Sometime in 2021, the then–Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi described the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) as the most problematic agency in the ministry.
Amaechi, while speaking on the performance of each agency under the ministry during the 2021 World Maritime Day, described CRFFN as a ‘House of Petitions’, apparently owing to the numerous petitions by individuals and various freight forwarding associations in the industry against the council.
According to him, “CRFFN; that’s the biggest problem we have in the Ministry, they are experts at petition writing, everyone one of them are experts at petition writing. In fact, in the management meeting, I said we are going to dissolve every one of them and I told the Permanent Secretary that she will just have to write a letter that your services are no longer needed, nobody will take you to court for that one, it is only when you say they have been sacked, that they can take you to court, we are planning on that and everybody will leave except the staff.
Speaking further, he said, “Even when they had a new Registrar, their petition has continued, it was there when the old Registrar was there and even if we remove the present one, the petition will continue to come, that is the only place where we have problem”.
The minister stated the obvious, because right from its creation and up to its existence everything about the CRFFN has been dogged by controversies.
As a maritime media organisation, we have devoted ample attention to the CRFFN. The reason for this is not far-fetched; we were part of the deliberations, public hearings and legislative processes that led to the passage of the Act that established the Council. It thus grieves our heart that the Council has really not known peace and has faltered for so many years.
Like every member of the maritime community, we had high hopes that the CRFFN would live up to its name as the regulator of freight forwarding in Nigeria. But this was not to be, as the Council became entangled in different crises for many years, such that it could not fulfill its destiny.
At a point in its history, the CRFFN had no governing council. But, in 2018, after the appointment of six members into its Governing Council, everyone thought the solution to the Council’s problems was on the way. But the appointees had to wait for elected members of the Council to emerge. This took months.
After the elections, another round of the waiting game commenced; that is to inaugurate the Governing Council. The Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi grudgingly inaugurated the Governing Council in Abuja. The process also threw up some controversies, especially about the process leading to the emergence of the Chairman of the Council; Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni.
After this, another phase was to emerge – the appointment of a new Registrar to succeed Sir Mike Jukwe, the Council’s pioneer Registrar and Chief Executive Officer.
Eventually, Barrister Samuel Nwakohu was appointed as Registrar and a new journey began. The first tenure of Barrister Nwakohu ended last week, precisely on Tuesday January 31, with the appointment of a serving Director as acting Registrar.
The governing council says that the process of appointing a new Registrar or re-appointment of Nwakohu has commenced.
Of course, the CRFFN can not forget that it was during the tenure of Nwakohu that the jinx of collection of Practitioners Operating Fees (POF) was broken.
We recall that, the managements and governing councils of the CRFFN had tried several approaches to get the POF incorporated into the nation’s port system. At a point, after assurances that it had perfected the procedure, its registrar; Mr Sam Nwakohu gave a definite take-off date at a press briefing. It was frustrated by some freight forwarders who gave different reasons to oppose it.
It took conviction and persuasion to get the Federal Ministry of Transportation involved directly, and this got the terminal operators and Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) involved too, then the CRFFN started making a head way over the POF collection.
We are also aware that during the tenure of the Registrar, there were series of training programmes. The icing on the cake for him was perhaps, the recent commissioning of the council’s Zonal Office in Kano.
It is true that, Mr Nwakohu did not enjoy the best of working relationship with some members of the governing council.
Yes, they held him responsible for the dissolution of the previous Governing Council and for daring to request that they return the official vehicles in their possession. Therefore, those who returned to the Council look for opportunity to ‘punish’ him.
Also there were issues about how the Council was being run, there were issues about funding needs of members of the governing council.
These undercurrents snowballed into a ‘fight’ over the Council’s head office in Abuja. There were allegations and counter-allegations hovering over the appropriateness of acquiring a new property in Lagos, or using the funds to finish work on the Council’s expansive building in Abuja.
In his travails with the governing council, it is obvious that the Registrar enjoyed the support of the National Assembly, while the Ministry of Transportation watched his back.
The way the quest for his reappointment was handled, it appeared as if some members of the governing council were out for a pound of flesh.
Yes, there is an acting Registrar in place, this is certainly a stop-gap; while the Governing Council decides either to re-appoint Barrister Samuel Nwakohu or appoint a new one.
Our position is that the Governing Council will need Nwakohu’s experience to further push the collection of POF. There are still a lot of ground to be covered in the collection of the fee.
Unless the Governing Council wants a puppet and a dummy Registrar, whom they can push around to have their way, otherwise the Registrar should be reappointed. However, if there is any strong reason to the contrary, then the Governing Council should open up.
We also think that, going forward, the various registered freight forwarding associations and their members should put the leadership of the Council on their toes. After all, it is a council for freight forwarders. It is not for members of the Governing Council or the Management alone.
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