Stories by Isaac Anumihe
The fire ignited by the various associations in the maritime industry over Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF) is still smouldering even after the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, had appealed to the warring parties to have an out-of-court settlement.
Amaechi had met a crisis-ridden maritime industry with each association claiming superiority over others and insisting that things be done their own way.
National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) under the leadership of Dr Boniface Aniebonam, is still insisting that the Customs law does not cover any association. And so members of Association of Nigerian Customs Licensed Agents (ANLCA), who claim to have been registered under Customs law as freight forwarders should undergo professional training. He said that Customs does not have the powers to register freight forwarders and so members of ANLCA registered under customs law cannot be recognised as freight forwarders. He posited that anybody intending to be a freight forwarder should undergo training. So, all those associations masquerading under the cover of customs law are agents and cannot be called freight forwarders. To this effect, they are not qualified to collect Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) as freight forwarders, “We have the Customs and Excise Management Act as a legislative instrument under the national Act and of course the Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN). So, you have two laws contending instead of being in partnership. Incidentally, the Customs law has been entrenched before the emergence of freight forwarding as a profession. That seems to be causing this conflict. As far as we are concerned in NAGAFF, freight-forwarding is not contained in the Customs law. What they know is licensed Customs clearing agent. If you look at Section 19:1 and 2; if you look at Section 28 of the council’s act, there was a specific statement made in relation to licences issued by customs or any agency of the government that is subsumed. So, POF cannot work as we thought because there are in-house discordant tones. The Licensed Customs Agents under the umbrella of ANLCA believes that they are closer to the customs and so they hold the ace. But it is most unfortunate that many of them lack knowledge because the customs law does not recognise an association. The customs law deals with importer/exporter or firms or even ship chandlers. These are the people the customs operate with and not an association. Whereas council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding recognises an association, corporate body and individual. Primarily, the essence of the council is to bring about professionalism in the business of freight forwarding and that is why the council becomes a body of a final say wherein individuals are the centerpiece,” he said.
Corroborating NAGAFF’s position, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, submitted that freight forwarding is a profession and practitioners must be trained because they are vital to the economy.
“Freight forwarders are customs brokers. They are extremely important in this business. So, what we are saying is that they have to be professionals. And you could see the chain. We are also talking with the freight forwarders. They must come together and form companies. If you go to the ports in other countries, there is no single human being in the ports. You sit down in your house and clear your goods. The swarm of people at the ports is irritating. Once you have human contact, corruption will fester. We need our ports to be modern and efficient. We don’t need anybody to go to the ports. We need hi-tech freight forwarders. Freight forwarders are supposed to even charter ships. They are non-vessel-owning common carriers. Just like Panalpina. It is a freight-forwarder. They have a lot of warehouses, so they take a lot of responsibilities. That is what we want our freight forwarders to be. A freight forwarder is like a lawyer. He has to have a licence. He has to be trained and pass certain exams because they are a link between importers and carriers. They are very vital to our economy,” he surmised.
However, the leader of one of the splinter groups of freight forwarders, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Chief Osita Patrick Chukwu, said that POF is the centre of the confusion in the system because some individuals want to be collecting the revenue alone. According to him, the controversy has made the Federal Government’s training organ, CRFFN, to be weak and nobody goes there for training anymore.
“This made the council to be weak. So, nobody will go for training there. They are insisting on training because they want to collect POF. Some of them don’t want to work. We have many members of importers and exporters group working hard. We don’t want any POF. Training or no training, clearing and forwarding is a private business. But by act of regulation, they do not want the CRFFN to function. Council of Managing Directors and ANLCA took CRFFN to court because they don’t want CRFFN to be collecting POF. They made sure that CRFFN will not work. The Federal Government asked us to be one. But those who are benefiting from POF don’t want it” he said.
POF proceed is the money which is collected in the ports and shared by operators as revenue for both the Federal Government and various port operators. While ANLCA as a major association among the five contending groups is rooting for a major share of the proceed, NAGAFF and CRFFN also want to be reckoned with first.
But when the Minister of Transport, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, met with the contending parties, it was resolved that the old sharing formula which proposed that the Federal Government would get 60 per cent, the registered associations 30 per cent and 10 per cent to the declarant from the proceeds of POF be changed to 65 per cent to the Federal Government and 35 per cent to the declarant thereby shutting the door against the associations.
However, the President of ANLCA, Mr Olayiwola Shitu, declined to make a comment on this while the Registrar of CRFFN, Mr Mike Jukwe has not replied the text message requesting his reactions on the issues.
