The Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) has called on the Federal Government to prevail on the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and others to discontinue acts of official extortion embarked upon since the beginning of this month, as CREFFPON may be compelled to mobilize the freight forwarders to withdraw their services from the seaports.
A statement signed by Forwarder Edwin Chukwudire-Obi and made available to our reporter, the group observed that CRFFN has failed woefully to institute professionalism in the freight forwarding subsector of the maritime economy, leading to the absence of professional scale of charges in the freight forwarding profession and thus promoting non competitiveness in the system.
He recalled that the CRFFN commenced the collection of the controversial Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) with effect from 1st March, 2021. The statement further noted that whereas CREFFPON closely monitored the Implementation, it observed full scale displeasure its members and practitioners.
CREFFPON further noted that the refusal of STOAN, especially the Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TCIT) of failing to issue the Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) to the freight forwarders in the course of their professional quest and engagements to promptly facilitate Imports processing, clearance and delivery, a development Obi said has caused cargo processing delays resulting to additional demurrages and storage levy to the advantage of the terminal operators and shipping lines in what the group described as under “the ongoing unholy alliance”.
While pointing out that the POF officially attracts N1, 000 for 20ft container and N2, 000 for 40ft container, he added that the fee must be paid by the named declarant on the import documents.
The statement reads in part: “Unfortunately, what’s obtainable on ground is a process where some staff of an accredited DTI centres with a licensed Customs operational agency (as the declarant) now help the forwarders to mass generate the POF payment advise for a fee ranging from N1,000 and a little above.
“Thereafter, the forwarder proceeds to make payment in the bank where he pays N2,350 in the case of a 40ft container. The additional N350 paid is noted as bank commission.
“This present process is not acceptable on the grounds of the inherent noticeable procedural delays as connivance for further extortion among the CRFFN, STOAN members (T.O.) shipping lines and listed DTI centres. The procedure is in negation of the principles of the ease of doing business in the port and the spirit of trade facilitation.
“A dig into the STOAN members’ concession agreement signed with the government through its agency shows that the agreement does not in any way contain nor provide nor confer such powers leading to the stoppage of cargo duly release by the customs, shipping lines, relevant regulatory agencies as noted in the import examination order of the government by regulatory agencies in the port clearance process.”
It continues: “The function of the terminal operators as a temporary custodian of the imports on behalf of the shipping lines has not changed from those services by which it earns charges and fees; obviously the POF conspiracy is not part of it.
“The CREFFPON due with utmost industry good fate urges the terminal operators not to stir the hornet comb, rather concentrate efforts for us to achieve and maintain the existing peace and harmony in our port Industry.
“If this is not urgently addressed, the CREFFPON shall not only seek legal redress but will in consultation with the associations, mobilize the forwarders to withdraw their professional Services.”
The group bemoaned the helplessness of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as the Council’s economic regulatory intervention is mere advisory, lacking the powers bit and therefore, unable to act as a decisive authority at a time like this.
CREFFPON canvassed the empowerment of NSC to enable it rejig and stabilize the economic wellbeing of the shipping industry and the nation’s port economy insisting that a mere presidential pronouncement cannot guarantee a regulatory sanction on defaulting stakeholders.
“Government must exhibit purposeful governance by transmuting the NSC via legislative processes as the nation’s maritime economic regulator once and for all. This industry gambling with an industry economic regulator should be addressed once and for all.”