The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) is the youngest government agency in Nigeria’s maritime industry. Yet, it is sure-footedly taking the industry to a new level, having largely overcome its teething challenges. It is fast stamping its authority in Nigeria’s maritime business in the area of its core mandate – regulation of freight forwarding.
Indeed, it will not be out of place to say that CRFFN is now in the good company of older government agencies in the maritime sector like the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Established under Act No. 16, 2007 CRFFN is charged with, amongst other responsibilities, regulating and controlling the practice of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, and promoting the highest standards of competence, practice and conduct among members of the profession. The council is dedicated to achieving sustainable economic development in Nigeria through responsible transport initiatives in freight forwarding development and management.
Since its establishment 14 years ago the agency has been making handsome contributions to the ongoing reforms by the Federal Government of Nigeria aimed at increasing efficiencies, improving transparencies and adding value to the economy of the nation.
Specifically, the agency, now under the leadership of Barrister Samuel Nwakohu, as Registrar/CEO, has recorded a number of landmark achievements in its drive to discharge his mandate. These are in the areas of registration and gazetting of freight forwarding professionals in Nigeria, setting and enforcing minimum qualifications for freight forwarders, training of Council members, management and staff of the agency, sensitization of stakeholders in Nigeria’s freight forwarding Community, preventing and fighting the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime industry, rebranding and repositioning of CRFFN, amongst others.
Specifically, CRFFN has served an enforcement notice to practitioners and the general public and there is a noticeable level of response in registration and payment of annual subscription. Within the period 2019 to 2021, according to Nwakohu, “we have recorded 2,504 new individual registrations (42.52% of total) and 783 new corporate registration ( 53.85% of total).” Total number of registered individual practitioners, as at October 6, 202, is 5,889 while that of corporate is 1,454. “Any moment from now, the list of recognized professionals, organizations and associations will be published,” he assured.
One of the sources of CRFFN’s internal revenue is the Practitioners’ Operation Fee (POF). When it was first introduced, some segments of the maritime community objected to, saying it should not be payable by them. However, following the intervention of the Honourable Minister of Transportation, integration with Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) has taken place and POF collection has commenced nationwide to the tune of 50% and gaining momentum. A nation-wide sensitization workshop on POF regime has been concluded in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano states representing the key operational zones of the Council.
For the first time since its establishment CRFFN, under Nwakohu’s leadership, has been able to determine the minimum qualification to practice freight forwarding in Nigeria. This is the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain management or its equivalent, the Executive Professional Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management.
Three new institutional accreditations have been finalized for the purpose of increasing freight forwarders’ access to CRFFN’s approved qualifications. These include University of Lagos, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic Sokoto.
A major national workshop on freight forwarding as a career was hosted in Lagos in October, 2019. Secondly, according to Nwakohu, the Council has successfully hosted two international webinars between June and August 2020 with another round coming up in October, 2021. He disclosed also that inquiries on education keep coming in by the day in line with approved minimum standard and deadline of 31st December, 2021. Almost a hundred persons have completed either the Executive Professional diploma or the FIATA Diploma in the last one year. A maiden graduation ceremony is now scheduled for 30th October, 2021 for all those who have qualified. This event is scheduled to hold in University of Lagos and will attract over 300 Graduands from Benue state University, Nigeria Institute of Transport technology, Redeemer’s University and University of Lagos.
Nwakohu disclosed that CRFFN is collaborating with the Nigerian Shippers Council in the process of securing international recognition of Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP) as a Port of Origin and Destination through FIATA.
“We are currently developing a digital haulage system (uber-like system) to standardize the freight transportation in Nigeria,” he said
In conjunction with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, CRFFN is developing the Cost of Cargo Clearing (COCC) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the freight forwarding Industry.
The Council is now fully integrated with the Nigerian Ports Authority and currently integrating with Seaport terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) for the purpose of smoothening POF collection and improving operational efficiency
CRFFN has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the world logistic passport (WLP) to enable Certified Freight Forwarders enroll for a loyalty programme that will enable them benefit by routing their cargoes through participating hub ports around the globe. It is expected to facilitate transit time of their cargoes thereby improving the Country’s Logistics performance index (LPI).
The WLP was launched in 2020 at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is aimed at increasing trade opportunities between emerging markets by combining the strengths of national trade organisations, logistics leaders and multinationals .
The Registrar/CEO disclosed that all is now set for the commencement of a nation-wide training of freight forwarders towards improving Nigeria’s ranking on Global Logistics Performance Index.
The Council is in a rebranding mode, beginning with a change of logo and upgrade in its website and digital operations. Its participation in national programmes has also improved in spite of paucity of funds. Some members of staff are currently serving in different national and industry committees and promoting the cause of the Council alongside.
The Council has been working very hard to convert the constraints of COVID 19 to opportunities. In the heat of the Lock-down, it worked with other maritime agencies to facilitate essential cargo movements in and out of the country.
CRFFN was at the lead with its Registrar serving as the Chairman of the Maritime Task Team. Other members of the team are: Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
“During the period we, alongside Nigerian Shippers Council, provided the needed transport and logistics for freight forwarders to transact their essential business,” Nwakohu said.
The team has also resolved a number of cases arising from the COVID-19-induced lockdown, including demurrage and rent charges.
“In spite of our limited resources, we made donation to the government, branded COVID 19 prevention kits to freight forwarding community, staff etc. bringing more visibility to the Council,” the Registrar disclosed.
CRFFN under Nwakohu’s leadership, takes staff welfare seriously. As at October 2021, all management staff promotion has been completed. The release of the 2018 promotion results of the staff on CONRAISS 03 – 11 has been affected. Recommendations on Senior Staff Promotion for 2019 is currently undergoing review.
The Kano Zonal Office construction is over 95% completed while two new zonal offices have been created in Enugu and Sokoto States.
Also, the procurement and allocation of project vehicles have been concluded to facilitate work in all zones and offices.
The Council has concluded a series of staff training across the board, including specialized ICT training to provide support for its sustainable operations.
It has also provided additional accommodation for staff to make the environment conducive for its operations.
The Council has also purchased staff buses to facilitate staff transportation to and from work.