FG Urged to Expedite POF Collection for Ports Devt

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Eromosele Abiodun

Following the controversy trailing the collection of Practitioners’ Operating Fees (POF) approved by the federal government, critical stakeholders in the maritime sector, have called on the government to immediately enforce the policy to ensure ports development.

They stated that the collection of POF, apart from aiming at developing our ports, will also be used to develop the practice of freight forwarding in the country.

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) stated this in a letter to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

They added that the critical role of the freight forwarders as an integral part of shipping which recognises the freight forwarding services as a vital link in global supply chain cannot be underestimated and or overemphasised.

NAGAFF, in the letter signed by its National President, Increase Uche said: “Sir, it sounds ridiculous and beggars reason and preposterous when some opponents of the collection of POF raise issues of it adding to the cost of clearing goods at our ports. This is laughable. We wish to remind you sir that similar approvals were given to NIMASA to collect three per cent gross registered tonnage of all vessels calling to our ports. Another is the two per cent of the total contract sum on cabotage vessels. This is to enhance the development of indigenous tonnage for Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) and so also seven per cent surcharge port development levy for NPA.

“Is it not hypocritical for some people to now raise the issue of adding to the cost of doing business now that Government, out of its ingenuity and benevolence wants to create avenue for Freight Forwarders to get properly trained and positioned to perform their functions with honour and integrity. As it stands today the freight forwarding profession remains the worst neglected sub sector of the economy, in spite of the fact that all over the world it is seen as the barometer to measure economic activities in any clime. Our major concern is the grave danger this scenario portends for the government and the polity.”

NAGAFF warned that when individuals or groups are allowed to obstruct government or any of its agencies, the powers of the government are whittled down, and a serious blow is dealt to the integrity and authority of that government.

“May we remark that it is getting to a point wherein the Hon. Minister under the Act should evoke its powers to deregister a non-conforming association to the control and regulation of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria because laws are made to be obeyed and respected. Honourable Minister sir, may we raise this poser for your Ministry to look into: is it proper for government to give in to cheap blackmail by someone or group wanting to use the court to tie the hand of the government unnecessarily?

“This is why we want the Minister to take a deeper look into the administration and management of the CRFFN with a view to achieving its mandate of developing the freight forwarding practice in Nigeria. Sir, we will like to chip in that as of today, although a date in September has been set for elections into the Council of the CRFFN, there is nothing on ground to suggest that something of such is in the offing. Guidelines for the elections have not been released. No information on who can contest and who can vote. Consequently, those patriotic Freight Forwarders who have heeded the call of the Ministry of Transportation to prepare for the Council elections are at sea, not knowing what to do.”

They added: “Honourable, in summary, we want you to reinforce the management and administration of the CRFFN. This may include taking another look at the personnel or better still, good the top management into being more proactive so as to be alive to their responsibilities which we think for now are lacking. The Registrar of the Council should be told in no uncertain terms that he should be more committed and proactive in dealing with issues that concern the Council.

“He should be advised to completely detach himself from the overbearing influence of the first Council members that employed him in the first place as we have observed that some members of the Council are giving him ill advice based on selfish interest on how he should run the Council.

The relevance of SW Global as a collecting agent for POF should be dropped forthwith because the alleged packaged deals with the members of the first Council may be a remote course militating against with POF payment and collection.”