…Mulls Practitioners’ Unity To Avoid Threats of Foreign Invasion
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Sir Emenike Kingsley Nwokeoji has said he along with his National Executive Committee (NECOM) will focus on taking its restoration agenda to the hilt, in addition to providing selfless service that will guarantee the right sense of belonging.
To achieve above, he enjoined members of the association to unite and come together to chart a new course of relevance for the association, noting that the benefits will be more when everyone work together.
Nwokeoji who made this call during the inauguration of the newly elected NECOM in Lagos yesterday, Thursday, November 23, 2023, even as he thanked the leadership and management of the Nigeria Customs Service for helping to stem the tide of division and crisis that has polarized and crippled the association in the past five years; by brokering peace amongst the warring factions which led to the successful conduct of the election on October 7, 2023.
Meanwhile, stakeholders, both corporate, governmental and individual who attended the colourful inauguration have appealed to players and operators in the maritime industry to continue to support the new leadership of ANLCA and its members to reconnect with the greatness the association was known for before the crisis.
Nwokeoji had in his opening address and remarks described the crisis as unwarranted and avoidable, even as he expressed delight that peace has returned, and reaffirm the determination of the present national leadership haste to catch up with much that was lost to the five years crisis.
“Today is one of the happiest days of my life because the Bible says blessed are the peacemakers because they will be called the children of God. CCC l want to thank you, you have worked to bring peace to this association.
“Any price you can pay for peace that does not involve your life is worth paying. If we check what is going on around the world, from Russia and Ukraine and now Israel and Palestine, nobody in his right mind will despise peace. Let me commend everyone that has made it here to identify with us as we pilot our collective affairs from 2023 to 2027 by God’s grace.
“I have been National Vice President for two terms from 2010 to 2018. I contested and lost election in Enugu in 2018 to be the national president, but I have never hesitated in congratulating the declared winner. Importantly, five years plus, after our misunderstanding in ANLCA, it is time to come together to chart a new cause of relevance for our association and for the benefit of our long suffering members, for our nation, Nigeria, and for humanity sake.
“It is on the light of this that I and other members of my executive seek the support of all our mutual and common stakeholders in the pursuit of a mutually beneficial collaboration and partnership in this odious but not impossible task of leading ANLCA back to national and international reckoning.”
He explained that the inauguration was also designed to provide the platform to further embrace and promote genuine reconciliation, noting that the event will open more positive doors.
“The event of today is meant to once again inform the general public and particularly stakeholders that ANLCA is fully back in the committee of associations in the maritime industry to take its rightful position as de-numero custom brokerage/freight forwarding association in Nigeria especially, and internationally, in general.
“We intend to hereafter reach out to all stakeholders to synergize on issues bordering on advancement of the maritime and aviation industry and in fact, our national policy issues as it affect our subsector, in order to present a formidable and common front.”
He notes that the victory leading to the inauguration is a collective one, and urges all members to a shared sense of belonging.
“The NECOM election at the Federal Palace Hotel was lost by both contending parties. I will repeat that in that election, both parties that contested lost. But the election was won by all ANLCA members, the victory belongs to all of us. Building on our restoration mantra, we have done so much within so short a period in stabilizing the ship of our great association. Peace and unity are more paramount than ever before. After years of doldrums, we should avoid divisions and work in harmony to collectively protect our common heritage before others, particularly foreigners will shove us behind.
“Once again, let’s close rank with sister associations, I can recognize NAGAFF here, AREFF President is here, we should all come together, unite to rescue our profession from outsiders masquerading as either clearing agents or custom brokers, before it is too late.”The chairman of the occasion, former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Dakuku Peterside while urging members of the association to eschew further animosity and crisis, called on all maritime stakeholders and regulatory agencies to support the newly elected executives headed by Nwokeoji to consolidate on the peace that has so far been secured.
The former NIMASA boss challenged the Nigeria Customs Service in particular to continue to take more than a passing interest in the stability of ANLCA, and to continually support the association and its members in practicing their trade, noting that the relationship is built on mutual sensitive tie such as exist between a husband and wife.
“The partnership between ANLCA and customs is like a marriage that can never be divorced. As for Customs, ANLCA is your wife in this marriage, and you must be a good husband, support them, and make concessions where you need to. Your regulatory powers means you should encourage them to succeed.
He also charged Nwokeoji to use his position to advance the cause of the association’s teaming numbers, noting that leadership is about trust.
“You must have the trust and understanding of members of this association, it is when we are honest, humble, accommodating, when we don’t know the difference between South East, South West, North, South South, when we treat everyone equally, that is when you can earn our respect and trust.
“Leaders in this part of the world take advantage of their position, instead of serving, they oppress. But, l know you as a knight of the church, a man who fears God, you will not use your position to oppress anyone but to advance our common interests and reputation and strength of this association.”
