For a ports sector already overburdened with various disincentives that keep driving operators to neigbhouring countries’ ports, the multiplier effects of an additional cost of doing business through the Practitioners’ Operating Fees (POF) on all containers and cargoes leaving the ports will be too telling.
Giving this explanation, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Olayiwola Shittu, argued that licensed agents are already overburdened with different fees to justify the imposition of POF through the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The body is also concerned that the CRFFN has no governing board yet, and while election into the board is slated for September 2017, the collection of fees is to begin by August 1, according to the recent directive by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi.
The minister had, in a July 5, 2017 letter to all freight forwarding associations at the seaports, airports and land borders, directed them to add POF to their cost of cargo clearance or face sanctions, while the CRFFN is to defray the cost of the elections from the POF collections.
This is in spite of the fact that the CRFFN was yet to account for the over N5 billion it has received in federal budgetary allocations since 2011 and which were not being disclosed to practitioners until the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a letter to the minister, Shittu listed the yearly fees already being paid by licensed customs agents to include Licence Renewal (N215,000), Nigeria Ports Authority Licence Renewal (N6,000), Customs Command Operating Fee (N15,000), Bank Change for Customs Bond (N52,500), and CRFFN Annual Payment (N70,000) before members could operate in any port.
He contended that a daily collection of POF on all cargoes would be financially burdensome to an average customs agency, and would bear too negatively on the Nigerian economy when ultimately transferred to importers/exporters.
Stating that POF was designed by some individuals to distort the economy for their selfish interest, he appealed that it should be suspended “indefinitely,” stressing that only the CRFFN Governing Board can determine the fate of POF, and that anything to the contrary is an aberration.
The letter read in part: “We want to state categorically that nowhere in the world is such payment being collected from a customs agency/broker; we stand to be corrected.
“Nigeria being a growing economy should not be saddled with the burden of POF, which is a design of some few individuals to distort the national economy for their selfish interests.
Also, we believe that election into the Governing Board of CRFFN should be held and the board inaugurated to determine the fate of POF and resolve some other issues, and not the other way round.”
Shittu expressed worries that in spite of the absence of a governing board for several years, “CRFFN has been receiving budgetary allocations yearly through the Ministry of Transportation, without accountability.