- laments low compliance, duplicity by freight forwarders
As part of efforts to ensure compliance to the payment of Practitioners Operating Fees (POF) by freight forwarders, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) will assign members of its staff to seaport terminals and bonded warehouses in the country.
This decision was reached at the end of the yesterday’s meeting at the ongoing 2-day Townhall Meeting with Terminal Operators themed: “POF Enforcement, Compliance, The Journey So Far” in Apapa, Lagos.
Speaking at the meeting, the Acting Registrar, CRFFN, Mrs. Chinyere Uromta decried poor compliance with the payment of the POF by freight forwarders in the country.
Uromta disclosed that since the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the POF collection in 2022, only 400,000 Bill of Laden have paid the POF, while majority of freight forwarders were shortchanging the government.
However, she recalled that the Council in 2021 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Terminal Operators under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) to confirm payment of POF before releasing cargoes.
She lamented that the revenue so far collected is a far cry from the Federal Government’s expectation with some terminals also not supporting the government in collection of the POF.
Uromta, however, assured that the CRFFN is currently strategizing with other government agencies including the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on working out how to ensure full compliance with POF collection.
According to her, the Governing Board of CRFFN’s discussion with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has reached 80% to ensure that terminals at the airports such as NAHCO and SAHCOL collect the POF on behalf of the CRFFN.
“Following the approval by FEC, the Federal Ministry of Transportation through the Minister of Transportation, the Permanent Secretary held a meeting with Terminal Operators in 2021, an agreement was reached, in that meeting there was an instruction that we should enforce payment.”
“The revenue started trickling in since 2021, but not as much as the Council had expected. What we have now is below the federal government expectations. In order to know why we are not moving forward, this is why we called this meeting,” she said.
Also speaking, the Chairperson of Seaports Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup who was represented by the Secretary of the association, Barrister Boye Uzamote encouraged terminal operators present at the meeting to voice out their challenges in complying with the POF collection.
“The issue of compliance is not negotiable or whether you wish to comply or not, the fact is that all of us must comply as terminal operators,we already have Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government on this,” the STOAN representative said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of CRFFN Committee on Fund Raising, Chief Increase Uche observed that the POF was the set-aside fees for the development of freight Forwarders similar to the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) for ship-owners and other fees collected by other government agencies.
Uche further intimated the terminal operators which a clause in the CRFFN Act which demanded their registration with the Council.
CRFFN Chairman of Committee on Monitoring, Enforcement and Compliance, Chief Timothy Awogbemi also stressed the need for more terminal operators to come onboard and integrate their system with the CRFFN to ensure enforcement of POF.
“What we are saying is that where we are now is not good for us, this is a common goal, to achieve it,we need integration, and we need to work together. The little money we are collecting is to train the freight forwarders and make them grow academically and in every side. Without the freight forwarders, there would be no terminal operators,” Awogbemi said.