One year after assuming office, freight forwarders have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the performance of the current acting Registrar of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Mrs Chinyere Uromta. This is even as they have called for a significant improvement in advocacy and addressing concerns about practitioners’ welfare.
While acknowledging the challenges she inherited, the sentiments expressed by representatives of various freight forwarding associations paint a picture of an overall feeling of a lack of tangible progress and a disconnect from the needs of the industry.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that upon the expiration of the tenure of the immediate past Registrar of the Council; Barrister Sam Nwakohu on January 31, 2023, the Governing Council directed him to hand over the affairs of the regulatory body to the most senior officer in the agency; Mrs Chinyere Uromta who was the Director, Regulations and Enforcement of the council.
But, in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents last week, the Deputy National President, Headquarters of the National Association of Government Approved Freight forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr Simeon Nwonu acknowledged the stormy situation that the CRFFN faced during the transition.
Nwonu shed light on a significant hurdle faced by CRFFN, which is the removal from the federal government budgetary allocation. According to him, this shift poses a challenge for the acting Registrar, requiring decisive actions to navigate the financial constraints.
Despite these challenges, the NAGAFF Chieftain admitted that while the Acting Registrar has initiated positive reforms, more substantial efforts are needed. He acknowledged the ongoing challenges and expressed expectation for further improvements.
“Honestly speaking, it is not an easy assessment based on the fact that I can say that the woman took over when CRFFN was passing through a stormy situation. The former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi did not do quite well as he took CRFFN as his personal property. The Governing Board was like puppets to him. As a result, things were not going the way they should go and that became a problem; even when the woman took over. It wasn’t easy.
“But if you ask me, I can still tell you that the woman has not done badly. At least she has started something now by visiting stakeholders, registered associations, sharing her views with them. I think that is a welcome development. It is a step in the right direction” Nwonu said.
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr Emmanuel Onyeme lamented the tough situation within the freight forwarding industry despite the presence of relevant regulatory bodies that are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring ease of doing business in the ports.
Onyeme emphasized that according to operational practitioners in the ports, nothing has changed, and the industry remains stagnant and in some aspects, is worsening.
On his part, another freight forwarder; Mr Festus Ukwu criticized Uromta’s tenure, describing it as “nothing to write home about.” He expressed frustration with the acting registrar’s elusiveness, citing the inability to reach her for the past six to seven months.
Ukwu however called for more attention to the welfare of freight forwarders and urged the CRFFN to address economic challenges in the ports.
“Her tenure in the last one year is nothing to write home about. We have been trying to reach her for the past six to seven months. We have not been able to reach her. She has been so elusive. You can see the stagnant nature of the clearing agents. We are still expecting to hear from the council as regards the current economic tragedies happening in our ports”, Ukwu said.
In contrast, the National Vice President of National Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC), Anthony Onyike offered a more optimistic perspective, stating that she is doing better than her predecessor.
Onyike commended her openness to stakeholders and entrepreneurial spirit. He acknowledged the challenges faced by CRFFN believing that they will soon be stabilized with the funds received from the Practitioners Operations Fund (POF).
“I think she is doing better than the man that was there before her. I think she is open to stakeholders to discuss and seek meaningful solutions. So I think she will be better. I can tell you that she is a very good person and an entrepreneur. However, there have not been many benefits from CRFFN to the freight forwarders over the years. I believe her tenure has not completely taken-off.
“But now with the little money that they’re getting from POF, I think they’re trying to stabilize and begin to work. They’ve not really worked well in the past”, Onyike concluded.