By Godwin Obi
Freight forwarders in Nigeria have been warned to stop giving bribes in the process of clearing their goods.
Giving this warning at the opening of the Secretariat of 100 Per Cent Presidential Compliance Team in Lagos recently, the Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Okechukwu Aniebonam restated the need to be compliant and stop bribing officials of government in the course of clearing their goods out of the ports.
Aniebonam pointed out that a lot of freight forwarders are being intimidated in the port over nothing but hinged on compliance for them to be able to tackle such unnecessary intimidations.
The highly revered freight forwarder noted that neither the Customs boss nor Inspector General of Police has sent any officers to go to the port to collect bribe.
Condemning giving of bribes in its entirety, he charged that freight forwarders should report any officer who decides to abuse his powers, to the NAGAFF headquarters for immediate action which will be taken on it.
The NAGAFF founder revealed that a letter has been sent to the office of the Inspector General of Police, informing him of the activities of the 100% Compliance Team.
He enjoined members of the team not to lose focus when they face stiff oppositions, saying that their job is to simply observe, not engage in any discussion with anybody.
“Just watch what they are doing and take your inventory. If you see anything to the contrary, send the report to the committee, they know what to do with it.”
He affirmed that it’s in the interest of freight forwarders to partner with the government to build a better Nigeria, adding that they don’t need to give everything they have as bribes before they do their job.
Noting that every government organisation in the port have their standard of operations, he said it’s a must for freight forwarders to comply to all these procedures for them to be able to say no to offering bribes.
Aniebonam who is the champion of social engineering in the freight forwarding practice in Nigeria vividly remarked that many freight forwarders carry huge sums of money from January to December, but ended up with nothing in their pockets because they spend all on bribes.
Dr. Segun Musa, Ex-Chairman NAGAFF Airport Chapter
He said the situation has made some freight forwarders to be hypertensive.
Aniebonam praised the National Coordinator of the Compliance Team, Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim for establishing a befitting headquarters and operating base for the team.
He described Tanko as one of the individuals who have added great value to NAGAFF.
The Umuawulu High Chief frowned at the strategic negligence of some frontline members, especially some of the chapter chairmen for not adding value to the association.
NAGAFF, he stated, is a non-profit making organisation, demanding people to imagine what he went through to establish the association in all the ports and border stations across the federation.
“I am happy that I am now seeing results, even if I drop dead tomorrow, I know there are people who can carry on,” he said happily.
Aniebonam paid a glowing acclamation to Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim and Mr. Segun Musa’s contributions to the growth of NAGAFF and urged other members to emulate them.
Segun Musa was the immediate former chairman of the Airport Chapter.
He was not happy that some NAGAFF chapters with all their money, don’t even have a secretariat, saying that if you have money and you cannot affect humanity with that your money, then, the money is useless because posterity has no record of such one no matter how highly placed he is.
However, dissecting Dr. Aniebonam’s directive on his members not to offer bribes to officials of government associated with cargo clearing in the ports, some clearing agents said it would have catastrophic effect to swallow the message hook, line and sinker, without taking into cognizance the nature of trade involved.
A freight forwarder, Mr. Gil Ugwu described Dr. Aniebonam’s advice as what is expected from a man that plays a fatherly role in the freight forwarding business and as founder of a great association. “You don’t expect him to come out openly to support bribery and corruption when he is a leader of no mean repute.
He however noted that even the NAGAFF founder knows that bribe giving is indispensable in the process of cargo clearance in Nigeria today, but only encourages maximum compliance to trade regulation.
Speaking in the same vein, a popular electronic merchant, Chief Kings Mgbe of Jefkings Nigeria Limited confided in Frontline Reporters that no serious importer in this time and space in Nigeria would anticipate total elimination of bribe giving to officials, especially customs officials who actually facilitate clearance of cargo.
He noted that Customs would even encourage you to pay less duty on certain category of vehicles in order to create room for their own pockets. “So how compliant are you with your import before ruling out bribery in the course of your transactions’ He who goes to equity must go with clean hands.
“I give you an example, my container was ones damaged while Maeskline was bringing it out from their ship. I was advised to ask for indemnity from their insurance company but I declined. I had to take my damaged goods and chose the path of auctioning them because if I were to ask for payment from Maeskline, I would be paid based on the declared items in the manifest. But you and I know that if I declare every item that I have in the container and pay the exorbitant charges on them, I cannot make any gain. So, this is why we will continue to rob our backs together until charges on all legitimate imports are made affordable”, Chief Mgbe remarked.