Clearing agents contest ‘illegal’ fee at seaports
Moves by the Federal Ministry of Transportation to commence the collection of Practitioners Operating Fees (POF), to be used as access to the seaports and airports in the country has been challenged by clearing agents.
The agents under the aegis of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), in a petition written to the Acting President Yemi Osibajo, and obtained by The Guardian, said the proposed collection of POF by the Transport Minister is illegal, and in contravention of the statutes that established the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding Nigeria (CRFFN).
The petition signed by the President, NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero, said the fee is also in contravention y to a ruling by the Federal High Court in Lagos; the letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that dissolved the Council since November 2012 as well as the concept on the Ease of Doing Business.
He said: “We therefore wish to implore the Federal Government to urgently intervene and stop the illegal collection that is expected to be forced on the License Customs Agents.”
The petition stated that there is non existence of POF in the CRFFN Act, quoting the financial provision as contained in Part II, Section six as stating: “The Council shall establish and maintain a fund for the Purpose of this Act, the management and Council of which shall be in the hands of the Council.”
It further stated: “By the provision of Section 6-(1) the proposed collection contravenes the Act that authorised the management and control of such fund in the hand of the Council, which has been dissolved since 2012, based on the Federal High Court ruling and the Letter from the office of the Secretary of the Federal Government of Nigeria, which outlaws the Register/ Staff to perform the function of the dissolved council.
“The specific payment by freight forwarders as provided in Section 6-(2) (a), is the annual practicing fees payable by every freight forwarder determined by the Council, which contravenes the proposed collection and negates the provision of the Act by extending such collection to the seaports, airports, border stations.
“In line with the provision of Section 30, the fees for collection by Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarder, is clearly specified in Section 30, states, “Fees” to include annual subscriptions.
“As contained in Section 30 of the CRFFN Act, the freight forwarder function is to arrange the carriage or movement of goods along international boundaries and not the Seaports, Air Ports, but along international boundaries as specify in the Act.
“The Secretary to the Government of the Federation letter addressed the statutory provision of the expired/dissolved council, which function cannot be exercised by the Registrar /Staff, who are not elected as member of the Council under section 2-(1) a-g (2) 7(3),which cannot manage and control the Fund without a council,” it stated.