The Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Sir Mike Jukwe, granted interview to selected journalists in Abuja recently. Our Correspondent, Chibuzor Emejor, was there. Jukwe, in this interview, spoke on a number of issues, particularly the reforms going on in the Council, its new enforcement regime to rid the sea ports, land border stations, cargo airports of unregistered and fake freight forwarders and other germane issues affecting the maritime industry. Excerpts:Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
For the sake of the general public, could you give us the overview of the statutory mandate of CRFFN? In other words, what are your key mandates?
The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) was established by the CRFFN Act Number 16 of 2007. Section 4 of the Act has mandated the Council to regulate and control the practice as well as organise and structure the activities of persons, organisations and associations operating the freight forwarding business in Nigeria. We are to register freight forwarders, accredit associations, accredit training programmes and training institutions and ensure that only those who are in the Register that are allowed to operate in the freight forwarding industry. We are to set and enforce international standards in compliance with best practices.
Your mission is to rid the Seaports, Cargo airports and Land border stations of fake and unregistered freight forwarders and touts. How do you intend to accomplish this onerous task?
First, we had to produce the relevant Regulations made pursuant to the Act to guide us in our regulatory function in 2010. We started the process of registration and accreditation respectively and by 2012 we produced the maiden Register of freight forwarders, accredited associations of freight forwarders, accredited training programmes and training institutions. The Register is reviewed monthly and published twice a year, as of 31st December and 31st June respectively. The next step is to enforce the relevant provisions of the Act and Regulations made pursuant thereto, which allows only registered forwarders to operate in the freight forwarding industry. To enforce, we had to recruit the enforcement team and train them, sensitise all stakeholders and partner with the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Nigeria Police to help us in the enforcement exercise. Why now? It is because we have done the needful and got to the stage of enforcement. The process is step by step, taken one after another. The stage of enforcement is now, it is set.
The Council has begun the sensitisation of the public in order to enforce compliance with the enabling Act establishing the CRFFN. How many states have you visited? What have been the responses of the Freight Forwarders?
Thank you. Our areas of coverage or operation, being the seaports, cargo airports and land border stations in the country have been zoned. Eastern Zone has a Zonal office in Port Harcourt, Northern Zone has a Zonal office in Kano and Western Zone has a Zonal office in Lagos. We also have a Liaison Office in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. We have been to all those areas in addition to Seme Land border station, Calabar, Warri and Kaduna. We will soon go to some land border stations too. We were welcomed and encouraged to carry on with the enforcement, the response was the same everywhere we went. We are encouraged particularly by the Nigeria Police who are ready and willing to partner with us.
Recently, the Federal Government ordered some para–military organisations to leave the airports, border stations and sea ports, is your Council not affected by this directive?
We are neither Cargo Inspectors nor para-military agencies. We do not fall into the categories that were affected.
Can you shed more light on your training programmes which have been accredited by International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA)?
There has been no formal educational and training programme in Freight Forwarding in Nigeria; therefore, we needed a benchmark to guide us. CRFFN was in October, 2010 in Thailand admitted as the representative of Nigeria in the World body, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA). We fulfilled the requirements and the Nigeria’s Professional International Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management which is to be issued by FIATA was accredited by FIATA in October, 2012 in the United States of America. We are currently working towards the accreditation of the Higher Diploma in Freight Forwarding, come October, 2013 at the meeting of Advisory Body on Vocational Training during the World Congress holding in Singapore. We have accredited the Training Institutions to deliver the Professional Certificate, Diploma and Higher Diploma in Freight Forwarding in Nigeria from next year. We will work with the National Board for Technical Education to also introduce the Vocational National Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Freight Forwarding soon. Thereafter, we will make available those study materials to the Universities we have accredited to work on them as appropriate and seek the accreditation of the National Universities Commission to deliver Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Freight Forwarding in our great nation, Nigeria. To me, the ultimate will be to produce the first set of graduates in Freight Forwarding in Nigeria.
Has the age-long rivalry between your Council and other Associations of Freight forwarding business been resolved, including the court cases?
The CRFFN Act is being implemented for the first time, therefore, it is expected that stakeholders will interpret it to sort their respective self interest. When the tenure of the immediate past Governing Council ended and they left, I initiated consultations with the leadership of the Associations and most of the issues were resolved, including all the court cases but one on Transaction Fees which a Federal High Court in Lagos ruled in our favour but the Party appealed against the judgment. All the accredited associations, namely, ANLCA, NAGAFF, NAFFAC, NCMDLCA and AREFFN are represented at the Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum (FFCF), an advisory body comprised representatives of all stakeholders, which is coordinated by CRFFN. The body is to amongst others, resolve issues and ensure that Freight Forwarders speak with one voice. We call on all the Associations to be open and sincere and not to say one thing today and do the other the next day. There are sanctions, such as suspension and expulsion, against registered individuals and corporate freight forwarders, accredited associations and training institutions that without exhausting the statutory channels provided by CRFFN (including the FFCF) in resolving disputes have recourse to legal actions and media war. Those involved in such acts were having a field day because enforcement was yet to start, but enforcement has commenced and I can assure them that it is no longer “business as usual”, they will be made to pay dearly for any misconduct.
