Despite a court injunction stopping the collection of the Practitioner Operating Fee (POF), freight forwarders have alleged that the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) has been collecting the controversial fees.
Freight forwarders across the various Customs commands in Lagos ports, lamented that payment of the POF is still one of the requirements needed for cargo clearance at the terminals.
The clearing agents alleged that the CRFFN did not obey the court order restricting the collection, while blaming the various freight forwarding associations for being complicit in the collection of the POF.
The clearing agents expressed dissatisfaction as to why the various freight forwarding associations will compel their members to comply despite a court injunction restricting such collection.
Speaking to our correspondent a clearing agent and member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Pius Ujubuonu noted that some of the clearing agents are still paying the fees because they are not aware of the court injunction, while also alleging that one of the freight forwarding associations is the one facilitating the collection.
He said even though the court is trying to protect the practitioners, they have however decided to allow the association to manipulate them in the payment of the POF.
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He said, “POF is in best interest of the practitioners, but the practitioners are not open to that, the payment of POF is more or less like extortion and there have been one or two court injunctions ordering them to stop, but because they have started collecting, the teaming public does not know, they most likely will continue, until a concerted effort is made, but bearing in mind that a number of associations are complicit in the collection; they encourage their members to continue and those that the court is trying to protect, if they continued to disobey the court order and the court order is intended to protect them, the court may not bother itself about enforcement
“And I know that a particular association in this industry is even a facilitator of the collection. The issue there is, the court has stopped it and those collecting it know that they are no longer doing the right thing and if you insist that you want to see their books, they would not show you because they know that what they are doing is illegal,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr. Ejike Anthony; a freight forwarder and member of the National Council for Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agent (NCMDLCA) also confirmed that the collection is still ongoing while stating that his association is in full support of the collection.
“The issue surrounding the collection have been on ground for some time now, and even when one wrote and kicked against it, stating that what they are collecting is unfair, because they are putting more burden on the cost of clearing. So as it stands, I am not too sure they have stopped the collection”.
Also speaking, another clearing agent, Mr. Charles Nwachukwu confirmed that the CRFFN is still in the business of collecting the POF, stating that there is a kiosk in the terminal where the money is paid, he noted that cargo exit from the port is precedent on the payment of POF.
All efforts to get the Registrar of the Council for reaction to the allegation was abortive, as calls put to him were not responded to as at the time of filling in this report.
However, defending the collection, a member of the council, and the Vice President of the ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto, said the POF payment has the backing of the Federal Government, stating that what the council received was a court injunction and not court order which elapsed after 14 days of when it was served.