March 23, 2023

Maritime Today Online

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CRFFN worst agency in transport ministry- Ajani

…gives freight forwarders two weeks to nominate consensus candidates for governing board election

The Ministry of Transportation Wednesday gave freight forwarders including the five accredited associations two weeks to come up with modalities and reach an agreement to elect consensus candidates who will occupy the 15 elective posts for freight forwarders in the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

Although the Ministry is yet to make any pronouncement on a new date for the CRFFN election, it is apparent that with this development, the planned election earlier scheduled for October 9th. would no longer hold.

Recall that the five registered freight forwarders associations- namely the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Airfreight Consolidators (NAFFAC) had at a meeting on Monday agreed to a sharing formula of 6-6-1-1-1, a decision which was opposed by independent registered freight forwarders.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, who gave the directive at a stakeholders meeting organised by the ministry to address concerns raised by the freight forwarders on the electoral process of the election, said while the ministry would consider decentralizing the election, which was earlier scheduled to hold in Abuja to the three zones- Lagos, Eastern and Airports simultaneously, any zone caught recruiting machineries or registering none freight forwarders as voters would be cancelled.

Ajani said despite being a regulatory agency, CRFFN has remained the worst agency out of the eight agencies she inherited in the ministry.

Earlier, the President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Iju Nwabunike, had on behalf of the five accredited associations submitted a position paper to the Permanent Secretary demanding that the accredited associations be allowed to nominate candidates as they had voluntarily agreed to a sharing formula amongst themselves given their strength and spread.

Nwabunike also opposed having independent candidates contest the election on the grounds that the election may be hijacked by non-freight forwarders.

The representative of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) Bala Daura, in his submission, however, objected to the sharing formula of one slot allotted to the association as he noted that the AREFFN had grown in strength beyond what it was in the last governing council election in 2018.

The independent freight forwarders also took turns to present their arguments insisting that they should be allowed to contest the election as the CRFFN Act recognised individual members as freight forwarders.

Responding, the Permanent Secretary maintained that the CRFFN Act remains sacrosanct in the conduct of the election, noting that the Act does not stop a potential contestant who is not registered with any association from being voted for.

Ajani urged the freight forwarders to seek peace and ensure they nominate candidates that will move the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria forward and position it to be at par with international best practice.

“For the sake of fair play, we are going to advise you as freight forwarders to seek for peace. Come up with your agreement on how you want to spread your 15 representatives but the act is sacrosanct. It has to be five from each of the zones.

“There is also room to allow the young ones to grow, there is room for mentoring, there is also freedom of association and therefore some registered freight forwarders have chosen not to be members of any association.

“The act does not stop independent freight forwarders from contesting the election as the council has registered individual, corporate and associations as freight forwarders.

“The Ministry has provided the guideline for eligibility to vote and eligibility to be voted and if we are in a system of democracy we will need to respect that. There are some things we may not be able to consent to. The guideline you had in 2018 was based on a consensual agreement at a stakeholder’s forum like this. Three years down the line, a lot of things have happened. A review and evaluation of how the last council fared and all the challenges we are facing today speaks for itself.

“I inherited a CRFFN that is the worst agency in transportation. I have eight agencies in transportation, but CRFFN is the agency that I see that a lot still needs to be done and it’s just a regulating Council and so we need to get some things straight from the beginning.

“We are going to follow the act as much as possible. Elections will be decentralized, happening simultaneously in the three locations.

“There are people who have been in this association for more than 30 years and so they have the wealth of experience but let also look at the fact that nobody is going to be here forever and so we need to start talking about succession plan and in talking about succession plan we need to start looking at the younger generation of freight forwarders that you are grooming. I don’t want the big association to believe that leadership lies in the number. Good governance does not lie in numbers nor does it lie in age. We have followed that part as a nation and we see that there are obviously problems and yet we still want to continue in that part. There has to be a change and change comes by election.

“On the choice of candidate, look more at people who are pragmatic and have sound knowledge of the industry who will contribute. The council should not be for just anybody because it is the council that will be advising the ministry on things that concern the freight forwarders. But when I picked the files and looked at some decisions I said, who were the members of this governing council and I don’t think I want to ask that question after these elections and the new board is in place. Let’s look at a council that will advise us in the right direction, bring momentum to freight forwarding in the country and we are going to place Nigeria first and not ourselves for the benefit therein,” she said.