By Elizabeth Chukwuma
More facts have emerged why Boniface Aniebonam, the founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, and the Association members appear to have thrown their weight behind Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Council For Registration of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, CRFFN.
This is because the duo. Ali and Hajia, Usman, particular, were the first Chief Executive of two government agencies, that had ever visited the NAGAFF, village , at Apapa, since it was established , over 20 years ago.
The NAGAFF, founder and the Association members’ support for Abubakar Tsani, a retired Army Colonel and Chairman, CRFFN, was informed by the fact the Council was their ‘’ brain child’’ and therefore, could not be seen to join the Association of Nigerian Licensed Agents, ANLCA and others to forestall it from carrying out its operational mandate as contained in the Act establishing it by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Indeed, NAGAFF, and its Founder may not have found anything to criticise Ali, Hajia Usman or the CRFFN leadership. It was not surprising why the Association, on the orders of Aniebonam, which is used to coming up with position papers on national issues had refused to take a stand on the allegations made by Francis Ade Fanduhunsi, a retired Assistant Comptroller General , ACG, of Customs, and now an elected Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Osun state born politician had alleged that the Customs Comptroller General spent N1.6 billion to engage the services of a Consulting firm to recruit 3,200 personnel into the service. The allegation carries weight as the Vice Chairman, of the Senate Committee on Customs.
The NAGAFF founder, had told those that cares to listen that if it was either Sani Abubakar Nuhu, a retired ACG, Customs Headquarters or Julius, or Nwagwu, a retired, Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, Trade and Tariff, TT, that had made the allegation, the Association would have known what to do.
Many have also expected the Association to speak out on the recent policy Statement ofby Hajia Usman, who was said to have used her executive powers , to divert some ocean going vessels carrying cargoes that were scheduled to be discharged in Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island to the south eastern ports of Delta, Warri, Calabar, Cross River state, Onne and Port Harcourt Area 1.
The decision was said to have been taken after the Authority ‘s meeting with the Terminal Operators and the Shipping Companies to ease the Congestion in the Lagos pilotage District. The directive which took off on Monday, January 27, 2020, had seen many importers who had their cargoes scheduled to be discharged at any of the Lagos ports taken to the south east, this forcing their agents to relocate to the south east ports to clear it and take delivery.
Although the policy Statement may not have been favourable to the Lagos based importers , whose agents, belonged to NAGFF , ANLCA, and other Associations, as they may have to travel to these south east ports to take delivery of their importers’ cargoes by incurring the additional cost, which may be too much for the importer to accommodate, some NAGAFF, members had expected their leaders to condemn the action but that was how far they could go.
At an interactive session with Maritime Journalists in Lagos recently, Anniebonam, the NAGAFF founder, who could not hide his feelings disclosed that shipping which is an International business, gave the shipper the mandate to decide which port to take his or her cargo to. In the case of Nigeria, most of the shippers had preferred the Lagos ports as against the south east because of the population and the market as Commercial hub of the country .
Aniebonam may have frowned at the Authority’s action going by his remarks: if the Authority had appreciated the relevance of the south east ports, it could not have Concentrated its efforts in developing the Lagos ports only.
According to him, ‘’we should not have gotten to this problem of Congestion in the Lagos pilotage District that had warranted the diversion of cargoes to the south east ports if the right step had been taken by the Authority in the past. The NAGAFF founder emotional outburst, was an indication that the Association has a very strong opinion about the ship diversion to the south east ports but had decided to keep a sealed lips to avoid heating up the system, which he believes had Collapsed.
He cited the shipping Companies which do whatever they like as they deliberately refuse to refund importers Container deposit. He said the case of the importers are made worse as cargoes are carried on a Free-On Board, FOB, basis, which put the much of the cost on the import instead of Cost, Insurance and Freight, COF, as being canvassed by the indigenous shipping Companies.
He believes that if former Director Generals of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had done what Dakuku Peterside, the agency Director Genera, is currently doing to reverse the trade policy by holding different meetings with relevant government agencies, particular, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, officials, the shipping Companies would have changed long ago to carry Nigeria bound cargoes on CIF.
Aniebonam , who was said to have been taken up on the CRFFN, that had had been opposed by Olayiwola Shittu, a Port Harcourt based agent, and former President of ANLCA, despite the Association producing Tony Nwabunike, as the pioneer Chairman of the Council .Nwabunike is currently the President of ANLCA, which was almost at the brink of Collapse both for the intervention of some prominent members .
