Immediate past Chairman, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Hakeem Olanrewaju, has expressed doubts over the integrity and transparency of the planned election of freight forwarders into the CRFFN Governing Board with the composition of the electoral committee set up by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Amaechi, in a public notice issued by the Transport Ministry had constituted the electoral committee following the expiration of the two-year tenure of the Council Governing Board with October 9th scheduled for a fresh election.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Olanrewaju who although commended the Minister for setting up the electoral committee wondered if the Minister cares much about both the professional integrity and the integrity of electoral processes with the composition of the committee, whose members identity he said has not been made public.
According to him, a fundamental error has been established in the making of the intended electioneering process as the outgone Governing Council Board was not properly dissolved.
Olanrewaju who is also the Chairman/ CEO of Talod Oceanier Limited alleged that there is an internal arrangement for the appointed politicians to deploy a process that will guarantee the return of the outgone freight forwarders represented back into the Governing Council Board of the CRFFN.
“It is most appropriate and appreciated that the Honourable Minister constituted an electoral committee to conduct an election for the freight forwarders to elect their professional colleagues into the Council Governing Board (CRFFN), this is most noble and administrative responsiveness indeed.
“On the other hand, is the uncertainty whether the Honorable Minister indeed cares much about both the professional integrity and the integrity of the electoral processes starting with the committee composition, especially with regards to scrutiny of their respective integrity and putting in the right perspective their parochial interests in representations, if any.
“Presently, at the expiration of the outgone Governing Council Board, while the elected freight forwarders in the board heeded to the court seeking for their tenure elongation to 4 years and not 2 years as provided by the Act 16, 2007; the appointed politicians were immediately reappointed by the Honorable Minister, ahead of the freight forwarders election. From the last experience this type arrangement creates room for political manipulations and undue leverages.
“Unconfirmed reports have it that, there exists an internal understanding and arrangements for the appointed politicians to work assiduously and to deploy a process that will guarantee the return of the outgone freight forwarders represented back into the Governing Council Board of the CRFFN.
“Wherefore, the freight forwarding practitioners are still very much doubtful and worried about the possibilities of the HMOT, unknowingly might have play into this initial conceptualized tactical electioneering and voting process packaged by the outgone Governing Council Board.
“It is on record that, the immediate past Governing Council Board set up a Tactical & Strategic Electoral Committee before their tenure elapsed, but the components of such electoral arrangements are still very much around in the present making as encapsulated above.
“It is important to openly lodge the skepticism expressed by the generality of the freight forwarding practitioners which seeks a clarification to the effect that, this published election notice is not in any way a mere tactical and strategic electoral committee and system or better stated, a furtherance of the former Governing Council Board.
“Another, crucial observation is the identity of the Electoral Committee Members which has not been made public – again, this further casts an integrity question on the electoral arrangements,” he said.
Based on the foregoing, Olanrewaju said practitioners require a confidence rekindling statement from the Minister on the issues raised because according to him, it will be administratively counterproductive to allow freight forwarders to obtain election forms at a whopping nonrefundable cost of N500,000 and to discover later that the election was a mere charade not too different from the last election.
Such arrangements, he said will be tantamount to deliberate acceptance of multiple litigations thereafter.
Olanrewaju noted that most of the administrative policies and directives taken by the Transport Ministry as a supervisory ministry to the CRFFN has continuously fallen short of driving a professional development process, which has further made the practitioners less professional.
Noting that the minister lacks the power to constitute and organize election for freight forwarders, Olanrewaju accused the Minister of misrepresenting the object clause in the CRFFN Act, which only mandates him to give directions of essential character” to the Council.
“For instance, it may be deemed considerable that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, as provided in the Act 16, 2007, midwifed the election into the First Governing Council of the CRFFN in 2008, with the recorded short comings therein.
“In 2010, the second Governing Council, the elected Freight Forwarders and appointed representatives organized and conducted an internal election, thereby fulfilling the democratic transition as provided in the third schedule, and it went smoothly without skirmishes.
“Six years (2012 to 2018) of non-constituted Governing Council board, following the earlier draw of the Governing Council curtains to close position, which was abruptly done by the Federal Ministry of Transport, who gave excuses on paucity of funds to prosecute an election.
“It outrightly, refused all entreaties by the elected practitioners who proposed to conduct the election within the ambit of its professional providence but to no avail, hence, the non-regulatory activities within the period under reference.
“In 2018, again the Ministry cooked up another general election, appointed politicians ( 98% of them non practitioners ) to represent the geo political zone of the Federation. These politicians were well seated for about six months ahead of the composition of the ideal Governing Council.
“In what the practitioners saw as a collaboration with some of the officers in the Transport Ministry in consultation with the leadership of the accredited freight forwarding associations, handed over an electoral script to the management of the CRFFN to prosecute, while they sat back to supervise.
“The outcome of that year election 2018 is a typical example of a tactical voting system
“Today, the Transport Ministry has constituted another election with consultation with the stakeholders, citing sections of the Act to mean that the Act confers on the HMOT the Power to constitute and organize an election for the Freight Forwarders, which in the understanding of the practitioners is not so.
“Rather, the practitioners are of the opinion that the HMOT merely misinterprets and misrepresents the object clause in the Act “the Honorable Minister to give directions of essential character” to the Council. In reality, judging from the First Governing Council, the said object clause is applicable where the Governing Council requires to address issues with political considerations ( e.g. internal political appointments, siting of projects, etc).
“The generality of the freight forwarding practitioners, with mouths wide open, wishes to ask, “Can the Government minister cum ministry constitute an electoral committee for the: “Engineers, Accountants, Bankers, Lawyers, Doctors, etc.
“It is worrisome to note that, some of the accredited freight forwarding associations have a long history of conducting successful internal elections, but under the prevailing circumstances are found unfit to conduct a free, fair, transparent and acceptable election in their profession.
“Indeed, seemingly, the Freight Forwarding Profession is the most disrespected and ignored among the comity of National Professional bodies in Nigeria, yet they are the most trusted and movers of the National economy.
“On this note of expressions, we therefore, call on the Honorable Minister of Transport to give a statement of essential character premised on professional integrity with regards to this subject of the election notice into the Governing Council Board of the CRFFN,” he added.