Concerned Accredited Freight Forwarding Associations, CAFFA has disassociated the associations from the threat by some customs agents to embark on strike in Tin Can Island Port over allegations of extortion and inefficiency leveled against officials of the terminal operator.
The Publicity Secretary of the association, Dr. Frank Ukor, said they found it “alarming that in this critical period in the history of our great country, some groups of Nigerians would be contemplating disrupting activities at the ports which come next to oil, as the cash cow of the nation”.
Ukor described the threat as “archaic, retrogressive and constituting both security threat and economic sabotage for a country facing serious security and economic issues”.
The four associations urged all security agencies to “provide adequate security at the ports, to thwart efforts by any group of people who may want to cause chaos, and at the same time guarantee to safety of members of the port community who may want to go about their normal duties without being molested especially our members”.
He said “It is amazing that this group of “Customs Agents” find it convenient to castigate the TICT alone for an offence or offences which could be said to be general or common with other terminal operators.
“As freight forwarders who are also at the receiving end of some of the unwholesome activities of the Terminal operators, it is our belief that any move to draw attention to these anomalies should not single out one or two terminal operators alone, while we pretend that all is well with the other terminal operators. Any action to resist these anomalies should not be restricted to only one operator, but should be uniformly addressed. This smirks of hypocrisy, double stand and selective persecution.
“However, if one considers the current trend in the country, it is ill advised to embark on any action that will heighten the already tense situation in the country and threaten the economic progress of the country. To us this threat to disrupt activities at the ports is misdirected, irresponsible and uncharitable. That a group of people will contemplate this now may have lend credence to the reported speech of the Managing Director of the TICT, that “he could not sit with riff raff to dialogue”.
“We believe this is a pointer to the fact that our sister Association is bent on giving our dear country a bad image through their conducts which tend to present them a “riff-raff”.
“Interestingly, they are even talking about change and also expecting change in the conduct of the terminal operators. Like the lawyers will say “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Those calling for change, are they prepared to embrace change?
“We all must ensure we change from our past misdeeds, and resort to attitudinal change. It is very astonishing that our sister Association still believes in brute force, arm twisting, issuing of threats and blackmail to achieve their aims. And they are talking about change.
As for us in CAFFA, we have always believe in dialogue, communication, consultation and persuasion which will lead to constructive partnership, needed for the industry to flourish.
“We believe that what our country needs in this period of transition is peaceful conduct, so as not to rock the boat.
“We are therefore using this medium to call on our members to remain calm, and go about their normal activities at the TICT as our leaders engage the terminal operators across the country on how best to arrive at a junction that will be beneficial to our country, and all those doing business at the Terminal and other entry points.
“At the same time, we urge all the security agencies to provide adequate security at the ports, to thwart efforts by any group of people who may wait to cause chaos, and at the same time guarantee to safety of members of the port community who may want to go about their normal duties without being molested especially our members.
“We use this medium to pledge our unflinching support to the current Government and promise that we will do everything within our power to ensure a peaceful atmosphere that will guarantee that the Government taps to the fullest all the potentials in the industry.
“We also want to advice our sister Association to change from their old tactics and approach to resolving industrial disputes, by developing capacity in the application of constructive engagements, and respect to a constituted authority at all times via, consultations, dialogue and communication with the appropriate quarters.
“We observed with dismay name-calling by our sister Association aimed at maligning some principal staff of TICT. This is uncalled for as these are career officers who should not be distracted from carrying out their legitimate duties. We believe any distraction is capable of ridiculing their professional carrier.
“After all, in the port industry today, an economic regulator is in place, they have an obligation to the industry best practices, with respect to the issue raised in their Press Release.
“Again, the relevant provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention are extant; the port industry is quite strategic and deserves the application of due process when contemplating withdrawal of services by any critical stakeholder in the port industry, in relation to “Notices” for such intention. Again, our sister Association should equally, appreciate and pride themselves as professionals in an Association and not a labour union as they present themselves, by issuing strike threats or even embarking on strike at every slightest provocation”.
In the meantime, Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam weekend urged corrupt Nigerians who stole from government purse to return such money as part of the expected change in the new administration.
Aniebonam who said that the expected change was not all about President Muhammadu Buhari correcting the ills in the system and fixing dead infrastructure alone, said that every Nigerian must be part of this change in every aspect of his business or personal life for the good of the country.
According to him, the expected change was all about self-cleansing, arguing that Buhari cannot be everywhere.
Part of the change, he said, should be to for corrupt individuals who served government to return what was stolen so that it could be used to address the needs of the country.
Describing this as a measure of restitution for God fearing individuals who seek a clean way of life, the NAGAFF founder called on the government to try to recover what stolen before through appeal to Nigerians under a plea-bargain arrangement.
Speaking in his office when council members of the Maritime Media Advocates (MMA), a non-government advocacy group, paid him a courtesy call, he said that a lot of Nigerians will return such money once government makes the necessary move.