We’ll use dialogue to resolve myriads of problems in maritime industry–Nwabunike
Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike last week emerged the new National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in the election held in Enugu. Nwabunike, who is the Managing Director of Mac- Tonnel Nigeria Limited, and pioneer chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), in this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he speaks on the programmes of his administration. He insists that there are more civilized ways of addressing issues not lockouts .
ANLCA’s national elections have come and gone; what does your victory entail for members?
My victory is not only for members of ANLCA but is also a victory for all because it will bring about total emancipation from foreigners, who have taken over our businesses and jobs for our people. It is total emancipation from the unwholesome activities of some government agencies that do not want to play the game by the rules.
It is victory for all the operational challenges faced by our people in the course of doing their legitimate businesses. We will ensure that freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents are seen as professionals and not dropouts.
We will embark on an aggressive training and re-training of our members to make them globally competitive in their operational activities. We will enthrone a regime of international best practice for our members and also network with international bodies and agencies in terms of training and re-training our members on international best practice. You will see a total re-organisation of the customs brokerage and freight forwarding profession in Nigeria.
There is this clamour for ceding certain percentage of import duties collected by the customs brokerage agents. What is your take on this?
We will interface with the National Assembly in many areas. One of them is making input into the import guidelines of the country since we are directly involved. Secondly, since we generate the revenue for the Nigeria Customs Service in terms of import duties and other fees and levies collection, it will not be out of place if our welfare is taken care of in the process of doing this.
There may be challenges and difficulties at the beginning, but we will triumph in the end. We will seek adequate reward from government agencies for our members, in doing all these; we will apply dialogue and consultations not confrontation. This is why we will partner the National Assembly with a view to creating the needed legal framework.
A lot of freight forwarders and customs brokerage agencies are not computerised. What do you intend to do about this, especially in terms of helping them acquire modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT)?
First and foremost, we will put in place a wonderful and ICT compliant secretariat for the association. Like I told you earlier, the new executive will train and retrain members on international best practice, in international trade business. ICT would form part of this training and capacity building programme.
We are considering exploring the possibility of guaranteeing loans from Micro Finance Banks to enable them acquire modern ICT equipment that would ease their jobs and by so doing enhance professional efficiency. How would you relate with the Federal Government in terms of international trade policies that affect freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents? Like I told you earlier, caution will be our watchword and so we will employ dialogue not confrontation and lockouts. We will employ every legitimate and modern means of addressing issues.
For instance, we would want to make inputs into fiscal policies that affect us, especially fixing tariffs and charges, we will dialogue with relevant government agencies in this direction. For instance, we believe that the government should revisit the issue of the 41 items blacklisted from accessing foreign exchange through the official market.
We also think that the government should at this time review its vehicle import policy, especially the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders. Everyone knows that this policy has not achieved its desired objectives for obvious reasons.
So it is high time the government allowed the importation of vehicles through the land borders, especially Seme and Idiroko but efforts must be made to ensure that appropriate duty is paid on any vehicle so imported.
We will also seek a review of import tariff and charges for some staple foods consumed mostly by the poor masses such as rice, tomato puree. It is commendable that the government is trying to encourage local production of such products, but we propose that in situations where locally produced ones cannot meet the needs of the over 180 million Nigerians, the shortfall should be imported, at least until the country is self -sufficient in the production of such items.
What would be the association’s relationship with the Nigerian Shippers Council ?
As a regulatory agency of the government, ANLCA under my watch will liaise with the Nigerian Shippers Council to check some of the excesses of shipping companies and terminal operators.
The current rampant cases of imposition of arbitrary levies and charges by terminal operators and shipping companies would no longer be tolerated. We will not allow a situation whereby you wake-up in the morning and find out that the entire charges have been reviewed upwards without any form of negotiation or all the notice to that effect.
It is also a well- known fact that our jobs are being taken away by foreign customs brokerage agents, Customs officers and even members of the Nigerian Plant Quarantine Service today do clearing jobs at the ports.
We will not sit and allow all these to continue and so we will device mechanisms to ensure that all these anomalies are corrected. Cargo clearing business must be done in Nigeria the same way it is done elsewhere including neighbouring African countries and indeed all over the world. So we will take a critical look at these issues, activities of shipping companies, terminal operators and even bonded terminals and other service providers at the ports
There is a disagreement between the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and ANLCA over Practitioners Operating Fee (POF). What is your take on it?
You know ANLCA is currently in court with the CRFFN, but we will resolve all that through dialogue. The new Executive Council of the association would take urgent steps to resolve the debacle. We will seek legal advice from the legal department of the association as well as from independent sources with a view to urgently resolving the crisis. There must be a way forward.
How would you relate with other members of the various associations in the industry ?
You will recall that the immediate past president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) was at the venue of the election that saw my emergence. So I have a good rapport with all of them. We need to speak with one voice. We will synergise with the Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and even the association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF), among others.
(source:pocket-novels,please contact us if any infringement)