In monetary terms, can you estimate the amount of money the nation loses as a result of the dubious activities of touts and fake Freight Forwarders at the airports, seaports and land border stations in Nigeria?
It is a huge amount of money running into billions of Naira per annum, through unearned revenue that would have been accrued to the Federal Government and other stakeholders.
Since your assumption of office in 2009, what have been your major achievements?
By the Grace of God Almighty, I happen to be the pioneer Registrar and Chief Executive of CRFFN; therefore, we started from the scratch. We have laid the foundation and now building on it. We produced the maiden Register of Freight Forwarders on 1st February, 2012 shortly after the maiden induction on 28th January, 2012 of 1,435 individuals, 405 corporate practitioners and 2 Associations of Freight Forwarders (Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). The Register is updated monthly and published bi–annually, therefore, the current one being as at 31st June, 2013, we registered 1,976 individuals, 567 corporate practitioners and 5 Associations of Freight Forwarders (ANLCA, NAGAFF, Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators ((NAFFAC), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and Association of Registered of Freight Forwarders, Nigeria (AREFFN) who are qualified and allowed to practice freight forwarding in Nigeria. Over 5,000 applications were received but only those who went through physical verification and met the set criteria were registered. The inducted freight forwarders take the Oath of Allegiance and the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics, and they are issued Identity Cards with Certificates. The Associations through their Presidents take the Oath of Allegiance and they are also issued Operating Guidelines with Certificates. All those registered are allocated Registered Freight Forwarder’s Numbers respectively and allowed to use the title of Forwarder and the abbreviation of RFF after their names. Also, CRFFN was on 25th May, 2010 admitted into the World Body of Air–Freight Forwarders, the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA). The Council was on 8th October, 2010 also admitted as the representative of Nigeria in the World Body of Freight Forwarders, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).
In addition, the Training-Of-Trainers (TOT) programmes for Diploma in Freight Forwarding were held for the first time in Nigeria in 2012 after which the Professional Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management to be issued by FIATA was accredited by FIATA in October, 2012 in the United States of America. We are at present working towards the accreditation of the Professional Higher Diploma in Freight Forwarding against October, 2013 in Singapore. Thereafter, the accredited Universities to offer degree courses in Freight Forwarding will approach the National Universities Commission for accreditation. It is on record that CRFFN has placed Nigeria on the world map of freight forwarding and attending international events to launder the image of not only freight forwarding but the entire Nigeria nation. CRFFN and by extension Nigeria is held in high esteem today. It has accredited the Certificate in Freight Forwarding and Executive Diploma in Freight Forwarding developed jointly by the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria (NITT) and the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarding (NIFF) offered in Nigeria for the first time. CRFFN has established the Nigerian Institute of Freight forwarding as the professional body of freight forwarders in Nigeria so as to build capacity for individual practitioners. During my tenure, CRFFN has accredited one tertiary Institution in all the six geo–political zones and four training Institutions in Lagos (therefore, a total of ten) to offer education and training in freight forwarding and supply chain management in Nigeria. More institutions across the nation who meet the criteria are also under consideration for accreditation. We have also established the Freight Forwarders Investigation Panel as well as the Freight Forwarders Disciplinary Tribunal which were inaugurated by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on 30th April, 2011. Furthermore, CRFFN has established its Enforcement Unit and the officers passed out from training at a colourful ceremony held on the 27th August, 2012. As part of our achievements, five Regulations were produced and published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette number 48, Vol. 97 issued in Lagos on 9th July, 2010 namely (i) The CRFFN Act (Organs and officers of the Council) Regulations, 2010; (ii) The CRFFN Act (Registration of Freight Forwarders) Regulations, 2010; (iii) The CRFFN Act (Annual Subscription and Other Fees) Regulations, 2010; (iv) The CRFFN Act (Accreditation of Associations of Freight Forwarders) Regulations, 2010 and (v) The CRFFFN Act (Professional Misconduct and Discipline) Regulations, 2010. Another five Regulations have been produced and will soon be published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, namely (i) The CRFFN Act (Freight Forwarders Disciplinary Tribunal and Assessors) Regulations, 2012; (ii) The CRFFN Act (Register of Freight Forwarders, Accredited Training Programmes and Institutions) Regulations, 2012; (iii) The CRFFN Act (Standard Trading Conditions) Regulations, 2012; (iv) The CRFFN Act (Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders) Regulations, 2012; and (v) The CRFFN Act (Annual Subscription and Other Fees) Regulations, 2012 as amended in line with the approved “Transaction Fees” by the Honourable Minister of Transport. With the afore–mentioned, CRFFN has put in place all the requirements to deliver on its core mandates of standardization in registration of practitioners, education and training, and best practices among others.