Stakeholders decry unprofessionalism among Freight forwarders, Customs brokers

At Prince Olayiwola Shittu's 68th birthday celebration in Lagos.

Stakeholders in the maritime industry have condemned the freight forwarders and licensed customs brokers over unprofessional practices in the cause of their operations at the ports.
The stakeholders expressed their views in that regard during the 68th birthday celebration of Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the immediate past President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in Lagos  on Monday.

Speaking, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Mr. Hassan Bello, said activities of the fake and touts among the practitioners could be felt at the border stations, airports and seaports.

Noting that the freight forwarders and customs brokers have contributed immensely to the growth of the maritime industry, he said the trend of unprofessional practices cannot be allowed to continue.

He pointed out that the ugly situation may not be unconnected with the statement that in licensing freight forwarders or customs brokers, the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) pays more attention to the registration fees than the issue of professionalism.

Describing this as dangerous to the national economy, Bello was of the view that those who seek customs agency licences should first be compelled to go through the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) which has been empowered by constitutional provisions to regulate the freight forwarders.

Bello pointed out that another problem affecting the professional was lack of synergy among their various associations, a development he said should be addressed by the CRFFN.

He said the practice of freight forwarding was so important to the industry and the national economy that it cannot be taken over by touts and unprofessionals.
For effective freight forwarding practice, he called on the practitioners to be part of the CRFFN to achieve global standard practice.

Freight forwarders, he said, must be professionals like lawyers, stating that they are not different.

The NSC boss said there was the need for the establishment of a freight forwarding institution accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) as part of the conscious efforts to enthrone professionalism among practitioners.

Speaking also,  a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Adebayo Sarumi, said the  customs agents were simply ‘hustlers’, explaining that this was the reason for establishing the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to bring sanity to the industry.

Sarumi said unprofessional practices among the freight forwarders would not have been the case if practitioners had followed what Prince Olayiwola Shittu had been preaching.

He said the problem against practitioners was ‘extreme unionism’, adding that all the associations in the industry beginning with National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Council for Managing Directors of Customs Agents (NCMDCA) and others were working in opposite directions as against the objectives of setting up CRFFN.

He called on the leaders of the associations to eschew egoism and clannishness for the CRFFN to work.

Sarumi said that one reason why Nigerian practitioners only settle for one or two containers to clear at the ports as against handling project cargoes was because of their unprofessional attitude.

Advising the freight forwarders on the need to follow global standard practice, Sarumi said that would be the only reason that shipowners would be encouraged to engage their services for clearance of project cargoes, rather than seek the services from foreign companies.