National Publicity Secretary, ANLCA, Kayode Farinto

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, one of the five major clearing associations has  its is totally opposed to the collection of the Practitioners’ Operating Fee POF because it cannot guarantee the safety and proper utilisation of the proceeds in the absence of a Governing Board of the  Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria CRFFN.

The POF, approved by the Federal Ministry of Transport more than three years but is yet to commence collection, is to be derived from N1, 000 to be paid on every 20-foot and N2, 000 on every 40-foot containers, among other cargo imported into the country and is meant for the funding of the CRFFN created by an Act of the Parliament to regulate freight forwarding practice in the country.

Minister of Transport,  Rotimi Amaechi  had in a memo  signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry and sent through the Nigerian Ports Authority directed the terminal operators to commence the collection of the fees with effect from August 1, 2017, a move ANLCA blocked by seeking and obtaining an interim injunction from a Federal High Court in Lagos suspending the commencement of the collection of the fees pending the hearing of the suit.

Meanwhile, National Publicity Secretary of the association, Dr. Kayode Farinto, who addressed members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria MARAN at the International Maritime Press Centre in Apapa Lagos Tuesday alleged, alleged that the current management of the CRFFN headed by registrar/CEO Mr. Mike Jukwe would mismanage the funds in the absence of a Governing Board of the council.

According to him, the Minister and Jukwe have not been able to for the N700 million and N3.5 billion allocated to the CRFFN in 2006 and 2017, respectively, an indication that the proceeds of POF might also end in private pockets if proper structures such as electing members of the board were not put in place.

While describing the fee as illegal, the ANLCA-scribe also said that the new imposition would negate the Federal Government’s directive on the Ease of Doing Business at the ports would ultimately increase the cost of doing business at Nigeria’s seaports, which are currently rated highest in terms of cost of doing business in the sub-region.

He argued that as a licensed Customs brokerage agent, he pays N250, 000 annually to renew his operating license, pay another N15, 000 to the Nigeria Customs Service to enable him operate at the various commands and that the CRFFN Act 2007 specifies that members should only pay their annual subscription not levy on cargo cleared.

“Last year, over N700million was allocated to CRFFN, while  N3.5 billion has been allocated to the council under the 2017 fiscal year and one is tempted to wonder what the Registrar is doing with all these monies, who is he regulating singlehandedly without a board, who has he trained? The money that has been allocated to them last year and this year cannot be accounted for and this is partly why we are opposed to the POF”

“Similarly, the Act that set up the CRFFN has not been tested and so it should not be amended, also the board is not in place, it is only Jukwe (Registrar) that is singlehandedly running the CRFFN since the board was dissolved over four years ago, there is no probity and accountability in the use of the funds of the council”, he said emphatically.

He warned that the association would deploy every means at its disposal both legal and other wise should the Minster ignore the order of the court restraining him, the NPA and terminal operators from going ahead to collect the fee

He said: “We have completed the filing of the suit and we have also served the summons on the Secretary of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria STOAN, Mr. Boye Uzamot. He has however promised to ensure that STOAN complies with the order of the court”

“If the Federal Government (Ministry of Transport) adopts illegality by ignoring the court summons, we as an association and a trade group will also adopt the ‘calculus’ system to ensure that such illegality was not perpetrated”.

Recall that other trade associations in the clearing and freight forwarding industry including the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders ARFF and the association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators have all approved the collection of the POF except ANLCA, which claims that the money would be paid by over 80 per cent of its members and so should determine what happens to the levy.