BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
There are strong indications that freight forwarders “practising Fees” rackets halted sometime ago by the two industry regulators, the Council For The Regulation Of Freight Forwarding In Nigeria (CRFFN) and the Nigeria Shippers Council(NSC) have resumed at the Onne Seaports.
Usually dependable sources informed Pinnacle Time that the rackets resumed at the instance of the CRFFN accredited associations operating in Onne seaport, allegedly led by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), in collusion with West Africa Container Terminal (WACT) and the Onne Multipurpose Terminal (OMT), two leading cargo terminals at the Onne seaports.
While efforts to crosscheck with WACT on the development proved abortive as its media agency was not reachable on the phone, nor replied to text message sent to them on the matter, ANLCA officials contacted denied knowledge of the matter.
According to a registered freight forwarder based in Port Harcourt, ANLCA payment receipts are used to perpetrate the rackets, in which the affected terminal users are forced to attach ANLCA payment receipts among other documents before their cargoes are finally released.
Confirming the development, Chidi Anthony Opara , an intellectual inclined freight forwarder and good governance activist said monies realized from these rackets are shared between the CRFFN accredited associations in Onne Seaport, with a percentage given to the terminal operators.
It will be recalled that CRFFN had in a letter dated 3rd September, 2013, with reference number: CRFFN/WACT/RG/001 and entitled: “Illegal Collection Of Money By The ANLCA/NAGAFF Joint Taskforce At Your Terminal” drew the attention of terminal operators at the Onne Ports, including WACT to illegality of such actions and asked all concerned to desist.
Similarly, the Nigeria Shippers Council, acting on complaint by a group of Concerned Nigerians known as “Coalition Of Freight Forwarding Practitioners”, in a letter dated 26th February,2014 and referenced: NSC/ES/SCU/2014/vol. 01/06, pronounced the action illegal and equally warned involved to desist from such illegality.
The Shippers Council specifically warned that on no account should a non governmental organization collect monies from its members by whatever name called in the ports. The regulator pronounced that such collection, if need be, should be at the secretariat of such non governmental organizations.
Reacting, Chidi Anthony Opara, RFF, FIIM, said should the illegality persist; he would be forced to petition appropriate governmental quarters, noting:
“The resumption of this collection, which has been declared illegal by the relevant industry regulators is an indication that the perpetrators do not believe in the rule of law in the industry and if this is not stopped, the impression will be that there is systemic lawlessness in our Ports system.”