‘You have no authority to organize freight forwarders election’, Practitioners’ tells Amaechi
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Coming on the heel of a notice for the forthcoming 2021 Governing Council election of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria (CRFFN), by persons roughly described as impostors by industry stakeholders, practitioners have frowned at development as unbecoming and an unwarranted interference who should be playing advisory role.
Miffed by the development, a group of freight forwarders led by Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju, former Chairman Governing Council of CRFFN, have called on the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi to excuse himself from the election process of the Council, noting that the minister lacks constitutional powers to constitute a committee for the purpose of the said election.
The Olarewaju group said Amaechi either obviously misunderstood the intendment of section of Act 16 of 2007 Act, by acting to dictate or direct the affairs of the Council, in the present circumstance, constituting a committee for the forthcoming 2021 Governing Council election, which Olarewaju and his associates describe as undue imposition and therefore void and null.
While the group commended the transportation minister for his apparent interest in some of the problems confronting practitioners, they urged him to stop further meddling with the fundamental affairs of the Council, and address himself to specific areas begging for ministerial attention.
The group described the committee believed to have been put together by the minister as legally flawed and incompetent, describing the mister’s actions as a “fundamental error”; and advised him to excuse him forthwith, for the preservation of his honour and integrity.
The group flayed the minister for his busy body attitude and attempt to further hijack the machinery of electioneering of the Council for ulterior motives, as they accused him of using political appointees in the governing board attempt to plot the return of professional members of the governing board in the pursuit of predetermined objectives, that does not reflect the genuine aspirations of the industry and its practitioners.
The statement with the theme RE: CONSTITUTION OF AN ELECTORAL COMMITTEE OF THE CRFFN BY THE HONORABLE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT – Matters Arising; signed by Olarewaju reads:
“First is to commend the Honorable Minister for eventually seeing the need to attend to one of the numerous professional concerns impeding the advancement of the freight forwarding Profession in Nigeria, which are begging for ministerial attention and directives.
“On one hand, it is most appreciated that the Honorable Minister constituted an electoral committee to conduct an election for the freight forwarders to elect their professional colleagues into the Council Governing Board, this is most noble and administrative responsiveness indeed.
“On the other hand, is the uncertainty whether the Honorable Minister indeed cares much about both the professional integrity and the integrity of the electoral processes starting with the committee composition, especially with regards to scrutiny of their integrity.”
Accusing the minister of actionable error, the group further flayed him for promoting illegality and self serving pursuits in the Council and thus helping to inflame internal crisis within, by engaging in unconstitutional actions, deemed prejudicial to legal proceedings.
“It is important to point out that a fundamental error has been established in the making of the intended electioneering process”, noting that the election committee set up by the minister is prejudicial to court processes, as they argued that it contravened ongoing legal actions arising from the last regime, which dissolution they argued was inconclusive.
They provided a catalogue of reasons for the perceived misadventure of the minister which includes the following:
“a. The out gone (immediate past) Governing Council Board was not properly dissolved. b. Presently, at the expiration of the out gone Governing Council Board, while the elected freight forwarders in the board headed to the court seeking for their tenure elongation to 4 years and not 2 years as provided by the Act 16, 2007; the appointed politicians were immediately reappointed by the Honorable Minister, ahead of the freight forwarders election: from the last experience this type arrangement creates room for political manipulations and undue leverages”, and:
“c. Unconfirmed reports has it that, there exists an internal understanding and arrangements for the appointed politicians to work assiduously and to deploy a process that will guarantee the return of the out gone freight forwarders.”
The group averred that the alleged actions of the minister is creating anxieties, doubts and fears in the minds of freight forwarders, fears they say is borne out of concerns that Amaechi may have contracted those he constituted into the committee to play out a script that will produce predetermined winners in the election vide an arrangement they refer to as the Tactical & Strategic Electoral Committee.
“It is on record that, the immediate past Governing Council Board set up a Tactical & Strategic Electoral Committee before their tenure elapsed, but the components of such electoral arrangements are still very much around.
“The freight forwarding Practitioners are still very much doubtful and worried about the possibilities of the HMOT, unknowingly playing into this initial conceptualized TACTICAL ELECTIONEERING AND VOTING PROCESS packaged by the out gone Governing Council Board.”
The group also urged Amaechi to clear the air on his perceived interest in the whole arrangement.
“It is important to openly lodge the skepticism expressed by the generality of the freight forwarding Practitioners which seeks a clarification to the effect that, this published election notice is not in any way a mere TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC ELECTORAL COMMITTEE AND SYSTEM or better stated, a furtherance of the formal Governing Council Board.
“This expression is apt because we aware that : “In a ‘first-past-the-post electoral system’, a vote is tactical when it is cast for a selected candidate not on merits, but to ensure such candidate wins in the constituency. Tactical voting also includes strategic incentives granted to misrepresent the electorates choices via a manipulated and preferred electoral system.”
