Transport Minister, Idris Umar
As the fight over transaction fee approved for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) by the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, continues, the Council has fingered the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as the brain behind individuals and groups opposing it.
The council, which was created through the promulgation of the CRFFN Act 2007, said NCS was allegedly sponsoring the groups to scuttle its set objective of sanitising the practice of freight forwarding, which it does not want to happen.
According to CRFFN, NCS was for allegedly working against its interest and its determination that Nigerian freight forwarders are professionalised.
The position of the council is coming on the heels of a letter that was allegedly written by the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Inde Abdullahi Dikko, to the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, advising him to stop the council from collecting transaction fees on all cargoes coming into the nation’s port.
Chairman, Governing Council, CRFFN, Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju, in a media briefing which took place at CRFFN Headquarters in Lagos, fingered NCS as the council's number one enemy. Olanrewaju stated that NCS wants to continue benefiting from the ignorance of Nigerian freight forwarders.
He alleged that the NCS was currently sponsoring two frontline freight forwarding associations in the industry, namely the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) to kick against the collection of transaction fees which the CRFFN intends to, among other things, use to train and professionalise Nigerian freight forwarders.
His words: "I was so shocked at the management of the Nigerian Customs Service, which was the first organisation we visited when we started and asked for their collaboration on training. I believe the Nigeria Customs Service does not want us to grow. It still wants to benefit from our ignorance which we want to stop.
“We want to do freight forwarding as it is being done in the whole world. Nigeria Customs Service has been issuing licenses to clearing agents over the years, but it has not been making any efforts to get them trained. This is why they call most of our people touts, but we don't want to be touts anymore. We want to be of international best practices because 70 per cent of our jobs have been taken over by foreigners”, he added.
The Chairman of CRFFN Governing Council wondered why NCS as a parastatal under the Ministry of Finance would be interfering with matters which have to do with CRFFN, which is under the Ministry of Transport.
Olanrewaju pointed out that the move of NCS about fees collection was a deliberate attempt to cripple CRFFN. According to him, fees collection from freight forwarders by agencies such as NDLEA, SON and NAFDAC over the years was never contested by either NCS or the clearing agents themselves.
He decried the lack of funds to run CRFFN because the Federal Government has not allocated money to it for the past two years to augment the cost of its day-to-day operations. “It has been very difficult to run the council without money. To even buy fuel for the running of the five offices of the council nationwide has been difficult,” he said.