Note that NAGAFF, had dragged the Council to Court on grounds that it was not established to be a government Agency and therefore, should not be treated as one where it could be getting allocations from the Federation Account, like the three tiers of government: local, state and Federal governments and agencies. The Association has promised to take the case to the Supreme Court, if it could not favourable hearing from the Appeal Court.
It is instructive to note that the Act establishing the Council gave it the mandate to collect the Practictitioners Operating Fees, POF, as a way of generating revenue to run the Council. It was not surprising why Aniebonam and NAGAFF, had thrown their weight behind the Council for the collection of the POF. ‘’The Council, according to the NAGAFF founder, needed the money in order to increase the Capacity of Training the young generation of Freight Forwarders. The mistake made from the onset , where the government took over the funding the Council may have given it the ammunition to become interested in its activities including revenue Collection.T
the backing of the Council by the Association, , may have informed why it has sent a signal to the various Associations that make up the Council last Wednesday that it is set to start the Collection of the POF, any moment from now.
Going by the Act , setting up the Council, a ‘’20’’ Container would attract a N1,000.00 fee while the importer of a ‘’40’’ Containerised cargo would pay N2,0000.00, before the Practitioner, would be allowed to exit f it out of the port to the importers’ warehouse or any other destination.
Samuel Nwakohu a Layer and , the Registrar of the Council has made clear to those cares to listen that there is no going back on the POF collection no matter the opposition from certain quarters. He had said that the Council is working with SW Global Ltd, as the technical partners to facilitate the Collection of the POF, expected to go a long way in assisting it in its daily expenses .
Many believe that what may have made the Council officials to be very serious with the Collection of the POF, was because of its daily increasing expenses. Take for instance , the Council over Head cost is put at about N27 million monthly, which the government may no longer be able to accommodate because of other Competing needs. Last year, the government was said to have released only eight months of such allocations, which , which the Registrar, confirmed was never regular.
The Registrar, who gave an insight on how the POF, Collection would be shared among the stakeholders revealed that 25 percent would go into the Federation Account, , 35 percent would to the Practitioners, 20 percent to the technical partners while 20 percent would go to the Council.
The government may have agreed to pay the SW Global, the technical partners that much from the anticipated POF, collection because they built the portal and did most of the integration , described as a whole package by the Council.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that it would be very difficult for any Practitioner to refuse to make the payment because of the measures put in place by the Council. The Council was said to have devised a technical means of getting the fee collected from the Practitioners. This may informed why the Council officials said ‘’technology will enforce the collection of the POF, from the Practitioners’’.
Already the Council was said to have started a process of integration with NPA, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA,. The Magazine learnt that negotiation between the Council and the agencies had reached advanced stage. The message was very clear to importers with their agents: if you don’t pay the POF, you won’texit your cargo from the port’’. The Practioners also have to contend with the Council over the renewal of their operating License by cUstoms Authorities. Thee Council appear to have won the heart of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS. Not to renew any Practitioner’s license unless the applicant is a registered member of the Council and not defaulting in the payment of the POF. Ali, was said to have keyed into the it. This is bad news for ANLCA members who may want to renew their operating license.
Perhaps, to avoid obstructing the flow of cargo traffic at the seaports and the International airports across the country , CRFFN, officials, were said to have agreed with the terminal operators, particular, those at the seaports on how to go about the POF Collection.
Nwakohu, the Registrar has predicted that the Council would pay about N5 billion into the Federation Account annually, but however, failed to tell Nigerians the total amount that would be generated by the Council, annually, like the Customs that had given itself a target of N2 trillion revenue Collection this year.
Aware that ANALCA and its members may want to show some resistance to frustrate the Collection of the POF, the Council, which already has the ear of President Muhammadu Buhari it, has vowed to make things difficult for practitioners to do their business at the ports if they fail to register with the Council. The NAGAFF leadership, may have known about this from the onset that it has about 1,100, of the 1,300 registered members of the Council while other Associations settled for the remaining 200 members.
ANLCA and the Lucky Amiewero, led National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, may have shot itself on the leg by not getting their members to register with the Council, thus making the coast clear for NAGAFF, to be dictating the pace of the Council. This is evident with the planned Collection of the POF. The NAGAFF officials in the Council, according sources, have the the ear of Tsani, the Chairman, which gave them an edge over ANLCA Council members.
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