BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
Industry stakeholders and observers, including members of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have expressed doubt about the capacity of the the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to maintain unbiased stance in the discharge of its assigned duty to resolve the four years old leadership crisis that has bogged down the former.
A chieftain of ANLCA who does not want his name mentioned said while the Council’s move is commendable even though it is coming late, its ability to remain neutral cannot be guaranteed, noting that the Vice Chairman of the Governing Board, Chief Henry Njoku is not only a promoter of the crisis, but a staunch backer of the sacked Iju Tony Nwabunike and Dr. Kayode Farinto led National Executive Committee (NECOM) of ANLCA; who are party to the case.
Recall that Board of CRFFN Thursday inaugurated a Conflict Resolution Committee with the mandate to hear and resolve the four years old ANLCA crisis’ and recommend amicable settlement.
The concerned ANLCA member advised that to guarantee a fair and just conflict resolution, the committee should be reconstituted to include external umpires like the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Federal High Court Alternative Dispute Resolution unit etc.
“I also think that the 7-day time frame is rather short and should be adjusted, l wonder how much they can achieve under one week. The CRFFN shouldn’t give the impression that it already has the fact of the matter, one week is way, way unrealistic”, he noted adding:
“That was why I told you when you called me on phone earlier that with Henry Njoku as governing board member of the Council, the committee may not be able to sit with a free hand. As far as l am concerned, if the Council refuse to reconstitute the committee to bring in neutral members, the board of trustees should not attend.”
Similarly, maverick freight forwarding practitioner, Chidi Anthony Opara, RFF, FIIM, CDOA has also faulted the committee, saying it is belated and flawed. According to Opara, the committee lacks the authority to enforce whatever decisions may be reached at the end of the day; hence the whole effort may end up a fiasco unless the committee is reconstituted in such a way as to invest it with some authority to act.
In a statement made available to our reporter, the erudite and unapologetic freight forwarder note that it is impossible for the committee to achieve its set goal because of the identified flaws; one of which also was the delay by the Governing Board to act until now.
The statement titled “The belated CRFFN intervention in the four-year-ANLCA crisis is flawed”, reads:
“That flaw is most likely to hinder the achievement of the set goal. It would be recalled that I recently called on CRFFN to, as a regulator, (to) make pronouncement on the unnecessary and unfortunate situation in ANLCA, one of the associations accredited by it(CRFFN) and douse the tension generated by that ugly situation.
“The intervention CRFFN recently announced wasn’t however what I had in mind, when I made that call for pronouncement. The major flaw in the intervention is that the resolution committee, by whatever other names it may be called, going by its composition would not have the authority to enforce its decisions in the event of rejection of such decisions by either of the parties.
“What I had in mind when making the call for pronouncement was a Committee to be set up by CRFFN, made up of the officials of the regulatory agency, who by their duty schedules have authority to enforce any decisions taken.”
He further advised that the committee should be a fact finding one which “would collate facts from the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Courts and the Police. Examine those facts, recommend a course of action to the CRFFN management, who would, based on that recommendation, make a pronouncement on the situation and immediately enforce that pronouncement.”
The CRFFN Governing Board Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni who presided over the committee’s inauguration in Lagos said the Committee is expected to unearth the underlying factors which led to the conflicts and also proffer recommendations before September 7th, 2022.
Tsanni expressed dismay that given its stature in the sector, ANLCA should be at the forefront of offering leadership advice for other freight forwarding associations, rather than being in the reverse.
Tsanni said: “It is unfortunate that this ANLCA crisis has been ongoing for over 4 years and all efforts to resolve it have been futile. CRFFN, as the regulator of all freight forwarding associations, has decided to step up to resolve these issues. We will do our best to address the problems in such a manner that the two factions will be satisfied with the resolutions of the Council.
“Yesterday, I discussed with the Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Mu’azu Sambo on this ANLCA crisis and he supported this initiative to have a Conflict Resolution Committee. The Minister also said that we keep him abreast with the developments.”
The committee members include Alhaji Abubakar Tsanni, Alhaji Abba Yusuf, unnamed officials of the Transport Ministry, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), CRFFN, respected freight forwarders and some members of the CRFFN Governing Board.