By Godfrey Bivbere, Olaitan Ayoola & Thelma Ogbu
The failure of policy objectives in the maritime industry has been attributed to the absence of stakeholders, input in the formulation of such policies.
The former Chairman, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, Mr. Tony Iju Nwabunike, who said this in Lagos, also told Sweetcrude that this has been the practice over the years.
He argued that the challenges faced by the industry today, including corruption, could be easily checkmated with suggestions from stakeholders.
According to him, “Government should consider us in the formulation of policies and try to ask us questions before they begin to develop it into policy. For example, the rice issue, most of us are working at the various ports, so we know the major problems in the ports. We can sit down here and analyse what Customs are doing, what the various government agencies are capable of doing in the ports and even the statutory strength of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and then the concessionaires.
“Federal Government feels that we are not important and they should not bother themselves with the freight forwarders. But the more they neglect this group of people, the more they will continue to have problems in the ports.”
On the accusation that corrupt practices are initiated by importers and their agents, Nwabunike disagreed, even as he admitted that there are some cases in which some importers and agents actually initiated such moves.
He added that such moves are initiated with the motive to short-change government in the payment of requisite duty and charges.
In his words, “I do not want to say that because if I use my office as a test case, I do business with people who do their ‘Form M’ correctly. We bring them on board and educate them on the import guidelines and how to use them correctly. If you have a problem bringing the consignments, we rely strictly on the import guidelines.
“We ensure that the importer pay his duty, and extra Demand Note, D/N, if need be, and ensure that we educate our importers and other freight forwarders who are working with us to ensure that they get it right.
“But that does not mean that all Customs brokers and Freight Forwarders are doing the same. They might be correct, but the government officials are there in the ports to checkmate those who do this and not to be part of the game.
“Cheaters should not go unpunished when they are caught, but when they now become partners with the government agencies, it becomes collaboration. I think there is much more collaboration than what we see and government is not doing anything about it.
“If you call some freight forwarders they will tell you that they are encouraged to bring in goods without paying the relevant duty to government and I think in such cases it becomes sabotage.
“You know an average importer wants to maximise profit, an average agent wants to make gain. So if a government agency now decides to say he wants to play ball with them, it is unfortunate; and I do not think it should be so,” he concluded.