It is no longer news that about 13 ghost workers were allegedly discovered at the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) recently.
But what is the news is the general mum that greeted the allegation especially from the CRFFN quarters and stakeholders in the maritime industry at large.
One begins to wonder how a body, saddled with the responsibility of regulating the affairs of the freight forwarders, could be caught up in a corruption web.
What warranted such in the first place? How can the leadership of the CRFFN, made up of the associations in the industry, free itself from corruption mess it suddenly found itself?
Why is it that nothing is being said or done concerning the issue raised?
Perhaps, the alleged accusation may be true, hence the mum or disquiet in the sector.
The announcement for the discovery of 13 ghost workers at CRFFN by a member and the President, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Mr. Bala Daura, raised eyebrows in the maritime industry.
He claimed that nothing less than 13 persons have been collecting salaries on the payroll of the council without offering any services.
He had claimed he found out when the personal budget for the association was to be submitted on June 1, 2020.
For how long has this been going on?
Are the accused persons known?
Who’s behind these ghost workers at CRFFN?
Daura opened the can of worms on social media platforms, saying the discovery was made as the CRFFN prepared to submit its budget on June 1, 2020.
He alleged that the ghost workers on CRFFN payroll are Sule Samson Bello, Ojo Oyindamola, Adugo Ifeoma Helen, Ahmad Umar Ahmad, Edosomwan Kelvin Iredua, Ojong Bang Emmanuel and Badamosi Yetunde Farida.
Others are; Adehi Jane, Bobai Solomon, Njoku Goodness Ozioma, Obalowu Abiodun Mohammed, Oguntuase Oleye Ezekiel and Ugwu Ifeoma Helen.
According to the leaked memo; “the audit has raised a strong query on 13 identified ghost workers on CRFFN payrolls in the above names.
“The said audit query relates to gross violation of procedure, PRS & FR as follows: No official memo of the recruitment from Head of Human Resource to management; no management approval; no management minutes to document same, and worst of all, no variation order (VO) and audited VO.
“All the above are in gross violation of PSR, FR & due process/procedures, and therefore null & void. Sir, ensure this issue is resolved before 1st June when the budget is to be submitted”.
Recall that recently, the Registrar, CRFFN, Mr. Sam Nwakohu noted that the Council has been operating with lean resources.
Lean resources and yet 13 ghost workers?
Does it mean this was as a result of the alleged accusation?
Probably, the resources may have been used to service the ghost workers as alleged.
Nwakohu maintained the Council does not have the needed resources to pay most of its staff who have been transferred to different locations.
Nwakohu said: “We are heavily indebted, most of our staff, who were transferred to new locations, the rules of engagement states that you have to provide some money to settle them and most times we have not been able to do that and the staff have made some sacrifices and we are still waiting for the day we will be able to sort some of those things out.
“Funding is a problem, especially overhead. I am beginning to sound like a broken record when I say my overhead for a year is approximately N33.3million.
“We have streamlined a number of issues and we are trying to work within the limit of our resources”.
The same CRFFN, who in May 2020, described the warning strike carried out by a small group of freight forwarders as illegal and a threat to the lives of Nigerian citizenry relying on the supply chain for their essential supplies amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, was caught in the middle of the deep blue sea and the devil over the 13 ghost workers issue.
How can those who accused freight forwarders of sabotage because they were fighting for their rights shot themselves on the scrotum?
Prior to the strike action, CRFFN in a letter sent to all the Presidents of the five registered freight forwarding associations namely; Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agent (NCMDLCA), National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators (NAFFAC) and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) sought for a reversal of the strike action, saying it could jeopardise government’s effort in containing the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, even though Nwakohu has come in an online paper to say the allegation isn’t true, it should not just end there and be swept under the carpet just like that.
Nwakohu, a Barrister, in the report stated he had just finished the personnel budget for 2021.
He had then noted that the 13 allegedly discovered ghost workers were included in the budget. He further disclosed that it was not true that there were 13 ghost workers in CRFFN.
He explained that those staff in question came in through replacement process, adding that the exercise that brought them into the Council followed the laid down procedure while describing the allegation as mischievous.
Is the discovery of the 13 ghost workers a jeopardy to a Government organisation, who’s supposed to lead by example?
It remains to be seen if stakeholders especially the associations, whose members are saddled with the responsibility of manning the CRFFN, will wake up to challenge the accusation levelled against the council towards unraveling the truth behind the scandal.
According to a chieftain of ANLCA, Mr. Anthony Anakebe; “it’s not doubtable anyways. It can happen because it’s a government organisation.
“It means if they want to clean up the system, they should all act together and be honest to freight forwarders”.
He pointed out that the allegation has a negative effects on the council and members by stating that the trust reposed in CRFFN has been betrayed.
“The trust we put in CRFFN has been betrayed anyway. You know it’s made up of different stakeholders so, there will not be much trust in that place again and that’s where it will have negative effects in the maritime sector,” Anakebe said.
A CRFFN member, Dr. Kayode Farinto during a phone interview, denied knowledge of the allegation.
According to him; “I don’t know anything about it. We’re just elected to hold council. It’s only the Registrar that can tell you anything concerning it. I only work under him. Thank you!”.
Keeping mum over the allegations will not augur well for CRFFN, stakeholders and the entire maritime industry.
Concerned stakeholders are worried by the sad development and therefore seeking for truth, equity and justice by probing the allegations leveled against CRFFN and bringing to book anyone found wanting or culpable in the 13 ghost workers saga.
That’s only when integrity would begin to reign and a deterrent to others of like negative minds.