Sometime in 2022, this newspaper came hard on the ‘warriors’ in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
We noted in that write-up that all lovers of peace have spoken to the warring factions in the association in their languages, yet there is no respite. These interventions have lasted for as long as the face-off has lasted.
We can proudly state that, no maritime media organisation in Nigeria has devoted as much of its space to finding peace among the factionalised members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents. We do this as a corporate social responsibility.
On this page, about three years ago, this newspaper pleaded with ANLCA’s National President; Tony Nwabunike to rise above all partisanship and considerations in the larger interest of the association. He threw this advice away!
Again, on September 5, 2022, on this page, wrote an Editorial with the title: “Our final recipe for peace in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents”.
In that piece, we opined that, “were it not for the controversial tenure elongation via an equally-controversial Annual General Meeting in Owerri, Imo state sometime in December, 2020, the tenure of Tony Nwabunike as President along with his executives ought to have expired”.
Initially, the crises started as a mere issue within the association’s Board of Trustees (BoT), it was simply between two combatants for the board’s headship; that, is Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha and Chief Henry Njoku.
Painfully, the face-off started immediately Prince Olayiwola Shittu finished his statutory two terms of eight years as the National President of the association.
No doubt, under Shittu, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents was transformed into a good example of how a freight forwarding body should be. It changed from being just an assemblage of clearing and forwarding agents (as of old), into an internationally-recognised body of professionals.
The transformation that ANLCA went through didn’t come easy. It took trust in the leadership of Prince Shittu, his competence and transparency, to rebrand ANLCA.
Sadly, all that have been eroded, as ANLCA has apparently lost its pre-eminence in the comity of maritime industry players.
Presently, the association has two parallel BoTs, two parallel National Executive Committees (NECOM), and parallel executives in some chapters.
At a point and seeing that all efforts to mediate had failed, this Newspaper had posited that, since it has taken so long and the battle for the soul of ANLCA has taken a frightening dimension of threat to peace in an economic zone; that is the port, it may not be a bad idea to consider de-registering and proscribing ANLCA. Our position at that time was that, perhaps, this would be needed to ensure final peace.
We had at that time also called on the CRFFN to move in. We had posited that: “The challenge to do the needful however rests on the shoulders of the CRFFN, which is the registering agency. They may need the backing and political support from the supervisory Ministry of Transportation”.
We are however happy that CRFFN has finally woken up to its responsibility as the superintending agency over freight forwarding in Nigeria.
Via a public notice, the CRFFN directed that a General Meeting should hold on March 2, 2023, that is, this week. It added that the meeting will resolve all the burning issues.
Giving further bite, the Chairman, Governing Council of the CRFFN; Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni equally warned the warring factions to abide by the resolutions of the Council or be ready to be confronted by the Governing Council.
The CRFFN also warned that it would not tolerate anything that may truncate the current efforts. It specifically warned against any pre-emptive litigations.
Even though it may be coming too late, the ongoing efforts by the CRFFN Governing Council which started with the constitution of a committee to look into the crises, and which will eventually culminate into the meeting scheduled for this week, should be given a chance.
Already, there are insinuations that a faction does not agree with the CRFFN and that the group may go to court. If this happens, it is tantamount to fighting your regulator.
Whatever the CRFFN is doing at the moment is in consonance with its enabling Act as the regulator of freight forwarding in Nigeria.
Its decision to direct the acting President of ANLCA to organise the General Meeting may not be popular with some of the actors. Yet, stopping the meeting will be counter-productive.
We commend the CRFFN governing council for not wielding the big stick on ANLCA, even though it has sufficient reasons to do so.
We also commend its neutrality in the crises, even though some of its members are also party to the crises.
Perhaps, ANLCA leaders do not appreciate the damage they have caused the association since 2018, when the crises started.
The fact is that the association is almost dead, no thanks to the ‘war’. It is in view of this that we passionately appeal to the leaders of the association, from both camps to sheath their sword and allow the CRFFN mediation to work.
If this one too fails, just like previous interventions did, then whatever happens thereafter, the association will have itself and its leaders to blame.
This is the time for the ‘interim President’ Mr Pius Ujubuonu and the ‘acting President’; Dr Kayode Farinto to put the interest of the association first. It is also pertinent at this time that both Alhaji Taiwo Mustapa and Dr Taiwo Afolabi, in their capacities as Chairman BoT of the two factions, should have a rethink.
It is time for ANLCA to begin its match towards rejuvenation and the opportunity of the meeting being spearheaded by the CRFFN should not be lost on the arrowheads of the crises.
We know that the CRFFN is capable of resolving the issues and bringing the ‘war’ to an end, but it requires the cooperation of the leaders of the association.
Finally, for those who may be contemplating going to court, may we caution, that this option will further compound the problems. Already, there are almost 15 litigations.
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