Since its creation in 2007 via an Act of the National Assembly, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has never ceased to be in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Although it was created for the purpose of professionalising freight forwarding in Nigeria, the CRFFN has had an unfair dose of problems right from birth, all of which have always brought it down on its knees.
When it was created, the Council was conceived as the possible solution to the myriad of problems which had militated against freight forwarding and logistics in Nigeria.
Those who fought for its birth would never have envisaged that the CRFFN, whose birth was hailed by stakeholders, would shortly afterward, be faced with ‘life-threatening’ issues, such as not even having a governing council for several years and also to become so cash-strapped as not to be able to meet its obligations.
In its early years, the quarrel was about its correct status as either a government agency or a private sector organisation. This led to a few litigations, a few of which are still undecided to date.
At another time, the CRFFN had issues with composition of its governing council membership. It was whether it should be executives of the registered freight forwarding associations. This led to the inclusion of presidents of the associations at a point in the Council’s history.
Also, the battle for funding led to the ingenuous creation of what is now known as ‘Practitioners Operations Fees’(POF), which is gradually turning the fortunes of the Council around.
All these made CRFFN the laughing stock among agencies in the Nigerian maritime sector.
So, when the CRFFN invited stakeholders to the University of Lagos, for the maiden graduation ceremony of about 400 freight forwarders, who had undergone training in different aspects of Freight Forwarding &Supply Chain Management, it elicited a bit of skepticism.
For an institution that was created in 2007 for the purpose of upscaling the skills of freight forwarders, to be celebrating its first graduation ceremony in 2021, says a lot about past management and its governing council.
This much was acknowledged by the Registrar of the Council; Barrister Samuel Nwakohu while welcoming guests to the graduation ceremony.
He said, one of the core mandates of the CRFFN is to regulate and control the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria, and also promote the highest standards of competence, practice and conduct among members of the profession.
According to him, “nurturing the CRFFN and ensuring that its registered practitioners are professionals, have been a challenging one. Coming from the background of stereotyping, the average practitioner of old, saw himself/herself as a ‘clearing agent’, whose responsibility begins and ends at the various terminals in the ports”.
For as long as it existed, the CRFFN and nay freight forwarders have been classified as the bad boys of the maritime industry. Sadly, they are the only group who still live in the past, when they are called clearing, and who are notorious for serial illegalities.
This is a painful, irony, because unknown to them, the role they play in the supply chain is perhaps more powerful than that of others.
It is saddening that, 14 years down the line, the average freight forwarder still suffers from identity crisis. While some insist on being identified as licensed customs agents (or clearing agents), others see themselves as freight forwarders. The two groups populate the CRFFN.
Read Also: What Impact do you think CRFFN’s Training and Graduation will have on the profession of Freight Forwarding?
But they do basically the same work of cargo clearance, against the intendment of the CRFFN Act of 2007, which is to recreate a new identity and engender a new set of practitioners who can stand their own anywhere in the world.
Without fear of being contradicted, it was only the governing council led by Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju who walked this talk. He took the CRFFN to FIATA and ensured that Nigeria became a member of the prestigious international freight forwarding superintending body. This opened the opportunity for training of the first set of freight forwarders, who in turn became pioneer trainers in the Trainer Of Trainers scheme.
Just like the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council; Barrister Hassan Bello, who was the Guest Lecturer at the graduation ceremony said, it is high time that freight forwarding became standardized in line with global standard.
The benefits of the recent maiden graduation ceremony will be lost if practitioners still live their lives within the walls of the various terminal and Customs commands pursuing documents in an environment that ought to be driven by Information Technology(IT).
While it is true that this is being changed by the CRFFN. Yes, today, freight forwarding is no longer restricted to the ports. It’s a long chain. But a lot still need to be done.
We agree with the CRFFN, that it cannot regulate an un-informed body of practitioners. Certainly, it cannot preach and promote standard to an illiterate body of practitioners.
The journey to a new dispensation in freight forwarding has commenced. But, stakeholders will be interested in how much the now ‘educated’ freight forwarders are willing to change the narrative.
Finally, we will support any effort that will bring life back to the CRFFN. It may appear to be unpopular, but, this may include amending the Act to wrestle control of the Council from the firm grip freight forwarders and their associations. They had the control for 14 years, but did not know what to do and how to do it.
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