Alh. Abubakar Tsanni is the Chairman, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). In this exclusive interview with Shulammite ‘Foyeku, he speaks on the consideration of having the Importers Association of Nigeria on the CRFFN register and eligibility to benefit from POF collection. He also speaks on the Council’s effort to professionalise freight forwarding practice in Nigeria among other issues.
Last week the Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN) demanded a 10 percent share from the total collection of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF). On what basis are the importers demanding a percentage when the agreed sharing formula by CRFFN only recognizes declarants and accredited associations as beneficiaries?
Immediately after the meeting with the importers I have been receiving calls and many of our members are asking the same question but I think people generally misunderstand what this is all about. The POF is said to be for declarants and the accredited associations. So, when the importers made the demand, what we advise them is to first of all go and register with CRFFN because the council is free for everybody to register as long as they meet up with all the necessary requirements. They are going to register their association; it is through that that the CRFFN will decide whether they are eligible to benefit from POF because it is only those that are making the payment of the POF that are the beneficiaries. A committee of registration has been formed. So, it is the committee that will look at all the possibilities of having the importers register as an accredited association with CRFFN. Whatever the case is, it is the committee that will make the decision on that. So, I have just referred the importers back to the CRFFN committee of registration so that they can follow due process.
Are you saying their request for a share of the POF may be granted if they meet the requirement for registration?
Definitely, they will be part of the beneficiaries of the POF.
CRFFN has often threatened to deny unregistered freight forwarders access to the port. How do you intend to achieve this and how far have you gone in the documentation process?
Our target is to make sure we achieve that by December and I can assure you the process is still going on. Right now, the CRFFN Registrar is working hand in hand with other agencies to see how we can achieve this because we have to issue them with Identity cards to identify those who are registered with CRFFN. Once that is done, unregistered freight forwarders will not be allowed access or operate in the port. The reason for the delay in take-off is because there was no CRFFN board for a long time but now that the board has been constituted definitely the process will continue. We are working with all the necessary agencies to achieve this including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Shippers’ Council in collaboration with the transport ministry.
CRFFN in recent times has been encouraging more training of freight forwarders in a bid to enhance Nigeria’ s competitiveness in global trade. How far have you gone with this and how many practitioners have so far benefitted from the training?
The CRFFN governing council has already made it a law that only practitioners with certain qualifications can practice and we have determined that the FIATA Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management would be the minimum standard of qualification required as a freight forwarder in Nigeria. So, if you don’t have this qualification, you will not be allowed to practice. At the moment I don’t have the number of those that have been trained but we are doing a lot in training of freight forwarders and the training is free. The idea behind all these is to develop freight forwarding in Nigeria.
Freight forwarders have oftentimes accused the CRFFN of not living up to expectations especially in addressing challenges they face with shipping companies, terminal operators and Customs. What assurance are you offering at this time?
Yes, you are right on the complaints by the freight forwarders but we have to start from somewhere. Presently, a lot of committees have been formed to meet up with some of the operational challenges practitioners face. We now have committees of registration, education and training, enforcement committee and many others. We even have a disciplinary tribunal whereby those that refuse to comply with regulations and laws by CRFFN will be dealt with. So, with all these committees, a lot of things will begin to take shape especially on challenges of members at the port. Considering the fact that during our first tenure in office, there were a lot of challenges with the council but this time around we are going to do our best to see that we overcome those challenges. Just assess us within six months and see our performance.
What is the greatest challenge you have encountered in office since your assumption of office as CRFFN Chairman?
The major challenge is to see how freight forwarders and associations speak in one voice. If they speak in one voice, I’m sure that we will have tackled most of our challenges. That is why a Consultative forum committee has been set up to see that they bring all the freight forwarders and associations to speak in one voice. That has been the major challenge for us in the Council.
How are you managing the challenge?
We are managing the problem through the consultative committee. The committee is made up of members of the governing board including the Registrar, the Vice Chairman, presidents of the various associations, Secretary of the associations and other major stakeholders in the industry. The idea is to table all the challenges and see how to tackle them.
What are your expectations from the new Minister of Transportation?
We are expecting the new transport minister to give us all the necessary support as the Permanent Secretary has been doing. Specifically, we want him to direct that the administration of the Council henceforth be strictly guided and in accordance with the extant law and regulation of the CRFFN. As long as the minister allows the law to stay, we are not going to have any issues.