Even though the National Assembly has commenced the process of amending the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act, freight forwarders in the nation’s maritime industry are sharply differed over some key issues raised in the proposed amendment.
The registered associations that are bickering are: National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC) and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (ARFFN).
Recall that Shipping Position Daily had last Monday exclusively reported that the House of Representatives Committee n Ports and Harbours has cancelled the Public Hearing where stakeholders are expected to debate the various clauses that are to be amended. Instead it is going ahead with the amendment based on inputs from certain interests.
It was also reported that the clauses that are to be affected by the amendment were not disclosed to the maritime industry stakeholders.
But, speaking with our correspondent last week, a member of the governing council of the CRFFN, who is also the National President of NAGAFF; Chief Increase Uche, confirmed that there is a proposal for the elongation of the tenure of council members from two years to four years. But, he said there is no need for that and that the bill is not meant for politicians rather it is for professionals.
Giving an inclination that the current governing council is neck deep in the amendment push, he said: “We have also considered those things with these board members to include the tenure of the members from two years to four years. Let it also be known in the minds of every one that the current board didn’t not initiate very move, the bill has been there for amendment, we met the bill there (at the National Assembly). So every other issue that are being raised depend on the interest of whoever that is opposing any input, the lawmakers are there to look at all the suggestions that are being made and they will decide which one will be good for both the economy, industry and whatsoever. And we believe that they are going to do justice to all the inputs made”
“Talking about adding two members each from the six geopolitical zone, there is no need because it is not a bill meant for politicians or whatever or created to ensure even representation of the people from the zones. That is a professional council and the Act is very explicit, it is a council established and charged with the responsibilities of determining the standard of knowledge and skills to be acquired by persons seeking to be members of freight forwarders of Nigeria”
In all, he was however silent on whether NAGAFF is comfortable or not, with the ongoing process of the amendment.
Also reacting to some of the issues raised in the bill, the National Secretary of ANLCA; Mr. Babatunde Mukaila, however differed on the appointment of the chairman of the CRFFN governing council by the President.
He explained that, by appointing the Chairman of CRFFN by the president, the essence of setting up the council will be defeated.
“What is the reason of setting up CRFFN, if the CRFFN is to be run by an Executive Secretary as is being proposed, he will in turn be a government functionary. Once the President decides for the practitioners who govern them, then politicians will have the preference to run the council”, he argued.
Mukaila also stated that the governing council as it is presently, is a better approach, irrespective of the present bickering among the professionals that are presently saddled with the leadership of the CRFFN.
Meanwhile, the president of NAFFAC, Mr. Yinka Bakare frowned at the proposal of adding two persons each from the six geopolitical zones, saying that already there are so many persons in the governing council.
Bakare also said the current governing council members are not responsible for the call for tenure elongation, but he insisted that the Act needs to be amended.
He said, “when people don’t really understand these things, they should ask questions and not insinuating and the current board is asking for any tenure elongation, we are not asking for any tenure elongation. People will just come and be talking about tenure elongation, who is interested in tenure elongation. The truth is that the Act really needs to be amended, there issues, how many things can you amend in a Bill at a particular time. In any Act that you want to amend, there are a number of things that you can insert or remove at a time”
He debunked the rumour about proposal to change designation of the Council’s Registrar to Chief Executive Officer of the council he said,
“On the issue of changing the position of the Registrar to the Chief Executive Officer, nobody is changing the Registrar to CEO. As at today, you see the Registrar is also the CEO. Is it not an agency of the government, so it should be in line with other government agencies? The Council cannot do the work of the management, he is the head of the management, council is different from the management”
But, the founder of AREFFN, Dr. Frank Ukor while admitting the need for the amendment of the Act, he suggested that the tenure of the current council members should be elongated to three years and not four years.
Ukor however frowned at the idea of changing the designation of the Registrar to that of the CEO.
“The amendment of the Act is supposed to be every five years; all those things they are putting are necessary, there is nothing wrong with them, elongating the tenure is good if they make it four years it is good. But because of this Coronavirus, if they extend their tenure till next year, it is still alright; they can spend three years but not four years. If they amend it the next set of people that will come in are the ones to enjoy the tenure elongation”
“Registrar cannot be a CEO. Registrar is an employee of the council and should not be the CEO it was a mistake that they made and they should correct it now, the Registrar is an employee of the council and supposed to have a tenure it should be there” he concluded.