…As Aniebonam wonders why Council is adopting threat, rather than communications***
The legal adviser to the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Barrister Okwudili Alagbu, on Monday, (December 9, 2019) notified Nigerians that the body would neither disown any of its members who went to Court to seek clarification to the true status of the Council for Regulations of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN), nor be cowed by the Council’s threat of expelling them.
The Legal Adviser stated this in Lagos, clarifying that it was actually not the NAGAFF members that went to court, but few concerned individuals who had registered with both the CRFFN and the NAGAFF.
The ‘Concerned members’ had gone to court, seeking the true status of the CRFFN, either as a Government agency or private running body. While it was upheld as a Government agency at the Federal High Court, the Appellants had appealed the judgment, pointing out that if it was a Government baby or parastatal, then there would not have been any need for periodic elections for several of its governing members, from the private sector.
The freight forwarders also wrote to the two arms of the National Assembly, on realizing that the CRFFN was already in the process of obtaining amendments to the controversial articles over which the ‘Concerned members’ had appealed in court.
Subsequently the regulatory Council on December 6, 2019, wrote to NAGAFF, (“RE-NOTICE OF THE PENDENCY OF A LAWSUIT OF APPEAL, LAGOS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE SELF SAME PROVISIONS Of FREIGHT FORWARDING IN NIGERIA ACT NO.16 OF 2007 WHICH IS SOUGHT TO BE AMMENDED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, FILED BY OKWDILI ALAGBU AND CO. dated 25th November, 2019”), threatening a possible expulsion of its members from the Council if the ‘concerned members’ failed to withdraw their case at the Court of Appeal by December 20th.
Speaking with the media on Monday on the strength of the letter, NAGAFF warned against the use of threat, rather pursuing dialogue and understanding.
The Freight Forwarders body noted the National Assembly’s collaboration with the CRFFN in trying to over-reach those that went to court; and the interest groups they represent, by amending the law, to suit their position in the case.
“As it stands today, the National Assembly in collaboration with CRFFN is trying to over-reach those people that went or court and the interest groups they represent by amending the law to suit their position in the case”, he said, adding that the divergent controversy of whether or not, the CRFFN is a Government Agency must be cleared before any amendments can be effected by the lawmakers.
“First and foremost, we have to draw a clear distinction by way of analogy that CRFFN cannot be a Government Agency when majority of the members of the Governing Council are constituted through election. There is no other Agency of the government whose board is constituted by election”- okwudili reasoned.
He maintained that section 6 of the CRFFN act made provision as to funding of the council through registration fee, practicing fee and so on; because the concept is designed to be self funding.
“None of the Government Agencies or Parastaltals is designed to be self funding. If it’s an Agency of the Government, there would have been no need for section 6, because like every other Agency or Government Parastaltals, Government knows how to pay the workforce of CRFFN”.
“If the CRFFN is administered as a public Parastaltals, it means an extra financial burden on the Federal Government, which means what they are trying to do is to bring an additional burden on an economy that is over burdened with heavy current expenditure”.
“But if CRFFN effort to covert to a Government Agency succeeds, it means that henceforth, the council will be run with judicial command and control approach; as each Government unit runs its business, which also means that the Freight Forwarding community including NAGAFF and other associations that played a role towards the formation of the council will no longer be relevant”, he explained.
He confirmed that the body actually received a letter from the CRFFN on December 9, 2019, adding: “all we could see in the letter is a threat which says ‘in the light of above, therefore you are to direct your members concerned, (if truly they are) to withdraw the appeal on or before Friday 20th December, 2019 and address their complaint to the undersigned, who is also the chairman, Freight Forwarders Disciplinary Tribunal’.”
Okwdili further said: “We are going to do everything we have to do to bring this letter to the notice of the court; file an application and support it with the letter CRFFN sent; to inform the court that they are threatening us to withdraw the suit”, the Legal expert said, positing that the NAGAFF would not withdraw the suit, for any reason whatsoever.
Expatiating further on the Legal Adviser’s position, the NAGAFF Founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam wondered why the Council was throwing threats, rather than seek understanding.
“We have six members of NAGAFF in CRFFN. So, I wonder why CRFFN should write this kind of letter when they have channels of communication, and yet, seemingly, has resulted to threat that shows that something is wrong”.
“We are not going to disown the members of NAGAFF that went to court for Interpretation of the Act. They are also members of CRFFN also”, the revered leader further said.