Monday, October 8, 2012

Whiff of Corruption in Latest Nigerian Freight Forwarding Scandal

Importers Want JACOFF to Quit Jerking Around
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – Once again one senses that internal squabbles for power are more important than service to the customer as the latest crisis for freight forwarding in the country continues. Only in Nigeria could a serious amalgamation of interests to collect the latest in Government decreed profiteering schemes call it self by the no doubt unintentionally humorous acronym ‘JACOFF’.

Outsiders are used to viewing rows over money with scepticism in a country which has a world wide reputation for corruption and the leaders of the disparate groups of freight forwarders responsible for clearing customs in Nigeria are not doing themselves, or their nation’s image, any favours.

Often the running of a trade body in Africa is seen as a meal ticket rather than a representative sacrifice and the number of bodies currently arguing the toss over the collection and disbursement of the ‘Transitional or Transaction Fee’ which was due to be introduced in June (since postponed to September) is simply bewildering.

This charge was proposed by the Ministry of Transport and is intended to levy a charge on every agent which clears any goods being imported into the country and has engendered a war of words between (wait for the acronym’s) the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), which stands accused of trying to sabotage the fees to ensure freight agents do not all legitimise, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) which is trying to introduce the charge mainly to fund its own existence, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) which the CRFFN have accused of being sponsored by the NCS to make the agencies a closed shop and wanting to keep any money forthcoming for themselves.

Add to this mix at least three other industry bodies which also want to claim a slice of any pie available. The National Council for Managing Directors of Customs Agents (NCMDCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), and Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders (NAFFAC) are smaller trade bodies anxious to ensure they are cut into any deal from the potentially millions of dollars collectable on Nigeria’s import containers.

Step forward the hilariously named JACOFF (Joint Action Committee of Freight Forwarders) which is actually the ANLCA, NAGAFF and various allies which has been trying to physically collect the fees from importing agents whilst their opposition, presumably backed by the NCS, have been advising the agents not to pay. The whole business may well end in Court action (no speedy end in sight there then)as the JACOFF members insist they need funds, now they receive no Government sponsorship, to organise a professional freight forwarding service with trained licensed practitioners and accuse NCS of simply issuing licences to anyone who cares to cross their palms with silver.

Insiders say that there is another element to this turf war as the NCS are under the wing of the Ministry of Finance whilst CRFFN and the forwarders fly the flag of the Ministry of Transport. The latest offer from CRNFFN was reported as a 70/20/10 split of all monies collected, unsurprisingly the largest tranche for the Council, the fifth to be split between the forwarding associations and the ten percent? Well, this is Nigeria, 10% for ‘the special needs of the key functionaries of the associations’.

If anyone knows what this means, answers on a postcard please (or leave a comment below).

Photo: Port Harcourt dockside, courtesy of Supermaritime, Ships Agents, Brokers and Stevedore Services.