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Freight forwarders kick against practitioner fee in seaports

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Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman

Freight forwarders have condemned the collection of the Practitioner Operating Fee (POF) at the nation’s seaports.

The Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) had imposed the payment of POF on freight forwarders effective March 1, 2021, but the aggrieved freight forwarders said the collection would increase the cost of doing business initiative of the Federal Government.

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National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalitions (SNFFIEC), Osita Chukwu, noted that collecting the POF at a time the nation is still battling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will compound negative impact on the port operators.

Chukwu said under the POF regime, importers will pay N3.5 per tone of cargo imported into the country, N1.5 per kilo for air cargo, N1, 000 on each imported 20-feet container and N2, 000 per 40-feet container.

He said that CRFFN mandated the terminal operators and shipping companies to reject any freight forwarders or customs agents that bring any cargo delivery paper without showing proof of the POF payment.

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He said if the government failed to address the issue, it would leave them with no choice but to seek redress at the court of law while alleging that the government established CRFFN to rip off freight forwarders and the public.

Chukwu alleged that most of the people who are in the CRFFN do not have a license to practice freight forwarding and they are not eligible to be there, adding that some that have to license are owing to the government in the tunes of millions of naira and they are still allowed to be members of CRFFN.

President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, told The Guardian that the POF would compound the challenges faced by clearing agents.

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He said introducing additional charges at this moment when the cost of doing business in Nigerian port is regarded as one of the highest in the world is uncalled for, as it would shoot up the cost of shipping.

Amiwero enjoined the CRFFN to immediately suspend the collection of POF and create a business-friendly environment for the clearing agents to operate.

Also, the Public Affairs Officer, Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) Chukwudire Obi, in a separate statement, described the initiative as clandestine and insensitive move undertaken by CRFFN.

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By the move, he said, the CRFFN had brazenly demonstrated its administrative carelessness towards the plights of freight forwarding practitioners in Nigeria.

He asked the CRFFN to immediately suspend the POF collection intent until it shows commitment to the welfare of practitioners.

Obi said the CRFFN, with an incomplete administrative structure, appeared to be in terrible haste to perpetuate extended exploitation and compound the prevailing suppression, exploitations, and extortions heaped on the freight forwarders in the ports cargo clearance chain.

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He said the practitioners are not only helpless but also highly disillusioned due to no positive leadership representation both from the accredited associations and the CRFFN.

He, therefore, stated that: “the CREFFPON emphatically condemns the ridiculous move to commence the POF collection without the input and involvement of the elected freight forwarders on the board of CRFFN.”

The group, according to him, queries and currently doubts the accountability and uprightness in the financial management of the POF collection without the elected freight forwarders to supervise the processes.

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