Apparently speaking from experience, Peterside asked Nwokeoji to prepare for insults and more, and to have the sagacity to overlook in order to succeed as a leader
“Leadership is not an easy task, people will abuse you, they would insult you, they would tell lies, but I want to beg you to be tolerant. In the African parlance, they say a leader is a dustbin
“Let me appeal to the members, we have passed through enough crisis, let us all rally round the President and ensure that ANLCA becomes stronger, respected, reputable and enjoy support of all regulators in the industry.
“There is strength in unity and we are greater, together; let bygone be bygone so that government of Nigeria would respect us the more”, adding:
“The executive are counting on our success.”
In his presentation, the former Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, challenged ANLCA and sister associations to confer respect on their practice by taking deliberate steps to attaining a corporate status by moving away from their individual small identity, noting that they would gain much more by imbibing corporate culture in their practices.
He said without the necessary changes, it will also be difficult to fully secure its market share in a maritime space that has the potential to be the leading sector of the national economy.
Bellow advocated among other things for ANLCA emerge a stronger, respected player, training and retraining of members in addition to adapting to modern technology of trade as part of the ongoing modern changes.
“If we refuse to change, what will happen? Change will leave us behind, remember when television entered, everybody said I don’t want radio again. With television I can see, I can hear. But Radio is still around, because radio programmes is adapted to own culture and so people are still using the radio. Even when the television was introduced, people say they are not going to the theater, but that is not so people still go to see movies. Mobile phones with camera have been out, cameras are struggling, how are you going to have a way out?
“So customs brokers…they are dominant players, they have evolved and changed and transited from being mere keepers import documents into influential trading factors globally and nationally.
But we have to be more engaging than being just agents operating at manual levels, filling out customers documents, processing paperwork. We have to embrace change and the use of technology. They use manual we have seen on train and at the bank.
“The truth is that we are located off line, our offices are not connected when you are having millions of cars as freight onboard and you don’t have equipment or modern tools. That is to why we have to train as freight forwarders. They speak everywhere, most are educated, most are billionaires, but refuse to accept technology, there is no corporate culture.
“We have to come together, its so important we consolidate our position. We become professional so that we continue to ask for respect. That means that you are in sync with others. You are in sync with the terminal operators and everybody. We need to train and train and trade so that we will be at the peak, so that we will not be the weakest. You have to comply with regulatory payment, registration and so many other things…especially now we have marine and blue economy.
“I ask you to come together with other association, maybe a national company, a national route so that we can have stakeholders come out on how we can enhance our opportunities.”
In his goodwill message, the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi expressed confidence in the calibre and character of the newly elected NECOM members, even as he pledged to continue to provide the required support, both technical and administration as spelt out in the Customs Act.
Adeniyi who was represented by the Assistant Comptroller General Zone ‘A’ ACG Bello Jibo said flowing from the husband-wife relationship analogy between the customs and customs brokers, the management will continue to explore areas of partnership and engagements.
“I feel honored to stand here before you after hearing all the appreciations and the role that was played by my CGC in ensuring that this new executive of ANLCA is inaugurated today. I know my CG, he liked the right things…that is one of the reasons the chairman said we are the husband and you are the wife.
“The MC said if you don’t pay duty, we don’t get revenue, please, continue to pay your duty so that we can generate revenue for government. The service has confidence on the caliber of leaders that are going to drive this important association to a higher level.
“We will all collaborate and synergize with you, most importantly, we are ready and available to have regular consultations in our operations for the development and progress of this nation”, he said.
Also speaking, President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju challenged members of ANLCA to cherish the peace that has been secured; even as he said the union is willing to collaborate with ANLCA to forge a common front to protect their collective interets.
He said, “I want to tell the new executives and Mr. President that being a president is not a tea party. You must close rank and allow peace to reign within the sector. The port system is bigger than every one of us, the founding fathers of ANLCA has played a significant role in bringing the association to where it is today; don’t allow external forces to influence the peace that makes ANLCA what it is today.”
The high point of the event was the inauguration ceremony presided over by the Chairman Board of Trustees of ANLCA, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha; who caused the traditional paraphernalia of offices to be given to each exco member; and charged all to be of good behavior and to protect and promote the existing peace.
“From today on, you must know that ego should be a thing of the past, be open to everyone, irrespective of whichever divide they are coming from.”
Addressing the national president, he said, “l have known you as a gentleman with wisdom and sagacity, I know that you would weather the storm and bring ANLCA back to its limelight.”
Presidents of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF)and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF) graced the occassion. Also, past presidents of ANLCA in attendance include Chief Ernest Elochukwu, Prince Olayiwola Shittu and Alhaji Mohammed Innua.