There are indications that the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has heightened preparations towards collection of the controversial Practitioner Operating Fees (POF).
This is even as a top official of the Council informed our correspondent that it has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with terminal operators on how the fees would be collected.
The official who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that already, the MoU with the terminal operators has the backing of the Ministry or Transportation.
According to him, the MoU is the last resort to enforce the collection of the POF. He added that, the MoU would not have been necessary if the freight forwarders had keyed in. He lamented that the current dispensation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) throws up more challenge on the laps of Nigerian freight forwarders.
“Funds such as the POF would help to ensure more training in the face of the emerging challenges of freight forwarding in Nigeria and the need to take full advantage of the AfCFTA”, he noted.
However, a member of the Governing Council of the CRFFN; Prince Adeyinka Bakare has also given his perspective on why the Council is yet to start the collection of the POF months after the agency announced that the collection will begin.
Bakare in a telephone chat with our correspondent said the council is already at 90% stage and that the collection of the POF will soon commence.
Bakare explained that the council is also waiting to integrate with the National single window platform of the Federal Government for the maritime Industry, he further explained that CRFFN being a dynamic agency does not fall under the maritime sector alone, but also under the Aviation sector and the Ministry of trade.
He also explained that the need to integrate with the other ministries for the collection of POF has caused some of the delays.
Bakare who is also the President of the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators (NAFFAC) blamed the COVID 19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protest among other factors that affected the collection.
He said: “I don’t think it’s difficult, I just think it’s the government bureaucracy and Inter government agencies that is delaying it, I think we are almost at 90% stage and I believe it’s a success, it’s just a matter of understanding, and like some of us are saying we don’t want a process that will add to the cumbersome process of clearing in the port”.
“So, we are trying as much as possible to see a process that even when you are paying as a freight forwarder, there is no need for you to start signing a form or going into to another platform to do that, as you know the government is working hard to ensure that all agencies come under a single platform and we agree that it will be nice for CRFFN to key into that from the beginning, so that we won’t start all over again, you know it’s not something easy integrating to other agencies’ platform.
“We also need to know that CRFFN as an agency is not just under Ministry of Transportation alone, we also have some agencies that are under Ministry of Aviation, we have SON that is under Ministry of Trade, so it’s a bit difficult, you know since it’s not under transport alone, we need to integrate the other agencies too, we still need to go to aviation and do that, we still need to go to ministry of trade and do that, so it’s not something we can achieve in a day and I could remember it took us almost five to six months to integrate under NPA alone, so imagine other agencies and SON that we have not really started at all, so it’s not that the CRFFN has failed in the POF collection”.
Also speaking to our correspondent, the Head Education and Research of the Council, Dr. Alban Igwe explained that already an MOU by the terminal operators and the Council has been signed, while stating that the Council is waiting for the Ministry and will soon start collection of the POF.
He explained that freight forwarders can start paying the POF without having to wait for the MOU, he said the POF will be collected as is it’s a practitioner fee that needs to be paid, while explaining that there is a need to build capacity of freight forwarders even as the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) begins.