By Gboyega Oni
The argument over whether foreigners have the right to obtain licences to practise clearing and forwarding or freight forwarding in Nigeria is a contentious issue. Nigerian freight forwarders strongly believe it is wrong and is against the local content policy of the government. They say that foreigners have taken over their jobs and should be stopped as most of the newly elected members of the governing board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) vowed to end this menace.
When this question – Can foreigners practise freight forwarding in Nigeria? – was posed to the Registrar/CEO of CRFFN, Sir Mike Jukwe, he emphatically said ”Yes, if they meet the required qualifications.”
Nigeria freight forwarders have repeatedly asked this question and have never got an answer. They have alleged and complained to high heavens over intrusion of foreigners into their job, which they believe should be exclusively theirs, without anyone from the government to allay their fears or provide an answer to the question. They have cited countries like Benin Republic, USA that forbid foreigners to enter their ports not to talk of operating freight forwarding licence, and wonder why Nigeria should be different. They note that despite citing the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) guiding the operation in the country, licences are still being issued by the Nigeria Customs Service to foreigners.
However, Sir Mike Jukwe, the CRFFN boss, on Saturday 7 July, 2018 during the elections into the governing board of the Council, answered the question and said ”foreigners can operate freight forwarding in the country if they meet the required qualifications in line with guidelines of CRFFN. They are allowed to operate.”
He noted that the CRFFN Act does not forbid foreigners from practising.
Sir Jukwe described the elections right from the beginning as peaceful and debunked the rumuour that some freight forwarders were unjustly disqualified from contesting either as independent candidates or not. He said the Council provided a level ground for all freight forwarders to exercise their civic rights.
He maintained that independent candidacy was not recognised by the CRFFN Act, saying that nobody was unjustly screened out or pressurised to step down from contesting. He added that all the candidates who contested in the election and won were qualified and met the requirements of the electoral guideline and were properly screened.
According to him, ”there was a plain level ground for everybody to contest; nobody was screened out unjustly. Once you meet the electoral requirements, you are screened and you are qualified to contest.”
Sir Jukwe informed that the mandate of the new governing board right away is to formulate policies, good ones, for the CRFFN management to operate to develop freight forwarding profession in Nigeria to meet international standards.
”Our mandate as a council is to make policies, good ones, for the management to operate to move the industry forward,” said Jukwe.
Speaking on the contentious issue, the President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Iju Tony Nwabunike, assured the industry stakeholders that CRFFN would ensure that foreigners do not take over freight forwarding jobs in Nigeria but protect Nigerians.
A member of the governing council, Emmanuel Tochukwu Ezisi, said that local content policy of the industry shall be pursued when the new governing board takes effect. He maintained that there was no way foreigners would come and take over their job, saying ”when we get to the bridge, we shall know how to cross it.”