SIFAX hails FG’s truck standardisation programme
Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited, Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd), has lauded the new partnership between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in the enforcement of Minimum Standard of Safety and Road Worthiness (MSSRW) for all trucks entering Nigerian ports.
According to Ajetunmobi, the standardisation policy has great potentials to enhance safety at the Nigerian ports, but added that all the relevant government agencies need to take seriously the strict enforcement of the policy.
“I can tell you that a good number of trucks around the ports are substandard and not fit for logistics business. Such trucks could impact the safety of cargo and people. That’s why I believe the standardisation policy is not only good, but also timely.
“The policy has great potentials to enhance safety at the ports. But like everything else, potentials alone are necessary, but not enough; the process fully needs to be strengthened by effective compliance monitoring and enforcement,” he said.
On what would be the benefits of the policy for logistics operators that comply with the policy, Ajetunmobi said: “It is clear that any maritime haulage business company that is certified to meet the standardization requirements has all it takes to boast of being a competent, efficient and law-abiding corporate citizen. It also proves that such a company can be trusted to be fully compliant with the set rules and regulations of the government and those of its regulatory agencies.”
He explained that SIFAX Haulage has always positioned itself as a leader in the haulage and logistics chain through regular maintenance of its truck fleet as at when due which is aimed at ensuring that its status of road-worthiness is at a level that is acceptable nationally and within the industry.
“SIFAX Haulage was one of the first maritime haulage companies to meet NPA’s minimum standards of safety and road-worthiness in 2016, and for which the trucks in its fleet were issued approval documents. Our haulage arsenal boasts of 55 brand new fleets which have been certified by all relevant agencies such as Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA),” he noted.
“Our trucks are fitted with speed limiting devices, tracking devices, Goods-in-Transit Insurance, brand new fleet heads and other state of the art technologies that ensure safety of goods and personnel. SIFAX Haulage compliance status establishes a clear distinction between her and other competitors that may want to compromise standards or cut corners, primarily because they have no name to protect and project,” he said.
Grimaldi introduces new electronic payment options
Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited has developed and introduced multiple payment options for port users. Deputy Managing Director of Grimaldi Agency Nigeria, Nitin Senan, who disclosed this, said the shipping agency’s customers can now obtain and pay provisional invoices at any quick teller enabled ATM machines and select banking platforms.
“Grimaldi remains at the forefront of innovative solutions for the Nigerian shipping industry. We had introduced e-bill payment solution a year ago successfully. Now we are pleased to advise that customers can pay our provisional invoices at any quick teller enabled ATM machine as well,” Senan said.
He said the new electronic payment options will enhance prompt service as it will enable the company’s customers take delivery of their cargoes at the port till 2pm the next day.
“In addition to timely delivery, no payment confirmation is required under the new payment options while delivery orders will be issued within few minutes of surrendering Original Bill of Lading.
“Other benefits include less physical presence at our office as only one visit to the marketing hall is required to obtain delivery order. There is also no manual processing fee. These benefits amount to reduced transaction time and cost for our roll-on-roll-off (RORO) customers,” Senan said.
He said port users can benefit from the new e-payment system by simply printing their invoice and visiting any bank branch requesting payment through E-bills or PayDirect.
“The bank will process the payment and print transaction receipt showing details of invoice paid. Customers should then visit our releasing hall, submit Original Bill of Lading (OBL) and collect their Delivery Order.
“Our customers can also print the invoice showing transaction ID and Grimaldi Vendor Code on top right corner at any Quickteller enabled ATM machine, sign in, select Quickteller payment option and pay their bills according to instructions on the next screen. After completing payment on the ATM machines, customers can then visit our releasing hall, submit Original Bill of Lading (OBL) and collect their Delivery Order,” he said.
Senan also said that payments can be made using GT Bank’s payment platform including debit or credit cards and net banking or via quickteller.com.
He said customers also have the option of visiting Grimaldi office to process their invoice and payment.
Senan said the firm has also opened a new contact centre to register requests and complaints by its customers.
“Physical customer service desk do not exist anymore. Each and every service requests or complaints would only be accepted through these new channels,” he said.
He assured that all service requests would be handled promptly and responded appropriately within specified periods.
“While refund requests would be processed within five working days, all others would be responded to within a maximum of two working days. Some of the requests like rotation number, ETAs, tracking and estimates would be handled real time while on the phone,” he added.