Customs brokers and freight forwarding practitioners have legally put in abeyance the forceful collection of Practitioners Operating Fee (POF), vide an Interim Injunction granted the former by the Federal High Court Ikoyi Lagos, against the Minister of Transportation and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The tortuous, long drawn controversial POF spanning over a decade has attracted public opprobrium and disdain to the federal government and its officials, for attempting to engage in alleged unacceptable acts, adjudged contrary to all moral and traditional norm; making Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
The SUIT NO: FHC/L/CS/277/202, was filled on 11th March 2021 and heard on 16th March 2021. The plaintiffs to the case include TITLAY INVESTMENTS LTD, CHIEF ARIRO OYE ODUNOLA, LEWIS STEVEDORING INTERNATIONAL LTD, SARALAND VENTURES LTD, TUNS-TUNS NIGERIA LTD, KETAID SYSTEMS LIMITED, MR. YOMI ABIBOLA and BIO-BIO VENTURES LTD. The defendants are the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Chibuike Amaechi, CRFFN and eleven seaport terminals, including ENL CONSORTIUM LTD, APM TERMINAL APAPA LTD, TIN-CAN ISLAND CONTAINER TERMINAL LTD, PORT & CARGO HAULAGING SERVICES LTD, FIVE STAR LOGISTICS LTD, PORTS & TERMINAL MULTIPURPOSES LTD, APAPA BULK TERMINAL LTD, NIGERIA AVIATION HANDLING COMPANY LTD, GREEVIEW NIGERIA LTD, WEST AFRICA CONTAINER TERMINAL LTD and SIFAX AVIATION HANDLING COMPANY LTD.
In the Certified True Copy of the Order sighted by our reporter, signed by the Court Principal Executive Officer, O. Y. THOMAS (Mrs) on 22/3/2021, the Judge, L. N Oweibo after hearing the Motion brought by Chike Okoro Esq, Council to the plaintiffs, granted the Interim Injunction, including the following reliefs:
- That the Application is accordingly granted as prayed. 2. That the Defendants/Respondents either by themselves, privies and or agents are hereby restrained from blocking the entrance to the various Ports with Security agencies, and barring the Plaintiffs from entry into the Ports for their daily Business operations except they comply with the payments of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF), subject matter of this suit, pending the Hearing of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction dated 1st March 2021. 3. That the Return date shall be the 21st day of April, 2021 for Hearing of Motion on Notice.
Judge Oweibo further granted an INTERIM INJUNCTION restraining the Defendants/ Respondents either by themselves, privies and or agents are hereby restrained from blocking the entrance to the various Ports with Security agencies, and barring the Plaintiffs from entry into the Ports for their daily Business operations except they comply with the payments of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF), subject matter of this suit, pending the hearing of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction dated 1st March 2021. Hearing on the Motion has been fixed for 21st April, 2021.
It will be recalled that CRFFN has contrived every possible means to implement the collection of the POF and have consistently met with brick wall. But the Council under the outgoing administration has refused to give up and resorted to all sorts of gestures, propaganda and bobby trap, including co-opting the eleven seaport terminals into the controversial deal.
When that one failed, the Council also attempted to play the carrot and divide tactics by attempting to divide the freight forwarders along association lines, including dangling of mutually beneficial interest in which the Council Registrar, Sam Nwakohu said cargo declarants and associations will have their share of the POF on quarterly basis. This apparent snare also failed, as practitioners largely opposed to collection of the objectionable POF.
To avoid break down of law and order, the Port Police Command invited both parties for a parley where the police urged them to suspend the collection until both parties are able to reach mutual or legally acceptable position.