10 August 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos — THE Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, has raised alarm over the misappropriation of N4.2billion budgeted for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, in 2016 and 2017 by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Registrar of Council Sir Mike Jukwe.
National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, while addressing members of the maritime journalists in Lagos yesterday, alleged that so far, Amaechi and Jukwe cannot account for how a whopping N700 million allocated to the CRFFN in 2006 and N3.5 billion to the council in 2017 budget was spent.
He noted that the Minister is currently flouting a court order by insisting on the collection of an illegal levy (Practitioners’ Operations Fee, POF) from licensed customs agents through a directive to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
He said that POF collection would increase the cost of doing business at Nigerian ports as against recent efforts of the Federal Government to through the Ease of Doing Business Committee.
Already, there is palpable anxiety at Tin Can Island Port and Apapa port as the clearing agents staged a protest at the two major ports on Monday to protest the POF collection.
Farinto noted that POF is an illegal collection over which his association had in 2015 dragged the Transport Ministry, Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Inspector General of Police and the CRFFN to Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos to challenge the collection.
He said that the court case notwithstanding, Amaechi had issued a directive last week through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry directing seaport terminal operators to commence collection of the POF.
In order to restrain the terminal operators from collecting the POF however, he said that ANLCA had sued terminal operators to court and joined them in the existing suit earlier filed in 2015.
“We completed the filing and we have submitted the summons to Secretary of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, STOAN, Barr. Boye Uzamot. He has however promised to ensure his association does not flout the law because a case is already in court.”
“Talking about funding of CRFFN, last year, over N700 million was allocated to CRFFN, in 2017 alone, over N3.5 billion has been allocated to the council, the budget has been passed, so what the Registrar doing with money, who is he regulating alone, who has he trained? The money that has been allocated to them last year and this year, nothing has come out of it, who has been spending the money? Is it the registrar alone or it is the registrar and the minister? We cannot pay POF.”
“POF means that they want to collect money from every cargo that leaves the port, the licensed agents does the clearing,” he said.
The ANLCA spokesman argued that the CRFFN Governing Council must be properly constituted through an election before any talk of POF can come up.
When contacted, the Registry of CRFFN, Jukwe did not pick his call but sent a text message directing the reporter to call the head of corporate affairs of the Council.
Head of corporate affairs of CRFFN, Chinyere Uronta, said the budget figure presented by the reporter was wrong and the facts presented also are not correct but she disconnected the line when this reporter asked her to provide the correct figure.
The Director of Press of the ministry of Transportation, Yetunde Shonaike, could not be reached on phone neither did she respond to a text message sent to her.
Similarly, an aid to the minister, David Iyofo, did not pick his call but responded to the test message directing Vanguard to connect the director press.