To reinforce their opposition to the introduction of Practitioner Operating Fee (POF), ordered by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, port operators under the auspice of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), embarked on a protest to air their grievances.
The protesters equally threatened to shut down the ports if the Transportation Ministry went ahead with the collection of the fee.
If they agents make good their threats, the Nigerian Government may lose up to N5.4billion daily if the ports were shut down, which will undermine efforts to rake in as much revenue as possible from ports operations, especially in the area of infrastructure provision as well as help the country exit recession.
The protest, which was held at various chapters of the association, started from its National Secretariat at Amuwo Odofin, to the Tin can Island Port and other chapters.
The Agents, who registered their displeasure at the Tin can Port carried placards with different inscriptions which read: “CRFFN is a failure”; “POF is not backed by the law”; “We will never pay POF”; “Amaechi is a tyrant”; “Total revolt and ANLCA goes against POF”, and a host of others.
According to one of the executives operating at Tin can, Akande Balogun, the protest was to sensitise members not to pay the offensive operations fee, which was to commence on August 1st, but had not been successful.
He said: “We told them that CRFFN cannot collect the fee without constituting the board. It is only the board who can approve the collection of this money. But now, there is no board, only Amaechi and Jukwe, the CRFFN Registrar that now took the decision, and they imposed it on the registrar for him to use his power to collect.
“We will shut down the ports, and we will not pay, they will call us and we will sit down and talk. We will withdraw our services because we as clearing agents, if we don’t pay, government will not have money.”
During the warning protest, the clearing agents vowed to resist paying the new fee until a governing board for the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding Nigeria (CRFFN) is constituted.
They argued that it is the board, and not the minister or the registrar of the Council that had the powers to determine the mode and collection of payment. Recall that the agents had declared the POF “illegal” and had written a complaint to the Presidency on it.
The President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), had also written a petition to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, explaining that the collection of the POF contravenned the statutes that established the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding Nigeria (CRFFN).
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Stanley Ezenga, explained that members are to visit NAGAFF headquarters, and its zonal offices across the country for proper guidance, and assistance in the documentation and assessment of fees payable in their transactions.
Amiwero had earlier said the fee is also in contravention to a ruling by the Federal High Court in Lagos; and the letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that dissolved the Council since November 2012 as well as the concept on the Ease of Doing Business.
He said: “We therefore wish to implore the Federal Government to urgently intervene and stop the illegal collection that is expected to be forced on the License Customs Agents.”
He pointed out that there is no provision for POF in the CRFFN Act, quoting the financial provision as contained in Part II, Section six as stating: “The Council shall establish and maintain a fund for the Purpose of this Act, the management and Council of which shall be in the hands of the Council.”