Editor's PickEditorialHeadlines CRFFN Elections: Time for federating associations to close ranks By maritimemag July 9, 2018 ShareTweet 0 On Saturday, July 7, 2018, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN) held elections into its governing council that will steer the ship of the regulatory body for another four years. The election, which suffered postponements twice, was preceded by intrigues, mutual suspicion, and distrust and wrangling among the five federating associations. Few people had actually believed that the elections would ever hold and that if it eventually did, it would be inconclusive as it was expected that the process would be disrupted by disgruntled elements within the federating groups. But much to the contrary popular opinions and expectations, the election was held under a peaceful, harmonious and convivial atmosphere. It was a rare display of unity and conviviality among the five federating associations which participated in the elections. Nigeriamaritime360.com is not only pleased with the conduct and outcome of the elections which was held under a peaceful atmosphere but we are also thrilled by the new-found love among the federating units. Most of those who did not expect any meaningful and peaceful conduct of the elections should be excused because they might have based their foreboding feelings on the antecedents of CRFFN and the federating units whose relationship has been that of cat and mouse. The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) was established by an Act of the parliament in 2007 to control and regulate freight forwarding industry in Nigeria. Ever since its creation, the Council has never experienced peace. It has continuously been buffeted by the federating units which also has a very queer relationship among themselves. Ironically, the five registered associations by the Council which are National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarding,(NAGAFF), Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents,(NCMDLCA ), National Association of Air Freight Forwarding and Consolidation(NAAFFC) and Association of Registered Freight Forwarders in Nigeria(ARFFN ), have been its source of its worries. From 2008 when the Council conducted elections into its inaugural governing council, it has been in one litigation or the other from aggrieved individuals. Dr Boniface Aniebonam, the Founder of NAGAFF, who ironically worked assiduously towards the peaceful elections on Saturday, as well as Lucky Amiwero, the factional leader of Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, had separately dragged the council to court over various issues. Individual freight forwarders had challenged the legality of previous Governing Councils and its composition as well as the status of the CRFFN on whether it should be a government agency or not. The issue that nearly frustrated the council out of existence was the volatile and controversial issue of Practitioners Operating Fees (POF). The then Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, had directed the Council to commence the collection of the fee as enshrined in its enabling Act. That was when hell was let loose. The five federating associations went for one another’s throats, fighting dirty over how the proceeds would be shared. Greed and selfishness were openly and brazenly displayed by various associations in their bid to get the larger chunk of the monies to themselves. It was a war fought so intensely that the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA ) had to drag the Council to court. The minister was forced to suspend the collection of the controversial fees to save the freight forwarding industry from chaos. Since then, the five federating associations have co-existed in mutual suspicion and distrust. The Council has therefore, since inception, been cash strapped as what could be its main source of income to fund its projects has been truncated by the greed of the federating associations. This was the tensed atmosphere that preceded the elections on Saturday. One can them appreciate and forgive the wide spread pessimism and foreboding feelings exhibited by the majority of stakeholders towards that election. We therefore consider the peaceful conduct of the election as profound, watershed and a significant milestone towards achieving the needed peace and sanity in the freight forwarding industry. This platform recognises the sacrifice, commitment and industry of Boniface Aniebonam who over-reached himself to bring together other federating units for what he called all-inclusive governing council. Out of the five federating associations, NAGAFF stood the better chance of sweeping all the 15 seats allotted to the freight forwarding groups in the 32-member governing council if all the five groups had gone into that election individually, given the amount of resources, mobilisation of its members and energy expended on the election. But in a rare show of statesmanship, Aniebonam initiated a sharing formula that ensured all the five associations would be represented in the council. As imperfect as the arrangement may be, it however ensures that no association is left behind as was the case in the two previous governing councils. This platform believes that this consensual arrangement has taken a huge burden of credibility and the issue of fair representation from the new governing council which would have led to another floodgate of litigations. We must equally give kudos to the other four associations which, despite their independence, agreed to this arrangement, irrespective of its imperfections. We laud them for the spirit of give and take which is a sure sign of lasting peace in the freight forwarding industry. Each of them could have remained on its high horse, insisting on equitable distribution of the positions but they allowed reason to prevail. This platform also lauds the indomitable spirit of the Registrar of the Council, Sir Mike Jukwe, who despite the challenges, gang-up and treachery of the federating units, held the council together, even in the face of the crippling cash crunch. Now that for the first time since the creation of the CRFFN, the federating associations seemed to have forged a common front and come together in what appeared to be a semblance of peace, mutual respect and cautious trust, this platform could only hope that this fragile peace would be sustained. We want to enjoin the leadership of all the federating units to subjugate their personal interests to the collective welfare of the teeming members of their various groups by strengthening this new-found peace. In this light, we want any aggrieved party or individual whose interests or ego may have been bruised in the course of this election to take it with equanimity of a statesman so that this peace could be consolidated. We want to acknowledge the spirit of magnanimity exhibited by Chief Eugene Nweke, one of the four disqualified contestants who said he would not ruffle feathers in the interest of peace and progress of the industry. We recommend such uncommon selflessness and commitment to all the stakeholders in this project called CRFFN for the growth of the industry. History beckons on all the elected 15 freight forwarders to the council to see their elections as a call to service and not an avenue to corruptly enrich themselves. The 32-member governing council, especially the 15 representatives of the Freight Forwarders, should use the opportunity of their elections to mend the gaping cracks within the ranks of the practitioners. The grievances of all the federating units should be looked into and resolved for the sake of peace and progress of the industry. The contending issues that have stalled the collection of the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF) should be sorted out so that the collection of this revenue could commence in earnest. We make this appeal because any further grandstanding on this vexed issue would incapacitate the new governing council as there is little they could do with the stipend doled out by the parent ministry. Similarly, this platform calls for diligent resolution of all the contending issues surrounding some of the provisions of the Act which established the council for which some aggrieved individuals have taken the council to court. One of such is the independent candidacy which nearly marred the just concluded elections. We also wish to advise all the parties who took the council to court to withdraw such suits in the interest of peace as such vexed issues, if not settled out of court, could continue to stagnate the progress of the industry. We are however comforted by the determination and spirit of oneness displayed by all the contestants who all won the council seats which clearly shows they are aware of the onerous responsibility their victory confers on them. We believe that it is through this common front, unity of purpose and selfless service by the new governing council that the 11 years of opportunities wasted to rancour, ill-feelings, treachery, mutual suspicion and mistrust among freight forwarders could be salvaged. The Council members, especially the 15 representatives of the Freight Forwarders, should realise that the earlier peace and harmony is restored to their fold, the quicker most of the problems militating against their sustainable practice such as dominance of foreigners in the industry as well as thuggery and quackery, would be solved. Time will eventually tell if the present peace among the practitioners in the industry as depicted by the successful elections is not a peace of graveyard. © 2018, maritimemag. All rights reserved.