The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, (NAGAFF), is a window of vibrant technique in the Maritime industry and a vital component capable of placing Nigeria comparatively in the forefront with government regulators, the international freight world, stakeholders and the rest of the African continent.
Dr. Boniface O. Aniebonam, with his brilliance, turned the tide and the face of doing freight business in Nigeria, into a legally profitable venture that has a future for investors. He is the founding father of the organisation, a sculptor, the pillar of freight forwarding, a motivational force, with the magic wand of etching NAGAFF as a Maritime Octopus.
Forwarder, Stanley Ezenga, NAGAFF Publicity Secretary/Public Relations Officer (PRO), who was named as the PRO of all PROs in Nigeria for branding NAGAFF image positively. Ezenga is an opinion pool guru in information management; leadership style; purposeful disposition; equipped to perform his duties with a mind-set of excellence. The freight forwarders are professionals with a classic touch in a move to lift the Association to a higher height, bearing in mind the process of faster Cargo clearance. Stanley Ezenga in a chat with Isaac Orieka and Alphonsus Effi of Creekvibes magazine, enumerates vital points affecting freight forwarders and the way forward in Nigeria.
How long have you been in this position?
I have been the National PRO, since 2015 till date.
Is NAGAFF backed by a Statutory Law?
The Association was duly and legally registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), under part c of decree of 1990 in November, 1999. In other words NAGAFF is known and recognised in the Maritime sector in Nigeria also a member of FIATA
Since the Organisation was established, what is the Administrative structure, and how is it run?
NAGAFF has a hierarchy, the organogram which has the founder, Dr. Boniface O. Aniebonam, as the last man standing, the Board Chairman and its members, the national president and other national officers across Nigeria and the chapters’ executives duly elected every four years all over the country. Time will not permit me to name all the national officers but allow me to mention just a few to give you an insight.
Dr. B. O. Anieboman, the founder
Mazi Chidiebere Enelama, The Chairman Board of Trustees
Chief Increase Onwuka Uche, The National President
HRH Atu Mike Okechukwu, Deputy National President South-East
Alhaji Bello Magaji, Vice President, Northern Zone
Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, Vice president Seaport Western Zone
Alhaji Oluwasegun Alade Musa, Vice President Air freight
And other principal national officers
Here are the names of the Chapter Chairmen and their chapters
Chief Ndubisi Uzoegbo, Apapa Chapter
High chief Azubike Ekweozor, Tincan Island Chapter
Engr. Emmanuel Umeadi, KLT Chapter
Fwdr. Goerge Okafor, PTML Chapter
Fwdr. Onyeka Benard Udo, MMIA Chapter
Chief Ojo Iwere, Idiroko Chapter
Fwdr. Obinna Okafor, Ikorodu Chapter
Dr. Okey Okoro, PH Onne Chapter
Chief Nwonu Ezeora Patron, Seme/Krake border Chapter
Elder Sunday Okonkwo, Akanu Ibiam Int’l Airport Enugu
Alhaji Ibrahim Shiada, Konglom Border Secretary
The chapters gather information, and operational hiccups and forward same to the national headquarters, with the information, we organise press conference, to address the challenges facing the business of freight forwarding. Therefore, the association is administered from the top management to the lower strata which have worked effectively for NAGAFF’s progression.
Freight forwarders are complaining of high Customs duties, is it true?
No. it is not. There is nothing like high Customs duties. Note, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), has a way of controlling the influx of goods into the country. They equally protect the local industries to encourage local production of items which ordinarily can be produced locally, by restricting forex for those products.
However, what is happening today should be put appropriately that the high cost of business transaction in the country especially importation, exportation, maritime taxes, maritime levies, and taxes, are affecting freight business in the country. Prior to now, the way Maritime business was conducted years back is not the same now. Economic policies have changed, the introduction of IT has positively blocked all known revenue leakage points, It may interest you to know that customs duty is not the only fees payable for import or export transactions, depending on the type of goods you are dealing in, if it is NAFDAC regulated items like foods, drugs and cosmetics, you must pay for NAFDAC handling, if it is SON regulated, you must pay for SON handling and if it is Used items, you have NESREA to contend with. This invariably has led to high cost of doing business and it is affecting our operations
The Apapa Wharf Seaport, what do you think Federal Government can do to bring back the glory of the best Seaport in Africa?
For now, there is competition in the sub – region of West Africa, the western world and other climes. Nigeria had fewer ports in the past, but now, there is Calabar Port, Port Hacourt, Warri, Onne port, and presently the Badagry deep Sea Port under prospecting in Lagos State, including many other bonded terminals spread across the country including Kaduna and Kano Dry Port. So, Apapa Port being the premier port cannot operate 100 per cent as it used to be, due to few reasons. Be that as it may, it should be of urgent government policy, that the Tincan and Apapa Seaports be transformed into transit ports, that will be feeding the bonded terminals. During concession agreement, the issue of holding bay was not taken into consideration. Before the AP Moller took over Apapa, there was a portion mapped out in those days where trucks use to park inside the port. This allowed for seamless operating and the issue of gridlock was unheard of. After the concession, those who took over port expanded the terminals to gain more space for storage of their import there by eliminating the spaces that would have served as holding bay either for trucks or empty containers. NAGAFF is advocating that the Apapa Seaport should be made a transit port that would make arrival of vessels and goods for easy cargo clearance.
Recall, that the road leading to the ports in Apapa is in a deplorable condition, even though one axis has been fixed and efforts are been made to rehabilitate the road in and out of the port. To bring back the glory of the Apapa Seaport, NAGAFF has no preference to any port, what we are advocating is that port handling equipment to be installed including the intrusive scanners to aid our members in the discharge of their duties
Singapore and China have employed digital technology to enhance cargo clearance, do we have such measures in place?
