Stakeholders Allay Fears Over CRFFN, NSC Conflict Over New Bill  

By Oluyinka Onigbinde 

There is palpable fear among freight forwarders over the controversial bill proposing the repeal of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Act and its replacement with the Nigerian Shipping and Port Economic Regulatory Agency.

The bill, Shipping Position Daily gathered has elicited intense debate in the shipping industry, with stakeholders fearing that the new agency’s powers may conflict with that of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding (CRFFN).

Dr. Kayode Farinto, former acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA)m in a memo submitted to the National Assembly and obtained by our correspondent, highlighted several contradictions between the proposed NSC Act and the CRFFN Act.

He stated, “Section 4 (1) of the proposed NSC Act, which regulates Nigerian ports concession agreements, may conflict with the role of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) saddled with that responsibility, except it shall work in conjunction with NPA to ensure that it regulates the ports concession agreement.”

Farinto also pointed out that “subsection 181 may contradict the role of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding practice under Section 17 of the CRFFN’s Act, which is mandated and saddled with regulating freight forwarding practice in Nigeria. Shippers’ Council cannot impose any levy, licenses, and registration fees on this practice because there is an existing law, Act No 16 of 2007.” he said.

Speaking further, Farinto stated that another major issue is the potential for double taxation. “Sections 26 and 58 of the proposed bill suggest new levies on freight and service providers, which stakeholders argue will lead to increased costs for cargo clearance at ports. This could burden shippers and indirectly affect the entire supply chain, escalating the cost of goods and services for consumers

“This risk of double taxation is contradicting the government’s policy to eliminate multiple taxes and levies”

He however suggested alternative funding mechanisms, such as charging a small percentage on repatriated funds by shipping companies, to avoid overburdening local stakeholders.

He further proposed that a member of the CRFFN management team be included on the board of the new agency. This he said will foster inter-agency collaboration and mitigate potential conflicts.

Speaking also, Mr. Babatunde Mukaila, an ANLCA chieftain, expressed concerns over the potential for over-regulation. He remarked that, “if the Shippers’ Council is going to regulate the shipper, I have no problem with that. However, the Shippers’ Council should not over-step into regulating freight forwarders, which is the mandate of the CRFFN. Their focus should be on protecting the interests of shippers, including importers and exporters.”

In a recent press briefing also the Maritime Advocacy Foundation (MAF), represented by Dr. Eugene Nweke, also strongly opposed the bill.

Nweke emphasized the vital role of shippers in the economy and the need to protect their interests against unfair trade practices. He argued that the current Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act has effectively safeguarded these interests and that repealing it would be a “deliberate insult to the wisdom of our nation’s founding fathers.”

Nweke had highlighted international conventions like The Hague and Hamburg Rules, which govern relationships between ship owners and cargo owners, as frameworks that the existing Shippers’ Council adheres to in protecting shippers’ rights. He called on the government to retain the current Act to ensure continued economic stability and fair competition in the maritime industry.

Speaking also in a chat with our correspondent, Alebiosu Dosunmu a member of the National Council of Managing Directors of License Customs Agents (NCMDLA) argued that consolidating regulatory functions under one agency could streamline operations and enhance efficiency.

He however, acknowledged the need for careful consideration to prevent overlapping jurisdictions and ensure that the interests of all stakeholders, including freight forwarders are adequately protected.

Meanwhile the House Committee on Shipping Services and Related Matters has said that the Nigerian Shipping and Port Economic Regulatory Agency Bill when passed into law, would curb arbitrary charges at the country’s ports.

The Chairman of the committee, Abdussamad Dasuki, disclosed this in Abuja last week, while addressing journalists after a public hearing on the repeal of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act.

Dasuki stated that the bill would also tackle other illegality from operators in the nation’s maritime industry.

He explained that the committee was still collating memoranda from various stakeholders on the “bill before going ahead to present the report before the House of Representatives for the third reading”.

According to Dasuki, the next step would be to present the report to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“The hearing today showed that every stakeholder in the Nigerian maritime industry wants an economic regulator for the industry. The era of impunity has to stop,” Dasuki said.

He added that the stakeholder’s inputs were very useful and educative.

Nigeria’s maritime industry is overdue for this, and we would see to its implementation,” he asserted.

Also, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola, explained that the new bill, when passed into law would enthrone a regulatory framework in the Nigerian maritime industry.

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