Whether he likes it or not, it will no longer be easy for Mr Lucky Amiwero to still claim to be the national president of the National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents; an association he has symbolised for about 13 years, an association that brought him so much fame and relevance.
The emergence of the Council of Managing Directors (as it is commonly addressed) is traceable to the controversies which trailed the infamous non-Import Duty Report (IDR) scam of 1995 which led to mass loss of operational licenses of licensed customs agents who were at that time members of the only association that was in existence; that is, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
The Council of Managing Directors, which then became the child of circumstances also became the rallying point haven been formed by Mr Amiwero and a few others. Most of those who upstaged him last week were indeed a part of the crowd that the group needed to legitimise itself as the then-rallying point.
The then-Alhaji Sani Kamba-led national executive council later fought and regained some of the licenses back and eventually re-branded ANLCA, but Mr Amiwero was not ready to liquidate his empire and return to being an ANLCA chieftain. He was actually its national public relations officer.
Amiwero immediately deployed his assets as a former image maker of ANLCA and became a toast of stakeholders including the media which sought him out for his opinion which had become indispensable (on issues). With that came wards and recognition by the federal government; he became a member of many committees.
Many industry watchers are wont to believe that the enviable recognition which Amiwero had enjoyed over the years is traceable to his ability to respond to issues as promptly as they come up. Others are likely to adduce it to the circumstances which surround the birth of ‘his’ Council which expectedly took the shine off ANLCA. Not even the birth of the National association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) could kill the rising profile of Amiwero.
For close watchers of events surrounding the conceptualisation, birth and take-off of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), last week’s coup which led to the controversial removal of Amiwero would not come as surprise. In fact, some schools of thought were of the opinion that it was only a matter of time and that his removal would have come sooner or later.
For us, two things were contributory to the orchestrated removal of Mr Amiwero from office as the national president of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents and both are in a way connected.
Whether one admits or not, the rug was pull off his feet for daring to be the only one who is ‘stubborn’ among all those who contested for seats in the CRFFN last year. His action further infuriated the powers- that- be who have been making efforts to seek peace and who have been calling on him to allow the Council function effectively by withdrawing the court case which he instituted against the minister of transport, the executive secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council and the chairman, CRFFN.
Mr Amiwero had in the past told this newspaper that he was willing to withdraw the case if certain conditions were met, he has also insisted however that the process leading to the emergence of the incumbent chairman of CRFFN, Mr Tony Nwabunike was flawed, but stuck to his guns on the legal option to the last.
Perhaps, those who plotted to remove Mr Amiwero would not have enjoyed so much sympathy if he had not played into their hands. He was found to be an easy prey having failed the democratic test. He was pointedly accused of ruling the Council of Managing Director as a personal kingdom since its creation in 1995.
For a nation that is just waking up to realise the beauty of democracy, the easiest way to lose favour from the populace (maritime industry stakeholders inclusive) is to exhibit the faintest trait of despotism.
But rather than see his removal as the solution to the problem, he may feel more emboldened to continue with the case that is before the Lagos High court, Ikeja, rather than being cowed by the guts of his traducers, he may be emboldened to fight on.
For the good works that Mr Amiwero has done in the maritime industry in general and for freight forwarding in particular, it would have been better if he was allowed to vacate office voluntarily without being made to face the humiliation of dethronement.
We are equally a bit perturbed at the speed with which the chairman of CRFFN rushed to confer legitimacy on the new executive led by previously unknown Prince Obieze. It would have been more apt for the CRFFN to wait and watch events unfold before threatening to invoke section 4b of its enabling Act which confers on the Council the power of “regulating and controlling all the association of freight forwarding agents”.
The problem of CRFFN at the moment stems from lopsidedness of the current elected membership of the Council which is dominated by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents. For a council that was fought for by all to be dominated by one is to say the least unfair to those who provided integrity, drive, substance and logistics to ensure that the council came on stream. We reiterate as we did before that: were it not for the doggedness of foot soldiers like the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (IFFN) which provided logistics and intellectual backbone, there may have been no CRFFN today
As for Mr Amiwero, perpetuating himself in office and not being accountable to anyone is probably his greatest undoing. So many founding members of the associations including those he later recruited have all left, yet he stayed put discountenancing all insults and insinuation that the Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents was a one man show.
Mr Amiwero may have abused democratic tenets, he may have stepped on powerful tows, but removing him in the manner that it was done is akin to jungle justice.
And for those who are now in charge of the association, the time lag is three months within which to ensure that the association is democratised. Needless to stress that it is in their interest to adhere to this timetable.