Stories by Isaac Anumihe
As the National Assembly deliberates on issues bordering on the National Transport Commission (NTC), there is a renewed concern on the way freight forwarding business is carried out in Nigeria.
The concern has snowballed into intense pressure on the government and the National Assembly by the freight forwarders who insist that Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) should transform into the proposed National Transport Commission (NTC).
Freight forwarders who spoke at Apapa Port said the choice of the NSC changing into NTC would save the Federal Government the huge cost involved in establishing a new agency at such a critical period of economic recession.
Beyond saving government the resources, they argued that the Council was gifted with the structure, management expertise and wherewithal needed to transform as NTC.
The NTC Bill which is currently before the National Assembly seeks to establish NTC to regulate every transport sector, including rail, road and maritime.
Former Chairman, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Iju Tony Nwabunike, said that considering the statutory role the Council has played in the industry, the Senate should speed up the passage of the NTC Bill and provide for its transformation into a regulatory agency.
Nwabunike who recalled the contribution of the NSC in sanitising the freight forwarding industry, said the Council with its knowledge of the entire transport industry will do well if the law allows its transformation.
He said that the Council has saved many importers and exporters from the hands of service providers at the ports, noting that it has played key roles in ensuring that service providers deliver in terms of efficient services at the ports by providing necessary cargo handling equipment.
Nwabunike also said that there has been an improvement in the time that agents spend in clearing their goods and the dwell time of ships calling at the ports as a result of the efforts of the Council.
He also added that the Council parades qualified personnel that will make the proposed NTC deliver on its statutory functions.
A frontline freight forwarder, Mr Denis Okonkwo, said that the current function of the Council as the ports economic regulator was similar to what the functions of the NTC would be, adding that this would make the task easier and better for all instead of having a new NTC.
Okonkwo said that since the Council has performed creditably as the ports economic regulator, the best government should do was to allow it move into the bigger shoes of the NTC when the bill that is currently in the National Assembly is passed into law.
Another customs agent, Mr Ayo Ogunlana, said it would be a waste of scarce resources for the Federal Government to set up a brand new NTC instead of allowing the NSC to transform into that status and regulate the entire transport industry.
Ogunlana said that as far as he was concerned the bulk of the entire transport industry was more in the maritime sector because of the technicalities involved.
According to him, once the regulator was able to address the issues affecting the transport industry in the maritime sector, it would have resolved about 70 per cent of the entire transport sector.
Ogunlana described the workforce of the NSC as experts gifted with the needed capacity to handle the affairs of the new NTC once the ports regulator was adapted as the proposed commission.
“If the NSC is allowed to transform into NTC, it will be better for the country because the personnel there are experts in different fields that the NTC would need. It will save the government the huge cost involved in setting up new offices, branches and the logistics. The Council has all these and all it needs to do is perhaps recruit few more hands with the added functions. It will be smooth sail for both the Federal Government and Nigerians instead of setting up a new body”, he said.
A Customs broker , Mr Tony Edomaruse, also said there is no doubt that the Council would perform creditably if given the chance to transform as NTC.
Edomaruse said that the Council was blessed with tested technocrats that can handle the duties of a regulator, adding that the experience in the maritime industry will be an added advantage.
He also added that the Council’s transformation will also be an easy task for the government to manage since the Council already has all the needed structure and expertise.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had in December at a public hearing, stated the need for the Senate to empower the NSC to carry out the statutory responsibilities of the NTC.
Some of the lawmakers had favoured the establishment of a new commission, but Amaechi said allowing the NSC to take up the duties of the NTC will address the issue of duplication of functions and save the Federal Government the resources that would be needed for such exercise.
“It must be noted that the NTC Bill has similar functions to those being performed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Based on the similarities in functions and purposes between the NSC and the proposed NTC, BPE (Bureau of Public Enterprises) and a majority of industry stakeholders accepted and called for the NSC to be adapted and empowered to perform the functions of the economic regulator,” Amaechi had told the Senate.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, had during the public hearing said that the proposed NTC will formulate transport policies for the government and private players in the transport sector.
Ashafa had also described the NTC Bill as crucial to the survival of the nation’s transportation sector of the economy, adding that it will be responsible for the regulation of transport policies.
The Managing Consultant of Kauthar Resources, Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Kashim, in his contribution had also urged the Senate to consider Amaechi’s proposal and allow the NSC to transform as the National Transport Commission.
Kashim explained that this was necessary since the thrust of the NTC Bill was ‘economic regulation’, adding that to a large extent was also the main thrust of the NSC Act.
Avoid many wives, alcohol, Customs officers charged
Management of Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), has expressed worry over the officers planlessness, saying that they should avoid too much alcohol and many wives which render them poor at the end of their service.
