…As NAGAFF Tells Tsanni Abubakar, Others To Leave
A vote of N4billion believed to have been collected by officials of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, last year supposedly for recurrent expenditure have created a fresh gap between council officials and some council members who alleged that the money may have been misappropriated.
Individual members of two leading council members, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, and Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, revealed that there are plans to drag the executive management and board of CRFFN to court to explain what happened to the money.
The individuals who spoke off record expressed disappointment for the inability of the council to meet up with its basic objective like training of members, further expressing concern about managements constant lamentation about paucity of fund to fulfill its obligations, and challenged the governing council and management to explain how the N4billion they collected in 2019 was spent.
Reacting, Vice Chairman, Governing Council of CRFFN, Chief Henry Njoku denied that the council misappropriated the fund, saying the money in question was a capital project and not recurrent expenditure as erroneously been peddled.
He said it was wrong of council members to insinuate that money is missing and thereby creating an atmosphere of distrust when they are part and parcel of all decisions taken by the council. He described those making the allegation as alarmists, noting that there is no single business carried out in the council without input and endorsement of all, and said the allegation of missing money is mischief taking too high.
Njoku said the fund in question is the same appropriated and released for the building of the Councils National Secretariat in Abuja. He said, the consultative forum comprises all the associations and if there are certain expectations by the associations, they should bring their report to that place.
He not only denied that any part of the N4billion is missing, he said the money is intact and serving its purpose, further noting that the instruments guiding the fund cannot be bent to serve other purposes.
According to him, That money is capital project money. It is difficult to collect and use for council. They cannot touch it because it is for specific project, and not for you to use it. You cant go and use it, that’s the way it is structured in their papers. People talking are just raising unnecessary alarm.
However, reacting to the burning of the national secretariat in Abuja last week, NAGAFF founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam expressed disbelief, saying the burning has all the trappings of insiders actions, done to divert attention from the expiration of the term of the Governing Council, even as he insist that the Tsani Abubakar led Governing Council must leave.
He is worried that the governing council have finished its tenure is seeking round about ways to remain in office, and called for a probe of the fire incident that gutted the new secretariat.
Aniebonam who expressed his anger in some online media outlets accused the federal ministry of transportation, ANLCA and some others of working against the council.
His words, ‘All manner of people either as government or association or individuals or workers holding CRFFN from achieving it’s set objectives and for the good of the young freight forwarders shall never know peace”.
He said the allotted tenure of the governing council ended last month, October 2020, and advised them to leave so that elected council members can elect a new chairman, even as he blamed the minister of transportation, Chibuike Amaechi for the disorder in CRFFN.
In a side chat with the Convener of Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum, Chidi Anthony Opara, Aniebonam said NAGAFF will champion the liberation of CRFFN, hinting that NAGAFF has pursued its case against freeing CRFFN of interlopers, to the appeal court.
He said, “Chidi relax your mind and watch. Their tenure ended October for the appointed. The elected will remain to elect a new chairman for the last lap of 2yrs. Amaechi shall find the truth in due course or after his tenure but CRFFN shall survive.
“You can see that ANLCA has become a tribal association with the outcome of solidarity
It is not ordinary because they have been working against CRFFN and NAGAFF.
“NAGAFF is a creation of God to liberate the young freight forwarders of Nigeria. Follow NAGAFF for the liberation struggle. We know that power is not given but taken and we are indeed at the court of appeal for our independence as professionals.
But Opara differed, noting that the governing council which consist both of appointed and elected members enjoys the same tenure time frame, and further noted that one cannot outlive the other.
“I am at lost regarding your position here. Is your position based on CRFFN Act 16 of 2007? To the best of my understanding, going by the provisions of the aforementioned act, the Governing Council comprises the elected and the appointed members, both categories make up a single Council, which was inaugurated in October, 2018 by the Minister of Transportation for a tenure of two years, he said, adding: Without the appointed or elected members, there is no Governing Council.
Meanwhile, the embattled Governing Council claimed that in the buildup to the collection of the controversial professional operating fees, POF, which has suffered repeated somersaults, the ministry of transportation have directed Seaport Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria, STOAN, to liaise with the CRFFN and produce a common ICT package under which POF will be collected seamlessly.
CRFFN Registrar, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu said the ongoing collaboration with STOAN is intended to achieve the seamless collection of the POF, noting that the ongoing integration process is designed to support the seamless collection of the POF from source.
Nwakohu said the intervention of the transportation minister has effectively put STOAN in the process, noting that with STOAN in, the implementation is now only a matter of time.
He also denied that STOAN demanded to be given a percentage of the collection.
He said, , I will tell you, if that is true, then it would have just been easier for me to say, I will pay you this considering how important POF is to me. It will be easy; I will make you an offer so that we can roll. But no! That is not true.
Initially STOAN resisted, somehow, the minister intervened and they said they will do it. We held a zoom meeting with the minister and them, thereafter; we convened another meeting with STOAN as a whole where modalities were discussed.
So, we are at the point of integration right now between the terminal operators and our ICT people. That is where we are and as soon as that is completed, in fact, what I agreed with them is once they conclude for each terminal; enforcement starts right away because we have burned time. You know when you are having intergovernmental agencies involve in a project, it is not easy. So, these things take time but I cant wait, we are at the last stretch of the hurdle.
It will be recalled that the POF implementation has suffered repeat postponement due to what experts described as hasty and untidy arrangements, since January this year.
Speaking on the process hiccups, Chidi Anthony Opara identified mix-ups and warned that technical defaults in the collection process may throw up litigations.
According to him, POF is a fee payable to industry regulators by practitioners, noting that in the case of freight forwarders, the fee would be paid to CRFFN. He argued that CRFFN adapted the fee without understanding the entire rudiments.
He said, CRFFN regulates freight forwarders and not importers and exporters. CRFFN therefore, should conceptualize POF in the context of a percentage of the freight forwarding practitioners earnings. The regulator should find a way to compute and collect POF within this context.
Trying to collect levies on imports and exports, which freight forwarders do not own, which are owned by importers and exporters, whom CRFFN does not regulate will throw up serious legal contests that would not end in the favour of CRFFN.
Similarly, not all council members of CRFFN are presently in agreement of the POF collection. The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, in 2017 instituted a corporate suit against CRFFN, challenging the POF collection.
Contacted, Chairman, Board of Trustees of ANLCA, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha said the renewed bid to embark on the collection will be a violation and disrespect for the laws, amid court injunctions secured by some individual members against the collection.
His words, The position of ANLCA regarding the collection of POF is clear, we are against the collection. The Board of Trustees and the national leadership will meet and discuss the way forward.
To the best of my knowledge, the national president, Tony Nwabunike has not called for that meeting up till today, since the matter was tabled last year. Officially, ANLCA is still against the POF.
There is a case in court that says the collection should be placed on hold. When people hear about money to be shared, they can be funny, but the national officers will burn their fingers if they enter into any bogus agreement against the position of the association.