The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has bemoaned the poor level of compliance to the payment of Practitioners Operations Fee (POF) by freight forwarders. This is even as it has vowed to embark on the reconciliation of payments with all terminal operators and sanction all defaulters.
The POF is an Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) approved by the Federal Government to be paid by all practicing freight forwarders, to CRFFN.
Speaking during her opening address at a 2-day town-hall meeting with Terminal Operators in Lagos on Tuesday, Mrs Chinyere Uromta lamented that the revenue so far collected is far below the expectation of the Federal Government.
Uromta noted that since the Council through the intervention of the Ministry of Transportation has mandated Terminal Operators to confirm payment of POF before releasing cargoes, the revenue started trickling in, but not as much as the Council had expected.
The acting Registrar informed that the CRFFN is currently strategizing with other government agencies including the Nigeria Customs Service on working out how to ensure full compliance with POF collection.
She specifically noted that the Governing Board of the Council is in talks with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ensure that terminals at the airports such as NAHCO and SAHCOL also enforce the collection of the POF from all freight forwarders.
“We know that revenue is key to any achievement and breakthrough of any organization and government agencies are not left out. The much talked about POF which is the IGR for CRFFN is the major reason why we gathered today.
“It is not as easy as we thought after seeking the approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC). There has to be dialogue among stakeholders with the mode and manner the revenue will be generated” Uromta said.
Also speaking, CRFFN Chairman of Committee on Monitoring, Enforcement and Compliance, Chief Timothy Awogbemi stressed the importance of the POF adding that it would contribute to the development of the freight forwarding sector through the training of freight forwarders.
While commending the terminal operators on their level of compliance so far, Awogbemi called for the full integration and enforcement of the collection POF at all terminals.
“Where we are now is not too good for us. This is a common goal and to achieve it we need integration and we need to work together. We recognize you as a critical stakeholder being the last man of the freight forwarding chain. After your terminal the container is going to the owner of the cargo. When things are wrong with your terminal, then definitely there is no way we can hold down the container. So, your cooperation is very important.
“The POF is for the benefit for all. The little money we are getting is to train and help the freight forwarders to grow academically and professionally to make sure they are doing the right thing every time. We discovered that things are not working well. We are here to see your challenges and how we can address them to benefit your terminal, freight forwarders and the industry at large” Awogbemi noted.
On her part, the Chairperson of Seaports Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) Princess Vicky Haastrup noted that the Council has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with all terminal operators to collect the POF from all freight forwarders.
The STOAN Chairperson who was by the Secretary of STOAN, Barrister Boye Uzamot called on all terminal operators to fully comply with the Federal Government directives on the POF urging them to voice out the challenges faced for compliance.
“We have a MoU with the CRFFN which all terminal operators have a copy of. I am aware that some terminals had issues with starting which is solely their own problem. I understand that the CRFFN had to go back to them because we have received complaints that they have not come to integrate them into the system. We are going to look into that and agree on the modalities.
“I want terminals that are here today to voice out why they are not complying. The issue of compliance is not whether we want to comply or not. All of us must comply as terminals. We already have an MoU with them” Haastrup said.
A representative of Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL), Sunday Ngige pointed out some discrepancies in the collection system while calling on the CRFFN to integrate their system on the Customs platform to deter freight forwarders from cutting corners in the payment of POF.
Mr. Lawal M.R, an enforcement officer of CRFFN on POF collection, lamented the high level of malpractice by freight forwarders adding that many freight forwarders pay far below what they are expected to pay.
Lawal informed that since the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the POF collection in 2022, only 400,000 Bill of Laden have paid the POF, while the majority of freight forwarders were shortchanging the government.
He added that, releasing officers at the various terminals have been directed not to take receipt of POF payment from freight forwarders as confirmation, he said many of the Practitioners are falsifying the receipt.
Lawal also revealed that the CRFFN is currently working with law enforcement agencies to penalize freight forwarders who have short-changed the government in POF payment. He also added that the Ministry of Transportation team would be visiting all the Terminals within the month of April 2023 for the reconciliation of POF payment records.
While speaking on the legal perspective of the fee in accordance with CRFFN Act No.16 2007, Chairman of CRFFN Committee on Fund Raising, Chief Increase Uche cautioned terminal operators and freight forwarders that POF has come to stay at Nigerian ports.