Yes, it is in place. This process is gradual and those countries also had challenges initially. In Nigeria, one can transact your import business from the comfort of your office, do your declaration of goods, and charges to be paid for the goods. We started with ASYCUDA, ASYCUDA ++, NICIS and now NICIS2. Importers can also use the internet to access their debit notes, from shipping companies and some terminals. These are effort government is making to actualise the 48 hours clearing process. Therefore NAGAFF is working towards that direction. We are also clamoring for a single window collaboration with the Customs and other agencies, to be warehoused by the appropriate government agency for the clearing of goods out of Customs control for faster and prompt delivery to clients.
What is the achievement of NAGAFF in the Maritime sector?
Before the establishment of NAGAFF, the business was known as clearing and forwarding, which is not recognised in the international maritime nomenclature. For instance, if you go to Ghana and declare that you are a clearing agent nobody will recognise you as a credible freight operator.
The name freight forwarding, has replaced the former name known as a local parlance for clearing agents, all thanks to Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the man who saw the vision. This clearing and forwarding agencies is predicated on the ownership of license issued by the customs at an exorbitant fee. This invariably has denied young graduates and school leavers the opportunity to practice. With the coming on board of NAGAFF, those who studied transport technology and other logistics related courses can gainfully employ themselves in the maritime sector
Freight forwarding is widely known worldwide and it is encompassing; includes, Customs Brokerage. Haulage, Warehousing, Ship Chartering, and Chandelling etc. simply Freight forwarders are excellent logisticians
How does NAGAFF liaise with the shipping companies to regulate their activities?
NAGAFF as an association, is like an opinion pool. NAGAFF village in Apapa, is a freight forwarders village for importers, exporters, who are like information officers involved in information gathering pertaining to the business. Any operator who indulges in fraudulent acts will be sanctioned.
So, the association does not take laws into their hands, they follow due process, once you contravene the law, appropriate measures will be applied for correction to deter freight forwarders from such illicit act which will serve as a deterrent to others.
NAGAFF, is strictly in favour of compliance by freight forwarders, that is one of our key point in this business. We advise our client that compliance is the way for the safety of their investments. The question is, are most of the importers and freight forwarders compliant? They are not. They like to cut corners in other to make abnormal profits, or maintain their customers which they will eventually lose if they are caught and their containers will be seized. This is one of the factors affecting the credibility of the business.
The Carbotage law, why has it failed, is government not applying the rules of the law?
The law is emphatic that the Nigerian crew should be on ground to supervise the arrival of vessels. Therefore, it depends on what context the ship owner is operating from. Maritime business is governed by conventions and protocols which Nigeria is a signatory to some of these conventions, Nigeria as a matter of fact should dictate how to operate the business of freight forwarding. The Carbotage law has failed the way forward is for the Federal Government to start afresh and ensure implementation.
Are Freight forwarders unionised under the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN)?
Freight forwarders are unionised, under the Council for Registration Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). It was established by Act 207 of 2007 as a body that regulates the activities of freight forwarding profession in Nigeria. If you claim to be a freight forwarder and your name is not found in the register of CRFFN, you are fake. If you are a freight forwarder, you must be duly registered with the (CRFFN).
The association members are:
They are the regulators of freight forwarding activities in Nigeria. MWUN has direct link with the NPA and terminal operators, they are the ones physically engaged with the terminal operators in cargo handling like loading and offloading of vessels, stuffing and unstuffing of containers. Sometimes there are agitations and protests of shutting down the ports but MWUN, NAGAFF does not support such idea rather, they engage in dialogue to resolve such industrial disputes amicably within the maritime business.
The categories are:
• Association Membership
• Corporate membership
• Individual membership
Do you collect dues from freight forwarders?
NAGAFF is not a charitable organisation, we work with the ethics of the Profession. Therefore, if you belong to any association, services are rendered for a fee. For that, dues are paid by members of NAGAFF to run the organisation.
What is your relationship with the Nigerian Ports Authority?
The ports in Nigeria are Customs ports, while the landlords are the NPA. All entry points, border posts, Airports are Customs ports. NAGAFF relates with the landlord which is the NPA due to their statutory functions of controlling the water ways. Most times NAGAFF does engage in environmental sanitation, to clear debris within the port environment every Tuesday. The association consistently did it for 6 months without defaults and we were applauded for our efforts.
Secondly, when NPA was operating the ports, there were issues of ‘Wharf Rats’. These illegal agents gain entry into the ports to vandalise goods and vehicles and other imported products.
More so, a wharf Rat cannot gain access into the port without a connivance from the port security. Our ethics and regulations is to ensure that our members who are not genuinely doing business in the port do not gain entry into the port. So, if they are found wanting in such malpractices, appropriate sanctions will be meted to them. We have ‘ethics and discipline team’ comprising of a retired military man as their leader and other NAGAFF legal advisers. These are the areas we have collaborated with the NPA to improve ports services and security.
Do you operate in the Aviation sector, what role have you played by involving other allied sectors?
NAGAFF as an association of freight forwarders, we are visible in banks, insurance companies, the waterways, and the airports. Currently, there are four members of NAGAFF who are airfreight consolidators, while two others are owners of ocean going vessels. Our Muritala Mohammed Airport Chapter is the most vibrant of all.
What is the way forward for NAGAFF?
The association is a game changer and is always ahead of other associations in Nigeria. In 2018, we celebrated freight forwarders day, the first of it’s kind in Nigeria and in December this year 2019, God willing, we will celebrate the international freight forwarders Day, with the intention to create a positive awareness of freight forwarding business to the world.