By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, are opposed to the Abubakar Tsani, a retired Army Colonel ,,led Council For Registration of Freight Forwarders of N, collecting the Practitioners operating fee, PoF, would be disappointed.
Only recently, Boniface Aniebonam, founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders , NAGAFF, had said that ANLCA, under the close watch of Tony Iju Nwabuike had said that the Association is opposed to the PoF as against other sister Associations which supports the payment of the fee to facilitate the training of the younger generation agents on the basic rudiments of Clearing.
The AGAFF, founder had further criticized Nwabunike, the ANLCA, President, who incidentally was the peioneer Chairman , of the CRFFN, of being responsible for attracting government interest into the Council which ordinarily should be a purely private Organisation by turning into a government agency.
The Value News had confronted Nwbunike , the ANLCA President, who has succeeded in putting his House in order by bringing together all the warring factions tearing the Association apart to a round table discussion, over the weighty allegations. He considered the NAGAFF , founder allegations laughable, stressing that if there is any Association that actually supports the collection of the PoF, by CRFFN, it ANLCA is one of them . ‘’We did not oppose the collection of the PoF’’, he had said.
In an a short interview with the Magazine ,barely one hour of his return from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territor, FCT, where he had led the ANLCA , Executive to pay a courtesy call on Gbemisola Saraki, a former Senator, Federal Reublic of Nigeria and minister of state, Transportation.
Nwabunike and his Executives , may have considered it necessary to visit the minister as Rotimi Amechi, a former governor of Rivers state, the minister of Transportation had shared the ministerial job. He had given to himself the responsibility of overseeing the unpland Railways Transport sector of the ministry while he handed over all matters relating to the nationan’s maritime sector to Senator Saraki, the minister of state.
A source who was privy to the meeting disclosed that the ANLCA President took advantage of the closed door meeting with the minister to chip in their stand on the PoF. He had told the Magazine that the Association has made its position known to CRFFN . According to him, the Association has sent a position paper to the Council stating that the only way it could get 100% of its support, is that the PoF, must be judiciously used for the training of agents.
Note that NAGAFF, may have taken advantage of its closeness to Tsani, the Council Chairman, to ensure that members follow religiously every directive of the Council. IT was therefore not very surprising that when the Council called for the registration of Practitioners and be issued with their identity card numbers in order to enable them have access to its website, to do their business at the seaports, with ease, NAGAFF , members turned out in their large number to authenticate their membership . Aniebonam confirmed that of the 1,300 registered members of the Council, the Association alone has 1,100 members on the list , leaving Nwabunike led ANLCA, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents , NCMDLCA, and other Associations to jostle for the remaining 200 members on the list.
Many believe that now that the ANLCA , leadership, has come out to state their stand on the PoF, which had been the main reason, for not given members the go ahead to register, the Council may be forced to review the list in order to accommodate other Association members who may want to register now.
Already, the Council was said to said to have talking about the registration and issuance of Identity Card number with the Customs Authorities over with the Customs Authorities to use it as a yardstick to review practitioners operating lincence. Moreso, the technical partners for the PoF collection , SW Global Limited has made it clear to those that cares to listen that Freight Forwarders who have not registered with the Council may not be allowed to make the payment , let alone access the port to exit their importers’ cargo. The ‘’20’’ Container attracts N1000.00 while the ‘’40’’ Container attracts N2,0000.00.
According to the Company officials: to pay for the PoF ,, the practitioner must be a registered Freight Forwarder with membership number . The Company noted that such a Practitioner must have complete up to date payment of all subscription dues, and must not be indebted to the Council in any way.
The Company was said to have given the payment of the PoF and subscription dues, as a pre-condition for accessing the CRFFN, Wwebsite , in order to login in their membership number and provide the bill of laden Number , to be able to know the applicable fee to pay for a particular cargo, before payment could be made.
Given that no Practitioner would want to loose his or her operating license, may force ANLCA and NCMD, members to comply with the Council orders of registering with it. Between 2017 and now, past and present ministers of Finance and National Economy, batptised ministry of Finance, Planning and Budgets had, piled up pressure on the council leadership to put the necessary machinery in motion that could facilitate the collection of the PoF but that was how far the ministers couldgo.
Maritime watchers believe that the Council had delayed the collection of the PoF, over the years because of the subvention it was getting from the government as one of its agencies. But Nwabunike , the pioneer Chairman of the Council said the government subvention to run the Council was not unexpected as it was contained in the Act setting it up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. He noted that the minister of Transportation was made the supervising minister as the Council was given the mandate to devise ways of generating revenue to carry out its operations , particular, for Capacity Building.