By Foster Obi
By some curious negligence, mischief making or official recklessness, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has remained the whipping boy of the Maritime Agencies in Nigeria.
The Agency has been colourless, uninspiring and lacking in the moving force associated with other agencies in the fold. Despite all that have been said and written about it by commentators, not much has changed.
A visit to the Council’s website offers no freshness and the social media handles were last updated in May 2022.
For an organization designed to regulate and train “men of timbre and calibre” in the society not to be digitally compliant in a 21st century world is of all things, “most sacrilegious.” (Apologies to Shakespeare).
“In the present scheme of things, events happen per second and any organization that fails to update it’s target audience in that trajectory is worth nothing but to be shown the exit,” observed an analyst.
In this wise, the media teams of the Nigeria Customs Service, NIMASA and NPA have been effective in updating Nigerians on its activities daily. NIWA and Nigerian Shippers Council( NSC) trails behind this trio, their update still unimpressive.
At the risk of digressing , CRFFN has since it’s creation, not been able to meet the target set for it by the government making analysts wonder if it is not a wasted venture.
Analysts believed that the council has failed to initiate sustainable and practical steps to move the practice of freight forwarding beyond what it is now.
They argue that council has not been able to stamp its authority as a regulatory body to position the freight forwarding profession on the part of sustainable growth.
Again the council has not been able to address so many challenges the freight forwarders have been facing in the profession particularly issues that have to do with trade facilitation amongst others which is one of the major reasons why it was set up.
Some notable stakeholders have called for the separation of the council from the Transportation Ministry to enable it to concentrate on its role of regulating freight forwarding practice and address some noticeable irregularities in the profession.
Maritime stakeholders have variously laid the blame on official recklessness and government insensitivity in the setting up of the organization, prompting agencies like the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF to go to court.
Some Freight Forwarders have criticized the Council for alleged lack of transparency, mismanagement and insincerity in the disbursement of the Practitioner Operating Fees (POF) dividends.
The POF is a mandatory levy imposed on freight forwarders and clearing agents from all shipments and cargo handled at Nigerian ports, in which the revenue is intended to contribute to the development of freight forwarding and port services.
The alleged mismanagement and lack of clarity in the distribution of the fund have severally sparked outrage within the freight forwarding community.
The industry is still an all comer’s affairs as the council have failed to regulate and control those going into it.
CRFFN up till now does not posses accurate data of practicing freight forwarders in Nigeria.
Boniface Aniebonam, Founder National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), and one most vocal voiced concerning the establishment of CRFFN believes that some people are holding the progress of CRFFN and according to him, “we all know them including organizations.”
He is of the view that CRFFN at its maiden election was designed to fail and “we made that mistake … sadly, we are still on it.”
“ We will not curse those who are part of the anomaly in CRFFN but they should know that it is the hope of the young freight forwarders; therefore they should call themselves to order,” he said in a press chat.
Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju, the pioneer vice chairman of the governing council had course to write to the former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi expressing sadness over the way the council that is supposed to be a regulatory body was drifting due to professional recklessness, impunity, and leadership failure.
Olanrewaju, who is the managing director of Talod Oceanair Freight Limited, said the number of unaccredited associations by the CRFFN has become far greater than the five accredited ones, which makes industrial peace impossible.
According to him, the leadership of the first and second governing council was very careful with financial patronage to associations to avoid dangerous trends, foster adherence to professional conduct and integrity.
Olanrewaju however expressed dismay that the guiding principle that informed the decisions of the first and second Governing Council of the CRFFN was no longer the case.
He however pointed out the need for CRFFN to nurture regulation that will engender industrial peace by avoiding the possibility of the unaccredited associations to join issues with the Council.
One critical finding is the fact that the Council has not been able to meet its revenue targets over the years, with significant differences between approved budgets and actual revenue generated.
According to available data, in 2022 the Federal Government set an approved revenue of N5.04 billion for CRFFN to generate. However, the council, only managed to generate N471.6 million, which represented just 9.37 percent of the approved budget.
In 2023, the Federal Government allocated an approved budget of N873.2 million for CRFFN. By September 30th, the council had generated N388 million, marking a 44.52percent performance. While the revenue performance in 2023 showed an improvement over the previous year, it still fell short of the budgeted amount.
A breakdown of the revenue sources revealed similar trends in both years. In 2022, the budget allocated N4.76 billion from the Practitioners’ Operating Fees (POF), but CRFFN only managed to generate N420 million, representing just 8.8 percent of the approved budget. In contrast, membership registration fees saw impressive performance in 2022, with an approved budget of N2.47 million and CRFFN generating N21.43 million, exceeding expectations at 866.1 percent However, annual subscription fees struggled, with a budget of N273.1 million, but only N30.15 million was generated, resulting in a budget performance of 11.03 percent.
In 2023, the federal government approved N600 million for CRFFN to generate through POF. As of September 30th, the council had generated about N360.25 million, marking a 60.04percent performance. Membership registration fees had a budget of N93.2 million, with CRFFN generating N13.5 million, resulting in a performance of 14.4percent. However, annual subscription fees continued to be a challenge, with a budget of N180 million and only N14.2 million generated, reflecting a budget performance of 7.29percent.
The Acting Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the CRFFN, Mrs. Chinyere Uromta is obviously not finding things easy on the seat after taking over from Barrister Sam Nwakohu whose tenure was found entangled in messy accusations and counter accusations.
One of the things she has tried to do is train her staff, but with the state of things at the council, it is obvious that the training is not yielding the needed fruit.