From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Over the years, freight forwarders looked odd and forsaken, especially when compared to other operators in Nigeria’s maritime sector. While shippers, customs officers, terminal operators, port security agencies, etc, were well-organized, regulated and supervised by statutory agencies, freight forwarders were not. And, in spite of the very useful role they play in getting imported goods cleared, Nigerian freight forwarders cut the image of ill-trained hustlers who operated like sheep without a shepherd at the ports.
That was the situation before 2007. The establishment of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) that year is gradually changing all that. The Council is turning the business and practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria into a respectable profession of well-trained and organized operators who are guided by international standards and best practices. The ultimate objective, according to Barrister Samuel Nwakohu, Registrar/CEO of CRFFN, is to rebrand and reposition the freight forwarding sub-sector of Nigeria’s maritime sector to place it a par in all aspects with other players in the maritime sub-sectors as well as its counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Established under Act No. 16, 2007, the CRFFN is charged with, among other responsibilities, regulating and controlling the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria, and promoting the highest standards of competence, practice and conduct among members of the profession. The Council is dedicated to achieving sustainable economic development in Nigeria through responsible transport initiatives in freight forwarding development and management.
Nwakohu believes that for the freight forwarding business to contribute its quota to national development as envisaged by the Government, it must first be repositioned. Some of the specific measures that CRFFN has taken in this direction include – setting minimum educational/professional qualifications for freight forwarders, professional training, sensitization and accreditation; registration of practitioners for ease of supervision, monitoring and discipline; establishment of operational standards and guidelines, the introduction of welfare programmes for freight forwarders and CRFFN, among others.
For the first time since its establishment, the CRFFN under Nwakohu’s leadership as the CEO, has been able to determine the minimum qualification required to practice freight forwarding in Nigeria. This is the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management or its equivalent, the Executive Professional Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management.
Nwakohu said, 17 institutional accreditations have been finalized for the purpose of increasing freight forwarders’ access to CRFFN’s approved qualifications. Details of the institutions which include: University of Lagos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic Sokoto, are all available on the website of CRFFN.
A major national workshop on freight forwarding as a career was hosted in Lagos in October 2019. Also, the Council has successfully hosted two international webinars between June and August 2020 with another round coming up in October 2021. He disclosed also that inquiries on education keep coming in by the day in line with the approved minimum standard and deadline of 31st December 2021. Almost a hundred persons have completed either the Executive Professional diploma or the FIATA Diploma in the last one year. A maiden graduation ceremony is now scheduled for 30th October 2021 for all those who have qualified. This event is scheduled to hold at the University of Lagos and will attract over 300 Graduands from Benue State University, Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Redeemer’s University and the University of Lagos.
International recognition of Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP)
Nwakohu disclosed that CRFFN is collaborating with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in the process of securing international recognition for the Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP) as a Port of Origin and Destination through the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).
“We are currently developing a digital haulage system (uber-like system) to standardize the freight transportation in Nigeria,” he added.
Standardization of Freight Forwarding Charges, Operating Procedures and others.
In conjunction with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the CRFFN is developing the Cost of Cargo Clearing (COCC) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the freight forwarding industry.
The Council has also concluded integration with the Nigerian Ports Authority and currently integrating with Seaport Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) for the purpose of smoothening POF collection and improving operational efficiency
The CRFFN has equally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with World Passport Logistics (WPL) to enable Certified Freight Forwarders to enroll for a loyalty programme that will enable them to benefit by routing their cargoes through participating hub ports around the globe. It is expected to facilitate transit time of their cargoes thereby improving on the Country’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI).
The Registrar/CEO disclosed that all is now set for the commencement of nationwide training of freight forwarders towards improving Nigeria’s ranking on the Global Logistics Performance Index.
The Council had also rebranded itself, beginning with a change of logo and upgrade of its website and digital operations. Its participation in national programmes has also improved despite paucity of funds. Some members of staff are currently serving in different national and industry committees and promoting the cause of the CRFFN alongside.
The Council has been working very hard to convert the constraints of COVID 19 to opportunities. In the heat of the lock-down, it worked with other maritime agencies to facilitate essential cargo movements in and out of the country.
The CRFFN was at the lead with its Registrar/CEO serving as the Chairman of the Maritime Task Team. Other members of the team are the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). “During the period, we, alongside Nigerian Shippers’ Council, provided the needed transport and logistics for freight forwarders to transact their essential businesses,” Nwakohu said.
The Task Team has also resolved several cases arising from the COVID-19-induced lockdown, including demurrage and rent charges.
“Despite our limited resources, CRFFN made a donation to the government, branded COVID 19 prevention kits to freight forwarding communities, staff etc. thus bringing more visibility to the Council,” the Registrar disclosed.
CRFFN under Nwakohu’s leadership takes staff welfare seriously. This is based on the belief the Council can only discharge its mandate if it stands on a solid footing. As of October 2021, all management staff promotion has been completed. The release of the 2018 promotion results of the staff on CONRAISS 03 – 11 has been affected. Recommendations on Senior Staff Promotion for 2019 is currently undergoing review.
The Kano zonal office construction is over 95% completed, while two new zonal offices have been created in Enugu and Sokoto States. Also, the procurement and allocation of project vehicles have been concluded to facilitate work in all zones and offices.
The Council has concluded a series of staff training across the board, including specialized ICT training to provide support for its sustainable operations.
It has also provided additional office accommodation for staff to make the environment conducive for its operations.
The Council has also purchased staff buses to facilitate staff transportation to and from work for ease of transportation of workers in line with the policy thrust of the new administration.
According to the CRFFN helmsman; Nwakohu, the warfare of staff is top on his priorities and would continue to ensure that necessary tools are available for ease of conducting their daily business in line with best global practice.
All these, he said are meant to ensure that the CRFFN remains at the top among players in the transport sector in Nigeria and adequately plays its role as the agency superintending freight forwarding in Nigeria in line with Act No. 16 of 2007.