The group explained that tactical voting arrangement involves subtle structuring and agreeing on an incentives that will be redeemed during or later, having the capacity to necessitate and influence the electioneering process and the election results even when the candidates in favor is a misfits and unpopular.
“Tactical & Strategic voting system is often organized to favor an incumbent or to foster status quo. The term Tactical & Strategic Voting is synonymous, a sophisticated voting system generally refers to an electoral Committee system where there are defined agenda, rules and guidelines that are factored to suite the unpublished interests.”
Olarewaju believes that “Tactical and strategic voting system is often anti democratic norms and pro conservatism.”
The concerned freight forwarders also wondered why the transportation minister would appoint a committee and keep the identity of the committee members’ secret. They urged the minister to come out clean on the matter and allow a transparent process.
“Another crucial observation is the Identity of the Electoral Committee Members which has not been made public – again, this further cast integrity question on the electoral arrangements. Based on the forgoing, the Freight Forwarders require a confidence rekindling statement by the Honorable Minister on the issues raised above.”
“A clarification is apt, because it will be administratively counterproductive to allow freight forwarders to obtain election forms at a whopping non refundable cost of #500,000:00 and to eventually discover later that, the election was a mere charade in the order not too different from the last election.”
The group said such a dismal process would lead to needless litigation compared to a transparent electoral process.
“Such, arrangements will be tantamount to deliberate acceptance of multiple litigations, thereafter. In similar expression, the Freight Forwarders believes that most of the administrative policies and directives taken by the supervisory ministry has continuously fallen short of driving a Professional development process, rather it further makes the Practitioners less Professionals.”
They noted that whereas the maiden election into the First Governing Council of the CRFFN in 2008 conducted by Nigeria Shippers Council as provided in the Act 16, 2007, recorded some short comings, subsequent election in 2010 conducted by the Council elected Freight Forwarders fulfilled the democratic transition as provided in the third schedule, which it said was carried out smoothly and without skirmishes.
Going back memory lane, the concerned freight forwarders said ever since the Federal Ministry of Transport made inroad into the conduct of the Council’s election, with the excuse of not having funds to prosecute an election, the character of successive elections have grown dimmer and disgraceful.
“It out rightly refused all entreaties by the elected Practitioners who proposed to conduct the election within the ambit of its Professional providence but to no avail, hence, the non regulatory activities within the period under reference.
“In 2018, again the Ministry cooked up another general election, appointed politicians ( 98% of them non Practitioners ) to represent the geo political zones of the Federation. These politicians were well seated for about six months ahead of the composition of the ideal Governing Council.
“In what the Practitioners saw as a collaboration with some of the officers in the Transport Ministry in consultation with the leadership of the accredited Freight Forwarding Associations, handed over an electoral script to the Management of the CRFFN to prosecute, while they sat back to supervise”, they alleged.
They further alleged that since the supervising ministry took over the election matters of CRFFN, it has not met the minimum decorum required, and called on Amaechi and his ministry to excuse themselves from the Councils electoral processes, and allow for democratic dynamics to reign, as it is with other professional bodies.
“Today, the Transport Ministry has constituted another election committee with consultation with the stakeholders, citing sections of the Act to mean that the Act confer on the HMOT the Power to constitute and organize an election for the Freight Forwarders, which in the understanding of the Practitioners is not so.
“Rather, the Practitioners are of the opinion that the HMOT merely misinterpret and misrepresents the object clause in the Act inter alia: “the Honorable Minister to give directions of essential character” to the Council. In reality, judging from the First Governing Council, the said object clause is applicable where the Governing Council requires to address issues with political considerations ( e.g. internal political appointments, citing of projects, etc).
“The generality of the Freight Forwarding Practitioners, with mouths wide open, wishes to ask, can the Government Minister cum Ministry constitute an electoral committee for the Engineers, Accountants, Bankers, Lawyers, Doctors, etc?”
Olarewaju and his professional associates noted that the minister and his ministry have continued interference in the democratic process of freight freighters has brought opprobrium to the profession. Accordingly, they appealed to the transportation minister to desist from further meddling with the CRFFN internal affairs, noting that the federating members have the capacity and long history of credible internal democratic processes.
“Is it not worrisome to note that, some of the accredited freight forwarding associations has long history of conducting successful internal elections, but under the prevailing circumstances are found unfit to conduct a free, fair, transparent and acceptable election in their Profession?
“Indeed, seemingly, the Freight Forwarding Profession is the most disrespected and ignored among the comity of National Professional bodies in Nigeria, yet they are the most trusted and movers of the National economy.
“On this note, we therefore, call on the Honorable Minister of Transport to give a statement of essential character premised on professional integrity with regards to this subject of election notice into the Governing Council Board of the CRFFN.”