Maritime: Why NAGAFF Supports Ali, Hajia Usman And CRFFN

 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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