CRFFN Dance of Shame

Last week, two freight forwarding associations, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) raised an alarm over what they described as a surreptitious plan to hold public hearing, amidst Covid-19 pandemic lockdown,  on the amendment of the CRFFN Act No 16 of 2007, the Act which gave life and substance to the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).

The opposition mounted by these two leading freight forwarding groups was so formidable that the House Committee on Ports and Harbour had to hastily suspend indefinitely the public hearing it initially slated for May,12th, 2020 in Abuja.

The associations, which are incidentally, the two leading federating units of CRFFN with the highest number of representatives on the current governing board of the council, have shot down the proposed public hearing which they regarded as self- serving, mischievous and ill-timed.

They have rightly argued that the public hearing would not be all-inclusive as it will exclude the participation of majority of the core stakeholders who may not be able to access Abuja due to the current lockdown.

The Committee was also reminded that the CRFFN is still embroiled in legal cobweb with one of its federating units.

The House Committee members have no other choice than to put the controversial public hearing on hold.

We share some of the sentiments of those who opposed the timing of the amendment.

The timing raises suspicion of mischief and bad faith on the part of the proponents of the amendment.

Why should the proponents of the amendment bill find this trying times auspicious to hold public hearing on the bill proposed almost a year ago, on July 18th, 2019.
If they are not hiding something or intend to achieve a self- serving purpose,

it is inconceivable to hold a public session on an important amendment bill as CRFFN Act when more than 90 percent of its stakeholders are under lockdown in Lagos, Port Harcourt and other seaports, airport and border stations across the country.

The only people who may have access to the National Assembly during this time are those stakeholders in Abuja who are probably the proponents of this controversial project and whose numbers are negligible.

Beyond the ill-timing of the amendment, we are sad at the ignoble role being played by the current governing council of CRFFN.

We have hoped that the third governing council will chart a different path devoid of controversy and non-performance which has been the bane of the two previous governing councils.

At its inauguration in November 2018, we expected a more mature, robust and proactive council that will obliterate the disastrous outings of the two previous councils which didn’t make an impact on the operations and lives of freight forwarders.

We had thought the third governing council, led by the savvy Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar, had a unique opportunity to engrave its name in gold through its life touching achievements.

But what did we get?

A Council whose trajectory continued on the old, worn and ignoble path of its predecessors, decked in controversy and non-performance.

In less than six months now, the two-year tenure of the third governing Council will come to an end.

For about one and half years on the saddle, the council cannot point to any concrete achievement or impact it has made on its constituency.

The council has been moving from one controversy to the other which borders on selfishness and self preservation.

No sooner had the council members settled down than they got embroiled in a scandal of alleged distribution of exotic SUVs to chairmen of its committees which allegedly consumed a princely sum of N500m of tax payers money.

Soon after it shrugged off this odious action than it got enmeshed in another controversial collection of  Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF).

The Council got itself preoccupied with how to take in this money and share the proceeds among the leading contending forces that it was oblivious of the excruciating operational challenges which its constituents are battling with.

We are grieved that since 2008 when the first governing council was inaugurated till the present term of the third governing Council, an average freight forwarder, for whom the CRFFN was created, has not felt the impact of the body.

Rather, the council, by its antecedents, has become more of a tool to feather the nest of successive members than a change agent meant to reform the industry and better the lots of its practitioners.

It is a shame that 12 years after the CRFFN debuted, it is yet to gain traction to perform the purpose for which it was established.

It has been 12 years of internal wranglings, controversies, failed promises and unfulfilled dreams that have left an average freight forwarder distraught, disillusioned, disappointed and frustrated.

We are saddened that the current governing council will allow itself to be entwined with the amendment controversy when it should have used the little time it has to redeem its fast-dwindling image among its constituents.

If not for inordinate ambition, why should a council with less than six months of its tenure get involved in an amendment of the Act that seeks to extend the current two-year tenure to four years?

If not an act of self- preservation and greed, why should a governing council which has tried without success, to collect the controversial POF, now engage itself in a controversial amendment which seeks to validate the collection?

If not for a self-seeking motive, why is a council which is supposed to be led by elected member but inadvertently led by unelected member,  would at this time engage in an amendment that seeks to legalise imposition of non-elected members on elected ones?

We are worried that these anomalies which do not advance the cause of freight forwarders are happening under the nose of the elected freight forwarders in the governing council.

Their silence suggests their active collaboration to advance this inordinate cause against their colleagues.

In as much as we are not against the proposed bill amendment that is meant to strengthen and give more bite to the CRFFN, we enjoin the National Assembly to make the public hearing all-inclusive.

We must commend members of the House Committee on Ports and Harbour for deferring to the superior arguments of those who felt the timing of the public session on the bill was ill-conceived which made them to promptly put it on hold.

We are also in support of the extension of the two-year tenure of the governing council to four years which we believe would afford the successive governing Councils enough time to espouse and execute their programmes of action.

We are equally in tandem with the need for the successive governing councils to be financially independent through internally generated revenue (IGR).

So, the collection of POF  should be encouraged and supported but has to be monitored to avoid being used by a few self-serving members of the council as honey pot.

However, the collection should be consequent upon visible achievements made by the council that will address the challenges of freight forwarders.

However, we advise that the current third governing Council should NOT be beneficiary of this proposed amendment.

The current governing council should be allowed to exit with its baggage of non -performance and controversies  before the amendment, if it sails through, should be allowed to take effect.

We dare say the current governing council has lost all moral rights to enjoy the accruing benefits of the proposed amendment Act.

Because to whom much is given, much is expected.

The third governing Council has not enjoyed the confidence and support of its constituents due to its lacklustre performance

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