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Chairmanship of CRFFN: Selling freight forwarders for pot of porridge

For the second consecutive terms(2018 and 2022), a non- professional has emerged as the chairman of the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), sitting atop the regulatory body that is statutorily charged with directing and  deciding the fate of the teeming freight forwarders in the country.

To put it more succinctly,  Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar,a retired soldier who is not a practising freight forwarder, has for two terms, emerged as the number one regulator of an industry he knows little or nothing about.

Ironically,  there are 15 hard- core professional freight forwarders, carefully elected by their constituents in the industry to represent and take care of their interests on the Board and who are also on the same board as Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar.

We could not comprehend this act of absurdity  and oddity where a retired soldier will be allowed to be the chief regulator of a freight forwarding industry.

The same oddity and absurdity playing out in the Nigeria Customs Service where a retired army Colonel is the Comptroller General.

While we may excuse the career customs officers for allowing this oddity due to the fact that the retired soldier was appointed and foisted on them, giving them no option than to obey as a paramilitary agency, the same thing cannot be said of the CRFFN where their is an option: voting.

We are puzzled why the 15 full- fledged professionals on the board should keep mute while a non- professional was made the chief regulator of their industry.

What makes it more confusing is that the same act which the present  board of CRFFN is operating and used to produce a retired soldier to govern the industry was the same act that produced the first two chairmen of the board who are practising freight forwarders.

The first governing board was chaired by Tony Iju Nwabunike, the present National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) while the second governing board was equally chaired by another crack professional freight forwarder, Alhaji Akeem Olanrewaju.

Those first two boards have the same membership composition as the present board : 17  government appointed members and 15 elected freight forwarders as members, making 32-  member governing board.

What then has gone wrong?

If the first two boards could produce freight forwarders as their chairmen despite being in the minority (15  as against 17) , why should the freight forwarders in the third and fourth governing board become so docile and timid as to concede this important position to an outsider, a retired soldier?

Informed commentators have hazard a guess.

They said that the freight forwarders in the third and fourth governing council were too frightened to stand up against the barefaced impunity of the now – resigned Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who brow- beat them into silence while carrying out this absurdity.

Another set of commentators claimed, though not verified, that the frightened fright forwarders may  have been compromised to accept this oddity.

Events that played out in 2018 and 2022 when the principal officers of the council were elected or selected lent credence to these insinuations.

At the 2018 inauguration of the board by Ameachi, he practically imposed Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the Chairman as he didn’t allow election to take place to the chagrin of the elected freight forwarders.

He brushed aside a muffled protest put up by Increase Uche, who was the National President of NAGAFF then and a member of the third board.

He bullied and brow- beaten then to silence when he said he already knew the chairman while giving them the opportunity to produce the Vice Chairman.

That was the only position put to vote  that produced Chief Henry Njoku as the Vice Chairman.

The same scenario played out in the 2022 inauguration or meeting? of the 32- member governing body with Amaechi in Abuja recently.

Prior to that date, Ameachi was said to have told those who were elected that he has gotten his chairman.

So when he met them, he used the same gimmick which returned Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the chairman without a voting process.

He was said to have sauntered into the meeting and glared at them before he asked them if they wanted the status quo to remain as he has just only one minute to spend with them.

Obviously, he didn’t want to brood any protest or entertain any long process of voting.

Which electoral process could be concluded within a minute,  anyway.

So it was another imposition.

But we are perplexed when some members of the elected freight forwarders, who are supposed to oppose this obnoxious method by the resigned Minister are now justifying and defending the oddity by dressing it as a concensus arrangement.

If there was going to be a concensus arrangement, why not take an elected member of the council, who is a freight forwarder, as a concensus chairman?

How could all the 15 freight forwarders agree to a concensus arrangement that return a retired soldier as the chief regulator of your industry?

That is why the second postulation by some informed commentators looks credible and tenable to us.

It is even more curious to know that  members of  NAGAFF who are in the majority among the elected members ( about eight of them) will look on while this oddity in the name of concensus arrangement was shoved down their throats.

It is sad that they tactly endorsed this impunity that produced this oddity given the stance of the association’ s high command on the absurdity in 2018.

Hear  what Dr Boniface Aniebonam, the Founder of NAGAFF said when Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar emerged as the chairman of the CRFFN board in 2018.

In October 31st , 2018, Aniebonam described as a “black day” the day Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar was made the chairman of CRFFN.

“a black day in freight forwarding profession in Nigeria. A day rule of law and constitutional provisions may have been thrown overboard by Hon. Minister of Transportation”,

“Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the transport minister, may be a man with impunity and gut as he set aside CRFFN Act electoral provisions to appoint the chairman of the Council Board 2018 in a mafia circumstances”.

Another  chieftain of NAGAFF, Freight Forwarder, Simeon Nwonu,  declared in 2018 thus:

“Following Chibuike Amaechi’s imposition of one Alhaji Tsanni as chairman of the governing council, Amaechi’s action contrary to the legal provisions of the CRFFN Act as regards the position of chairman and vice chairman, has automatically placed the Council on the precipice.”

“It is absolute disregard of the rule of law. It’s not even healthy for the political future of Mr. President (Buhari).

“In fact CRFFN, and by extension, the entire freight forwarding family in Nigeria may not survive this second coming of Armageddon if President Buhari fails to redress the matter.”

If the NAGAFF High Command could railed and raked against the emergence of Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the chairman of CRFFN in 2018 which they described as imposition, why then changed the nomenclature  and coated it as a “concensus arrangement” the same process that returned the retired soldier as the chairman.

We sympathize with the teeming freight forwarders who are daily groaning under the heavy jackboot of industry service providers who have taken the comatose state of the CRFFN to subject them to multiple charges and mindless extortions.

That the same CRFFN headed by Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar in 2018 which the freight forwarders unanimously condemned as inefficient, inactive and self- serving is now returned with the same principal officers, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The freight forwarders would do well not to expect miracle from the fourth governing council of CRFFN as it is a new wine in the old bottle.

We wonder how a non -professional freight forwarder as the chairman could empathize with the freight forwarders and address their welfare issues and other matters that impinge on their professional well being.
It is only who wears the shoes that knows where it pinches.

If none of the 15 thorough- bred professional and practising freight Forwarders on the board couldn’t find themselves qualified to be the chairman of the body that is statutorily charged with regulating their industry, then the freight forwarders should brace themselves up to accept what comes to them in the next two years of this council since they found it expedient to mortgage the future of the industry and its teeming players .

© 2022, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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