Giving the advice at a three-day interactive session organised by NCS in partnership with Pension Administrators and National Pension Commission (PenCom), in Lagos, the Assistant Controller, Edema C.H, advised the officers to control their sexual urge to avoid unwanted pregnancy. He also admonished them to refrain from too much alcohol so that they can train their children and prepare for retirement.
In his remarks, the Zonal coordinator, Zone A, Assistant Comptroller General, Monday Abueh, said that officers about to leave the service should plan well to avoid sudden death, as a result of lack of retirement plan.
Abueh said that the management of the service sensitised officers in the South West zone, after successfully hosting a similar event at the Customs headquarters in Abuja.
He said that before now, there was no sufficient information about the pension scheme, adding that this was the reason the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), made the enlightenment programme possible to reduce officers’ challenges while accessing the pension fund.
“There are so many questions concerning pension before now, so officers need to be educated when they are about to retire or still in the service.
“The information is important to everybody because a lot of officers faced many challenges as a result of limited information about pension.
“There were a lot of records and all sorts of infractions took place; and in 2014 there was a contributory pension scheme which made things easier and straight forward.
“What you contribute is what you get and government employed the service of PenCom, to educate people and reduce the problem of getting back money after retirement,’’ Abueh said.
The Commandant of Customs Training School, Ikeja, Comptroller Kunle Oyeleke, advised officers to upgrade their records.
Oyeleke also pleaded with the officers, who attended the training to inform officers, who were not around to guard them against challenges that could involve data record for the pension scheme.
He, however, advised officers to check their pension fund periodically to enable them rectify any problem before retirement.
Oyeleke said officers should engage in Additional Voluntary Contributions to enable them to get more take-home after retirement.
The Moderator of the Sensitisation programme, Comptroller A O. Fatade, advised officers to avoid inadequate data record.
“If there is disparity in the input data; for example, date of birth or date of employment and others, this could lead to officers’ right being denied.
“The date of appointment must not be altered because many officers had lost their retirement benefits due to inconsistency in the date of record,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Customs Comptroller, Murtala Muhammed Area Command, Comptroller Frank Allanah, commended the management’s efforts in organising the pension enlightenment programme for officers.
Allanah said that the training would assist most officers who were about to retire to adjust their documents to avoid forfeiting their pension rights.
He said that the sensitisation programme would reduce some bottleneck, adding that there were still challenges in getting the pension after retirement.
Allanah said that false documentation could create problems in accessing the pension, saying that the enlightenment programme was desired to eliminate the problems.
An Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Herbert Edema, urged officers to check the pension administrators and their capabilities before joining any pension scheme.
Edema said that there was need to plan very well before collecting the pension entitlements to enable you engage in proper investments that would sustain your family and give a rest of mind.
He said that officers, who were still in the service, could also save money with any Pension administrator of their choice.
The Customs boss said that officers could change from one pension scheme to another but this must be properly handled.
He said that officers should safeguard their investment by investing on stocks.
“If you keep money without investing, the value of the money would be reduced by 50 per cent within some years,’’ he said.
Edema advised that “officers should not invest and go to sleep because one needs to know how the money is being managed’’.
“It is advisable for officers between ages of 36 to 45 to develop their children and make sure they build houses before retirement,’’ he said.
Edema pleaded with the officers, who were about to retire from the service to reduce their monthly expenses, eat healthy food, avoid alcohol and take plenty of water.
According to him, officers who intend to work after retirement should train for new carrier and avoid stressful job because age could not be on their side any longer.
He said that people who were about to retire should ensure that they write their will, which he said did not determine their quick death.
The Representative of Stanbic IBTC pension scheme, Mr Folarin Olaniyan, said that PenCom came into existence in 2004 under the Contributory Pension Scheme to enable an individual to safe money through the employer.
Olaniyan said that the scheme was to assist the employee to have a good life after retirement.
He said that there was no amount of money that could be enough but it was better to be save for future usage.
“Individual must have a retirement salary account with a licensed Pension Fund Administrator (PFA).
There is room for Additional Voluntary Contribution (AVC). Is a component of the Retirement Savings Account that is clearly credited separately from the mandatory contributions.
“Individuals can ascertain his or her AVC from inception to date in his Retirement Saving Account (TSA), ‘’ Olaniyan said.
He said that, “AVC is flexible but the implication is that if you withdraw before five years, there will be tax on both the capital and the investment.
An Assistant Commandant of the Customs Training School, Dr Jayne Shoboiki advised officers not to marry any wife with the retirement money.
She said that officers should ensure that they train the children before retirement.
Shoboiki said that female officers should avoid wasting time in searching for Mr Right, saying “it is only God that determines a man’s richness’’.
She said that officers should try and ensure they build a house and avoid renting houses.
Shoboiki said this would assist officers after retirement, when they could not have much funds to rent houses of their choice.