Since its creation, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has never ceased to be in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Created in 2007 via an Act of the Nigerian National Assembly 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 to the fore.
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 have forced it not to have 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 membership. It was whether it should 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.
Later, the Council had to battle for funding. It was the paucity of funds for the council that led the then-Minister of Transport; Senator Idris Umar to approve that, the CRFFN should start collecting Transaction Fees (as it was then known) on all imports into the country
This led to the ingenuous creation of what is now known as ‘Practitioners Operations Fees’(POF), which has become another turn in the flesh of CRFFN.
Sadly, the Council has crawled into its 14th year and without fear of being contradicted, one can say that, since its creation, the CRFFN has not enjoyed peace. At different times, it has had to contend with freight forwarding associations and individual freight forwarders; it has also had to contend with Government and its functionaries, at different times. It has been bruised and beaten severally to a pulp.
The latest fight is about the tenure of the governing council, a situation that has been brought to a close by a recent court ruling.
The Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja; Justice N.E Maha dismissed the suit seeking for tenure elongation for members of the governing Council.
It is instructive that, the Judge also declared that the interpretation of the Act of the CRFFN allows only for two years’ tenure and not four years.
Notably, the suit was filed by: the President of the National Association of Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Increase Uche, the incorporated trustees of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and a member of ANLCA; Mr Bamidele Azeez.
Sadly, and as is customary with Nigerians when it concerns obedience of court rulings, members of the governing council of the CRFFN are still grandstanding over the ruling.
Despite the subsisting court ruling on the expiration of their tenure, the embattled chairmen of committees in the governing council have vowed not to return the official vehicles that were given to them. This is even after the council’s management had written the concerned governing members and given them ultimatum to return the vehicles in their possession.
Nine of them, except the Vice Chairman of the sacked council; Chief Henry Njoku, showed any seriousness about the import of the judgement, which is yet to be appealed.
At this point in the history of the CRFFN, perhaps it is apt to ask is it was wrong to have fought for the creation of a body that would enhance the freight forwarding profession in Nigeria?
What is also baffling is that the Minister of Transportation has gradually lost interest in the CRFFN. We recall that, shortly after he was appointed, the Minister did what previous Ministers failed to do. While his predecessors looked the other way as freight forwarders crippled their regulatory agency, Amaechi told those who cared to listen that the CRFFN must be accorded its statutory respect as stipulated in its enabling Act.
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.
The truth is that, by their actions or inaction, they crippled the CRFFN!
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