By Eguono Odjegba
A section of the freight forwarding industry last week, rejected the appointment of Col. Abubakar Tsanni (rtd), as the Chairman of the Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, CRFFN.
No sooner the appointment was made public than reactions started trailing in as practitioners roundly denounced the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for the appointment, alleged to have been done in bad faith.
While the Association of Govt. Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, described the appointment as lacking in decency and professional decorum, sister freight associations were still discussing the development in subdued tones.
NAGAFF founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, in a statement online, declared October 31, 2018 (the day the appointment was made) “a black day in freight forwarding profession in Nigeria. A day rule of law and constitutional provisions may have been thrown overboard by Hon. Minister of Transportation”, adding: “Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the transport minister, may be a man with impunity and gut as he set aside CRFFN Act electoral provisions to appoint the chairman of the Council Board 2018 in a mafia circumstances”.
A chieftain of NAGAFF, Freight Forwarder, Simeon Nwonu, accused Amaechi of imposition and sinister intentions.
Nwosu stated: “Following Chibuike Amaechi’s imposition of one Alhaji Tsanni as chairman of the governing council, Amaechi’s action contrary to the legal provisions of the CRFFN Act as regards the position of chairman and vice chairman, has automatically placed the Council on the precipice.”
“It is absolute disregard of the rule of law. It’s not even healthy for the political future of Mr. President (Buhari). In fact CRFFN, and by extension, the entire freight forwarding family in Nigeria may not survive this second coming of Armageddon if President Buhari fails to redress the matter.”
Elder Asu Beks, a maritime commentator and veteran maritime journalist who fired the first salvo, expressed shock that freight forwarders were silent in the face of the obvious provocation the appointment of a non practitioner as chairman of the board portend.
The CRFFN election which held in August this year and which was tagged controversial by leading frontline members owing to perceived irregularities and weak electoral processes, was not accepted by the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike.
Weeks after the election however, the minister who was expected to have inaugurated the new board, stirred anxieties in the industry as speculation was rife that he was considering a cancelation of the said election, following his failure to inaugurate the board.
Vocal members of some of the industry associations, namely, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Council for the Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, CMDLCA, and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, AREFFN, had at the time spoken up against the delay as unhealthy and politically motivated, even as they demanded urgent action to forestall loss of faith in the process.
Aniebonam who was the first to complain, was however ecstatic that the outcome of the election in which NAGAFF won six council seats would positively change the face of the industry through proactive board focus and participation in the port system. Aniebonam noted that although NAGAFF had the chance to win the entire council seats, “but we have been magnanimous enough to concede six positions to ANLCA, because looking at the electioneering campaigns, we had what it takes to pick up all the seats”, he said.
Recall that Vanguard Maritime Report alerted the nation to a raging cold war between the minister of transportation and freight forwarders over the conduct of the election and the attendant delay in swearing in of the elected Council members.
Addressing maritime journalists after the board election victory at NAGAFF Village, Aniebonam had said, “The CRFFN board election is a defining moment in the life of the freight forwarding industry, I am proud of the five gentlemen and lady that emerged victorious at the election. They are professionals to the core. I am very gratified that they have made the CRFFN board, and I have no reservation they will take the Council higher. There have been some hiccups since the election, one has expected the board should have started sitting. We hope that sooner or later, they will be inaugurated”, he enthused.
A number of ANLCA chieftains including Chiefs Ernest Elochukwu and James Idornigie who derided the election process expressed surprise that the transportation minister may have elected to play a little more politics, possibly informed by superior intelligence.
The minister, has, however, been exonerated by those following developments, that he was compelled to make a pick following the lack of consensus between the affected associations to present a common candidate.