Freight forwarders under the aegis of the Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) has written to the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, expressing strong concerns on the electoral process of the planned Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) governing council election.
The letter signed by the Desk Administrative Officer, CREFFON, Edwin Chukwudiri Obi, is coming days after the Transport Ministry issued a public notice for the election of freight forwarders into the CRFFN governing Council slated for October 9, 2021.
The group who commended the decision of the Minister to conduct the election, is however seeking his intervention on what it termed some “notable grey areas’ in the public notice.
The group noted that the timing for collection and submission of nomination forms within 10 days as stipulated in the public notice is too short and capable of shortchanging interested and legible practitioners from exercising their legitimate professional rights to vote and be voted for.
It also observed that the said public notice did not mention the “display of the names of eligible registered freight forwarders or corporate firms to vote in the election as contained in the register of freight forwarders.
The group also expressed concern on the choice of Abuja as venue for the election, stating that it is not both administrative, economic and security friendly to move 95% of over 4000 registered freight forwarders from their operational base of western and eastern ports region to Abuja, except for a clandestine administrative move to disenfranchised majority of the practitioners.
The letter reads, “The import of this our open letter is to express our strong concerns as contained on the public notice under reference, especially on the following items:
“1. 3.i. “Collection of Nomination Form: 6th to 17th September 2021.
That, “Collection and submission of completed Nomination forms shall be within ten (10) days from 10am to 4pm daily in the following location”.
“Our argument is that, the timing for collection and submission of nomination forms within 10 days, is too short and capable of scheming out or shortchanging interested and legible Practitioners from exercising their legitimate professional rights to vote and be voted for in other to serve in his or her professional Governing Council, which is the peak and height of a freight forwarder Professional leadership career and Professional might so to say.
“2. 3.iii – Accreditation Of Candidates – 7th -8th October, 2021 & 3.iv. Display Of Contestants’ List – 8th October, 2021.
That, “Contestants list will be displayed at the venue of the election, CRFFN Office, Abuja and FMOT Office Abuja respectively”
“Honorable Minister, we observed that, the said public notice did not mention nor stress on the “display of the names of eligible registered freight forwarders or corporate firms to vote in the election as contains in the register of freight forwarders”, especially in the context of the limited time frame for the organization and execution of the election.
“Wherefore, as provided in the Act 16, 2007, the Register of the freight forwarders shall be published annually, which has not been effected. We hereby solicit for your urgent attention and intervention at ensuring that eligible voters lists are published early and sealed to serve for electioneering process and purposes.
“This way, practitioners will be reassured of no iota of intent to smuggle in the usual manipulation of names as it were in the previous elections.
3.3 v. ” Election – Saturday 9th October, 2021″
That, ” election shall start at 10am at the National Women Centre, opposite CBN Headquarters, Abuja”.
“Honorable Minister, we opine that, it is not both administrative, economic and security friendly to move 95% of over 4000 Registered freight forwarders from their operational base of Western and Eastern ports region to Abuja, excerpt for a clandestine administrative move to defranchise majority of the practitioners.
If not for something else, to us it is considered a defeat of objective, abinitio.
Sir, permit to allude that, from our confidence oral interactions and findings within the ministry, the claims or reasons that was posited to have informed this decision, which is that the total number of currently up dated and eligible freight forwarders on the register of freight forwarders (RFF) stands at: 4686 individual and 1425 corporate.
“Wherefore, against the background of the high number of eligible voters, expected at the election venue, was slated for Abuja, as a technical and security arrangement to limit and ensure effective crowd control and success of the election.
“Honorable Minister, this posited reasons or excuse for the shift of election venue to Abuja is neither here nor there, because there are several ways of using the electoral guidelines to check mate crowd control, other than exposing majority of the practitioners to numerous risks ranging from flight and travel risks, especially under serious national insecurity threats; extraordinary expenditures, health risks, etc.
“To say the least, the freight forwarders have not forgotten in a hurry their past experience with the first maiden election into the Governing Council, midwifed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in 2008 was not only rigged but witnessed the import of school children and streets urchin with luxurious buses into the election venue Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on the morning of the election day.
“The aftermath of that election created room for fundamental administrative misgivings, subsequently. In view of this, we solicit for your attention and urgent intervention on this aspect of our concern.
“4. 4.0. Note that, “In view of the above, all registered Freight Forwarders should strictly adhere to the election time table by this publication of notice. Also note that, the guidelines for the conduct of the election would be given at the point of collecting nomination forms”.
Honorable Minister, please note that, in item 3.vii states that, ” Payment and Collection of Nomination Form” – here again, the form collection process entails the payment of #500,000:00 into the CRFFN Single Treasury Account and the presentation of bank payment receipt to the designated centers, before the nomination form will be released and subsequently a “guideline for the conduct of the election would be given to candidate at that point.”
“In view of this, we consider the act of non-publication of the electoral guidelines accompanying this public notice as a conceived deliberate act factored not on utmost good fate.
“To say the least, it is a calculated rip off on the part of the committee. It is not ideal to first collect a non-refundable payment of #500,000:00 for an interested practitioner, and upon accessing or collection of the electoral guidelines, having effected payment to discover that he or she is not eligible to contest.
“Such approach is crooked and can be termed as day light rip off of the freight forwarders. To be emphatic, this crooked approach has the tendency to cast credibility questions and possibly engender litigations arising therefrom.
“Honorable Minister, from the previous elections experiences the rate of obtaining nomination form at high cost as #500,000:00 has always pose serious representation challenges on the part of elected freight forwarders, whom subsequently upon being sworn into the Governing Council, firstly thinks of how to recouped money spent during the election, thereby leading to poor representation of the Practitioners in the long run.
“Honorable Minister, sir, it is in the strength of these enumerated concerns that we write to solicit for your attention and urgent intervention, so as to save the integrity of our profession cum professional election.”