discussed on the issue of tenure elongation is that, if you are a member of the Council elected before the time of President Muhammadu Buhari, you can sit in Council meetings for as many times as you can, but when Buhari came, the instruction was that if you are a member of any Governing Council, you are expected to sit three or four times a year, that is quarterly; just to reduce government spending. So this actually disrupts the activities of the Council; we cannot flout the instruction of the executive council that every Council member should sit four times in a year. And there are a lot of 
things that were not done within the period of these two years. If you look at when we were actually elected, it took about three months before we were even inaugurated at all.”

Reacting to the move by the National Assembly to go ahead with the amendment, the National Secretary of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA); Mr Babatunde Mukaila said the association has not been asked to submit any memo on the CRFFN Act amendment. 

“However, we have gathered our position through our members and our representative, so our position should be ready by Tuesday”, he said.

But, the Secretary General of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Dipo Olayoku admitted that the association has written to the National Assembly on the Act. He did not confirm if it had sent a position paper on the amendment.