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CREFFPON Petitions Amaechi

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Says Election Notice Failed to Emphasize Eligibility of Contestants

BY FUNMI ALUKO

Anxieties generated by the controversial public notice for the forthcoming election of Members of the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) assumed another dimension as a new group has accused the Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi of deliberately foisting a dubious agenda to smuggle into the process, persons lacking the statutory eligibility.

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The group, Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) in its open letter to the Honourable Minister of Transportation (HMOT) while commending Amaechi for the decision to conduct the said election, demanded urgent adjustment in the Election Notice, to ensure that the election is conducted under “transparent, free, fair and acceptable manner”.

The petitioners not only picked several holes in the said election notice, they noted that failure to adjust the notice will be tantamount to promoting electoral fraud, and urged the HMOT to exhibit good character and statesmanship under the circumstances, by amending the election notice, including its perceived limited timeframe.

The open letter titled COMMENCEMENT TO CONDUCT ELECTION OF MEMBERS INTO THE GOVERNING BOARD OF THE COUNCIL FOR THE REGULATION OF FREIGHT FORWARDING IN NIGERIA ( CRFFN) – A PASSIONATE APPEAL FOR YOUR URGENT INTERVENTION was signed by Comrade Edwin Chukwudire Obi, CREFFPON Desk Administrative Officer.

The letter states inter alia: “We write to solicit for your urgent attention and intervention on some notable grey areas observed in the published public notice as referenced above.

“Firstly,  the decision to conduct the said expected  election is highly commendable of your office hoping that,  the electioneering process will be  executed in the most  transparent, free, fair and acceptable manner.”

The Freight Forwarders Group said though some professional colleagues have raised key observations dwelling in the administrative arrangements and expressed possible unforeseen circumstances playing out given the content and context of the election notice as published, CREFFPON notes:

“We pray for wisdom for you in taking note and acting on issues raised by them, as it will foster and enhance professional integration and administrative convenience, going forward. Having said this, the import of this our open letter is to express our strong concerns as contained in the public notice under reference, especially on the following items :

“Collection of Nomination Form: 6th to 17th September 2021.”

That, “Collection and submission of completed Nomination forms shall be within ten (10) days from 10am to 4pm daily in the following location.

“The timing for collection and submission of nomination forms within 10 days, is too short and capable of scheming out or shortchanging interested and legible Practitioners from exercising their legitimate Professional rights to vote and be voted for, in other to serve in his or her Professional Governing Council, which is the peak and height of a freight forwarder Professional leadership career and Professional might, so to say.

 “Accreditation of Candidates – 7th -8th October, 2021 & 3.iv: Display of Contestants’ List – 8th October, 2021.”

That “Contestants list will be displayed at the venue of the election, CRFFN Office, Abuja and FMOT Office Abuja respectively” Honorable Minister, we observed that, the said public notice did not mention nor stress on the “display of the names of eligible registered freight forwarders or corporate firms to vote in the election as contained in the register of freight forwarders”, especially in the context of the limited time frame for the organization and execution of the election.

The group called the attention of the HMOT to Act 16, 2007, which states that the Register of the freight forwarders shall be published annually, noting that has not been effected.

“We hereby solicit for your urgent attention and intervention at ensuring that eligible voters’ lists is published early and sealed to serve for electioneering process and purposes. This way, Practitioners will be reassured of no iota of intent to smuggle in the usual manipulation of names as it were in the previous elections.”

“Election – Saturday 9th October, 2021”:

The group also condemned aspect of the notice which stated that “election shall start at 10am prompt at National Women Centre , opposite CBN Headquarters, Abuja”, is inappropriate.

“Honorable Minister, we opine that,  it is not both administrative, economic and security friendly to move 95% of over 4000 Registered freight forwarders from their operational base of Western and Eastern ports region to Abuja, excerpt for a clandestine administrative moves to defranchise majority of the practitioners”.

“If not for something else,   to us it is considered a defeat of objective, ab nitio”.

The group also contested the ministry’s record that hold that there are 4686 individuals and 1425 corporate individual , the ministry have resolved to work with; and rejected Abuja as an appropriate venue.

“From our confidence oral interactions and findings within the ministry, the claims or reasons that was posited to have informed this decision,  which is  that,  the total number of currently  up dated and eligible freight forwarders on the REGISTER OF FREIGHT FORWARDERS (RFF) stands at: a. 4686 individual: b. 1425 corporate.

“Against the background of high number of eligible voters, expected at the election venue, was slated for Abuja, as a technical and security arrangement to limit and ensure effective crowd control and success of the election.

“Honorable Minister, this posited reasons or excuse for the shift of election venue to Abuja is neither here nor there, because there are several ways of using the electoral guidelines to check mate crowd control, other than exposing majority of the Practitioners to numerous risks ranging from flight and travel risks, especially  under serious national insecurity threats; extraordinary expenditures, health risks , etc.”

CREFFPON appealed to the HMOT not to allow members experience the sad episode of its maiden election handled by Nigerian Shippers’ Council, which they noted was prepared the groundwork for rigging.

“To say the least, the Freight Forwarders have not forgotten in a hurry their past experience with the first median election into the Governing Council, midwifed by the Nigeria Shippers Council in 2008 was not only rigged but witnessed the import of school children and streets urchin with luxurious buses into the election venue Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on the morning of the election day.

“The aftermath of that election created room for fundamental administrative misgivings, subsequently. In view of this, we solicit for your attention and urgent intervention on this aspect of our concern.

“Also note that, the guidelines for the conduct of the election would be given at the point of collecting nomination forms”.

The petitioners also rejected the high cost of the election form, and called on Amaechi to reduce the cost, which they opined was conceived as a device to exclude legible members.

“Honorable Minister, please note that, in item 3.vii states that, ” Payment and Collection of Nomination Form” – here again, the form collection process entails the payment of #500,000:00 into the the CRFFN Single Treasury Account and the presentation of bank payment receipt to the designated centres, before the nomination form will be released and subsequently a “guideline for the conduct of the election would be given to candidate at that point.

“In view of this, we consider the act of non publication of the electoral guidelines accompanying this public notice as a conceived deliberate act factored not on Utmost good fate. To say the least, it is a calculated rip off on the part of the committee.

“It is not ideal to first collect a non refundable payment of #500,000:00 for an interested Practitioners, and upon accessing or collection of the electoral guidelines, having effected payment to discover that he or she is not eligible to contest.

“Such approach is  crooked and can be termed as day light rip off of the freight forwarders. To be emphatic, this crooked approach has the tendencies to cast credibility question and possibly engender litigations arising there from.

“Honorable Minister, from the previous elections experiences,  the rate of obtaining nomination form at high cost as #500,000:00 has always pose serious representation challenges on the part of elected freight forwarders, whom subsequently upon being sworn into the Governing Council, firstly thinks of how to recouped money spent during the election, thereby leading to poor representation of the Practitioners in the long run.

“It is in the strength of these enumerated concerns that we write to solicit for your attention and urgent intervention, so as to save the integrity of our Profession cum Professional Election.”

CREFFPON said it looked forward the HMOT quick response to its request.

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