By Eguono Odjegba

*Maritime

AFTER over a decade of remaining in limbo, operators of the maritime industry have urged the Board of Trustees of the Cargo Defence Fund, CDF, to re-jig the fund’s secretariat to allow stakeholders direct their complaints and apply for intervention fund to deal with myriads of issues for which the CDF was set up.
The Fund was established as limited guarantee company to mitigate losses incurred by shippers, especially small time importers and exporters, who may not have the financial muscle to pursue their legitimate maritime claims.

As a result of the long inactivity of the Fund, some stakeholders have begun to express doubt over its actual existence, while others merely treat it as one of the numerous government led interventions which existence many are oblivious about.

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According to the Director General of Multi-mix Academy, Dr. Obiora Madu, “The Fund is in operation because they say that it is. I will only speak on the importance or the need to have it. It is an international initiative which cuts cross so many countries of the world because they have your quotation at hand and they will use their international network to handle it. Right now, they say that it is operational but the challenge is who knows the CDF is there?

“The thing is sitting down there, yet it isn’t producing the results. As at the time I heard about it, I should have heard about it much earlier. As a trade consultant I should have heard about this fund long before I did. That is how lots of initiatives come up internationally and at the local level nobody knows about them. For small things like this, you begin to hear jingles passing information and all that in other countries. Information dissemination is the challenge. If you check very well you’ll find out that most people don’t know about the fund.”

Although the Fund has top trade stakeholders’ representatives including Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN; Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA; Nigeria Shippers Council, NSC; Nigerian Maritime Law Association, NMLA; and the Nigeria Insurers Association, NIA; its patronage is believed to have been minimal as a result of lack of awareness.
Also commenting on the Fund, President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDNLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said the Fund has not impacted on the port industry, and he is not sure about its current status.

According to him, “Many of these things are political. I have not benefitted from it and do not know how many people have benefitted from it. I think Nigerian Shippers Council need to take the lead in cleaning up the CDF and giving it life.

“The Fund is talking about interventions in shipping business generally, talks about ills, challenges and conflicts faced by operators and the need to deploy the Fund to address some of these ills. A lot of people are suffering in the port, litigations are going and nobody knows who is in charge, because I am not aware the Fund has been deployed for any of challenges faced by operators and stakeholders.

“I don’t know whether it is moribund or just lying comatose. What I know is that our port industry is bedeviled with lots of disputes, ill treatments, these are the areas it was created to provide support.”
Collaborating NCMDNLCA’s position, the President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria, APFFLON, Mr. Frank Ogunojemite, said the fund is obscure.

He said: “I never knew Shippers Council had such initiative and I believe most people wouldn’t be aware of this. How do people patronize a service with such level of obscurity?”
He tasked the Council to provide the right and adequate sensitization campaigns to ensure that freight forwarders, importers and exporters become aware of the initiatives and how to benefit.

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