As freight forwarding profession gears towards rebranding, repositioning…

The new lease of life introduced into freight and forwarding business has geared it towards efficiency as BENJAMIN UMUTEME reports.

Over the years, freight forwarders looked odd and forsaken compared to other operators in Nigeria’s maritime sector. While shippers, customs, terminal operators, port security agencies, etc, were well organised, regulated and supervised by statutory agencies, freight forwarders were not.

In spite of the very useful role they play in getting imported goods cleared, Nigerian freight forwarders cut the image of ill-trained hustlers who operated like sheep without a shepherd at the ports.

That was the situation before 2007. The establishment of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) that year is gradually changing all that perception. The council is turning the business and practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria into a respectable profession of well-trained and organised operators guided by international standards and best practices. The ultimate objective, according to Barrister Samuel Nwakohu, registrar/CEO of CRFFN, is to rebrand and reposition the freight forwarding sub-sector of Nigeria’s maritime sector to place it a par in all aspects with other maritime sub-sectors as well as its counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Established under Act No 16 2007, CRFFN is charged with amongst other responsibilities, to regulate and control the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria and promote 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.

Nwakohu believes that for the freight forwarding business to contribute its quota to national development as envisaged by the government, it must first be repositioned. Some of the specific measures CRFFN has taken in this direction include setting minimum educational/professional qualifications for freight forwarders, professional training, sensitisation and accreditation; registration of practitioners for ease of supervision, monitoring and discipline; establishment of operational standards and guidelines, the introduction of welfare programmes for freight forwarders and CRFFN, amongst others.

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 finalised for the purpose of increasing freight forwarders’ access to CRFFN’s approved qualifications and are accordingly available on the website of CRFFN, said Nwakolu. These include the 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 in October 2021. He disclosed also that inquiries on education keep coming in by the day in line with the approved minimum standard and deadline of December 31 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 October 30 2021 for all those who have qualified. This event is scheduled to hold at the University of Lagos and would attract over 300 graduands from Benue State University, Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Redeemer’s University and the University of Lagos.

Recognition of Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP)

Nwakohu disclosed that CRFFN is collaborating with the Nigerian Shippers Council is 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 standardise the freight transportation in Nigeria,” he said.
Standardisation of freight forwarding charges, operating procedures and others.
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 has therefore concluded integration 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 World Passport Logistics (WPL) to enable Certified Freight Forwarders to enrol for a loyalty programme that would enable them to 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 Registrar/CEO disclosed that all is now set for the commencement of nationwide training of freight forwarders towards improving Nigeria’s ranking on the Global Logistics Performance Index.

“The council had also rebranded itself, beginning with a change of logo and upgrade in its website and digital operations. Its participation in national programmes has also improved despite the paucity of funds. Some members of staff are currently serving in different national and industry committees and promoting the cause of the council alongside,” he noted.
The council has been working very hard to convert the constraints of COVID 19 into opportunities. In the heat of the lockdown, 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 the Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) and 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 several cases arising from the COVID-19-induced lockdown, including demurrage and rent charges.
“Despite our limited resources, we made a donation to the government, branded COVID 19 prevention kits to freight forwarding communities, staff etc by bringing more visibility to the council,” the registrar disclosed.

CRFFN under Nwakohu’s leadership takes staff welfare seriously. This is based on the belief the council can only discharge its mandate if it stands on a solid footing. As of 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 specialised 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 for the ease of transportation of workers in line with the policy thrust of the new administration.

According to Nwakohu, the warfare of staff is top on his priorities and would continue to ensure that necessary tools are available for ease of conducting their daily business In line with best global practice.