The President, African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APPFLON); Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, in this Interview with Oluyinka Onigbinde speaks on the roles the association has played in the maritime industry since coming onboard two years ago. He touches on other sundry issues too.
What’s your take on the relocation of government agencies at the airports to Abuja and are you worried that this may affect operations of freight forwarders here in Lagos?
This is not the first time that such an order is given, the order has been in pipeline since the previous administration and I think they just want to begin enforcement, but I see no reason why they should be moved to Abuja because (one) when they were in Lagos we were complaining, so what now happens when they move, so to me those who are in Lagos should have been allowed to stay in Lagos, secondly moving them around especially during this pandemic is uncalled for. What are the provisions they have made for them, to ensure there won’t be a lacuna in the performance of their jobs? So I will plead with the federal government to allow the relocation to take place after the pandemic, if they must still relocate them.
What role did APFLON play in the suspension of the introduction of Form M and PAAR at the airports?
The issue of Form M and PAAR in Nigeria ports is not new, this has been coming up in different occasions, but this last one touched us at APFLON and this is because the situation of things in the country is not palatable and we look at it; that things that can be like impediment to ease of doing business should not be allowed, you know the FORM M and PAAR originated from Ministry of Finance via the CBN. And so we decided to cry out to the Presidency that the introduction of the Form M and PAAR negate the Presidential Enabling Business Economic Committee (PEBEC), because the airport cannot be compared to the seaports, there are goods that come through the airport that is not more than $200 dollars, will you now subject them to the bureaucracy` of getting Form M and PAAR, although the FORM and PAAR is in existence at the airports, but there is what they called procedure code 4900 which gives concession that all other items can be cleared without Form M and PAAR and invariably what government is trying to do by trying to introduce that is to regulate the money that comes into the country. So if it is as a result of this, the government can still achieve their aim through sensitization of people on the use of code 4900. So we wrote a letter to the Presidency as an advocate of ease of doing business and to the glory of God, it was suspended.
What do you have to say as regards proliferation of associations in freight forwarding?
I still believe other association will still come on board, because association is a group of great minds coming together by doing things that others are not doing or are busy to do. Having proliferation is not really the issue, if an association springs up, it is the people that will now value their performance if they are relevant or not, because the profession and the practitioners are two different things, and that’s the reason why APFLLON came onboard as an advocate of ease of doing business. And don’t forget that Nigeria has not been able to tap of the African Free Trade Agreement, and APFLON look at it that there must be a body that will coordinate freight forwarding in Africa and that is why we came onboard. We need an association that will coordinate all of us and as at today we are present in South Africa, Ghana and other part of Africa, just because the operation has not been in full force, that is why you have not really seen us in full force. Well if you look at it from the angle of proliferation, you may be right but it is good that there should be challenges, when there are challenges it will bring out the best in every association, rather than rivalry. So we expect more association to come up because idea is infinite.
As your association been accredited by CRFFN?
The constitution of the country has guaranteed the freedom of association, which is the primary thing to do, if we need to grow together. Just like I said earlier, APFLON is African association of professional freight forwarders; either accredited by CRFFN or not, I don’t think that should be an impediment to our function, and I am sure CRFFN themselves are seeing what we are doing, because we have a focus and we are barely two years old. So accreditation of APFLON by CRFFN is something which will happen, but it is not something we are desperate for, because if you look at those who have been accredited and compared them to APFLON, I am sure you will be able to put percentage. So accreditation or no accreditation will not stop us from carrying out our functions; after all, other accredited associations have been functioning before accreditation by CRFFN.
What’s the membership strength of APFLON currently?
We are over 500 members and in the last three months we have recorded more people coming because of the way we are working, and we know some associations that have spent over 20 years and you cannot feel their impact in the industry
Will your annual programme still come up this year in spite of the COVID 19 pandemic?
Of course, we will have our programme this year, but it cannot be the same like the same we had last year because of the pandemic, so we have decided to have a webinar and we are having this very soon.
Recently the FG announced N2.3 trillion stimulus package, do you think the stimulus package should be extended to freight forwarders?
Even if the government wants to extend the stimulus package how will they do that, are they giving cash or what. What the government should do is to encourage each and every association, engage them to know their challenges, you see the evolution of APFLON is primarily to look after the welfare of freight forwarders. As I am talking to you, APFLON will soon begin its multipurpose cooperative, and as at today no association of freight forwarders has that. For instance, if we have had a cooperative society before now, there is a lot of programme from CBN and the federal government that can offer money to freight forwarders and these are the thing APFLON is trying to organize and this will be open to all freight forwarders who want to be part of it. So we are not coming to rival, but to consolidate and make impact on the ease of doing business.