“Tenure of elected members of CRFFN Governing Council is four years, not two” —Dr Boniface Aniebonam

.Why do we need to follow the Council that does not follow the rule of law?

.It is unfortunate that Rotimi Amaechi is not giving attention to CRFFN

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In this concluding part of the two-part interview with Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), he speaks on the controversies surrounding the CRFFN

What is the tenure of members of the Governing Council of CRFFN?

Those appointed have two years while those elected have four years

But people are contesting that?

The case is in court, that is what I am telling you, people can be very mischievous; the current Council want to extend their tenure and it’s unfortunate that Rotimi Amaechi, may not have given us any attention in this CRFFN administration, because I know him as someone who is very upright, but does he have the time, has he taken time to understand what is happening in CRFFN. If he did, things would change. Remember, he is a politician, he has other things to do than talking about CRFFN, they may get a minute of him or two, but it is unfortunate.

There are controversies regarding the collection of POF, what is your position on this?

I have read so many things that people talk about, it is very unfortunate. It is only in
freight forwarding business that you see people who are so unpatriotic; only that government cannot cry out, otherwise how can you give this kind of thing to somebody and the person uses his hand to destroy it. Government in her wisdom and magnanimity provided for us, gave approval, go and pick this money and develop freight forwarding profession in Nigeria, because the government understands that freight forwarders are the strategic partners of the government, working at the gate way of the nation’s economy. The centre of any nation’s economy, they are coordinating agent in terms of human and material, freight forwarder very critical persons. But here we are, we are struggling to even occupy a space, there is no Council in this country that will rival CRFFN, but look at how we have destroyed it by ourselves, very unfortunate.

But there are insinuations that some associations are divided about the POF sharing formula?

The CRFFN has a mandate to enhance professionalism, ethical standards just like in other professions in this country and because of that, training and certification becomes very critical and that is what the money is meant for; to build the structures. One of the immediate problems is lack of knowledge, on the part of freight forwarders. So we live a life of giving bribe and taking, not being in a position to defend our profession.

But POF is not very popular among freight forwarders, because it seems as though they don’t want to pay?

Who wants to pay money, who wants to pay Customs dues, do you want to pay any levies of the government? Don’t drag us to that please, any moment you ask anyone to pay money; they will never be laughing with you, so talking about that is not something to be discussed. Do you know at the port level, what you tell an importer or a freight forwarder or any persons that has business to do in the port is for him/her not to pay any duties, levy or charges, such person will be clapping for you that you are a good person, but once you ask for any payment, there will be an issue.

How do you get compliance to payment of POF?

When you have knowledge, you ought to be afraid of the law, somebody like me, I am afraid of the law. I know what the Customs law is talking about, how punitive the law is; look at section 46-47, 161,162. Can I tell you something Customs is the most patriotic Nigerian ever seen.

Why can’t the same be applied to CRFFN in POF collection and compliance?

Do you comply over what you don’t know about?

Do you mean freight forwarders are not aware of the need to pay POF?

If you are trained by somebody as a freight forwarder, who is very fond of improper Customs examination and who takes container out of Customs control, you see it as a way of life, if you are a freight forwarder who is very good in forging Customs document and other related documents, how do you grow? You grow with that, but if you have gone through a formal training where you will be told what is wrong and right, the story will be different. As I speak, I know my limitations. I cannot afford to move container out of the port not being examined; because I am not the importer, and I should have known that if I do not do Customs examination and if anything happens on the contrary, probably on the time of delivery of the consignment, then I have been involved in conspiracy and the law will catch on me also. But if I encourage examination, whatever is in the container will be seen at the examination bay of the customs and I can always be used as a principal witness, we need this knowledge, so many things are wrong that people are doing, but they don’t know the consequences.

What will CRFFN do to ensure compliance?

CRFFN as at today; its status is that of an agency of the government, nobody stops government from collecting money due to it, the CRFFN administration is wrong. In fact, I pray for them because they don’t know what they are doing because if they know what they are doing, then who the are you to stop government from collecting this money. The money that is approved by the government even up to National Executive Council, the good news is those who have gone to court, if they have gone to court let the court make pronouncement, if court make a pronouncement so be it. But I don’t see any court telling government not to carry out their responsibilities, because it is the money also they used to pay the judges. The problem we are having is the leadership of CRFFN, now they have started again, look at the confusion right now, do we have a standard Council? We don’t know, why they are telling the elected members of the Council that their tenure is over; when their tenure is not over, they still have their two years to go and that is causing confusion. The past council members did their four years, why are these ones different? Who is behind it, but you know at time nemeses catches people, because the Council right now while they are having problems, you know Nigerians are terrible set of people, you know people don’t really know that life is not the way they take it. The fight is not the fight of the members contributing money to go to court; the fight is meant for the association. Do you know that all these elected members when they got into the council they abandoned the associations, and those ones could not come back to the association, today
they don’t have the guts to come back to us and we are not going to keep quiet, because it is not about them, but about our profession and I am sure any moment from now, we are going to write a joint document to the Honourable Minister of transportation in that regard. It is not all matters that are resolved in the court, there are matters you need to sit down and discuss. I don’t think that if NAGAFF, ANLCA as a body and the other associations endorse a document telling the Honourable Minister that, these elected members of the Council have two years to finish their tenure and if they don’t do that so be it, and we stay away from the Council and the Council will lose membership.

Are you threatening to pull out of the Council?

Why do we need to follow the Council that does not follow the rule of law, CRFFN registered
five associations and its members, the members of NAGAFF are the members of CRFFN, the members of ANLCA are members of CRFFN and some people are not even members of the associations, but majority are members of associations. So if you are breaching the law that regulates members of CRFFN we are at liberty to say No, we cannot continue with this, so the constitutional provisions are there; freedom of association and I don’t think that Rotimi Amaechi has given time to look into the administration of CRFFN, I know if he does he will get it right and things will happen. The coercive nature of the government makes it mandatory to achieve certain objectives and that is why some of us have decided to keep quiet since CRFFN parades itself as an agency of the government as enthroned by the court, although we are in the appeal court. But as it were now, we have discovered that it is better for us to remain with the government for now, so that we can get our house together because it is very obvious now that we cannot come together the way it is. But most recently, some people in ANLCA are beginning to see reason, I had a meeting Henry Njoku of course you know he is strategic in ANLCA, I had a meeting with Tony Iju; these are top echelon and we are talking, many people are beginning to see why we have to come together; coming together in a technical alliance, it does not mean merger to become one association, but we can come together at certain level and agree on certain things to do, just like we came together in the matter of disposition of allocating the Council membership seats.

What do you think is the way forward for CRFFN?

The way forward is for Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation) to do a system study of
CRFFN and give directive, if you look at section 5 of CRFFN Act, the Minister has the mandate to give direction in the management of CRFFN, he shouldn’t be a party to those going to the government purse to pick money, he should do a system study and know certain people he needs to call to know what to do to get the Council working. If he doesn’t have the time what about the permanent secretary; it is not about bringing politicians to the Council, is that what CRFFN is all about?