Dr. Fred Ajuzie, MD/CEO Pat-Fuze logistics limited.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Pat-Fuze logistics limited, Dr. Fred Ajuzie is a well known freight forwarder of repute who has decades of experience in the Maritime sector of the Nigeria economy. In this interview with a group of journalists in his office, he spoke his mind on the burning issue of the registration of foreigners as freight forwarders, an area that was assumed to be exclusively reserved for Nigerians alone. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Question: Sir, what is your take on the licensing of freight forwarders in Nigeria by the Customs?
Answer: You see, this is big issue right now, I want to site the example of Benin Republic, where you go to clear your goods as a Nigerian. When your get there, you are not even allowed to enter the Port as you can only submit your documents to your Beninoise agent and he goes into the Port, clears the goods, brings the cargo out for you and you take away your cargo, that is the ideal thing to do. You can only asses your cargo over there once it has been cleared for you by the indigenes there. In Nigeria, the indegenisation policy is supposed to protect certain jobs for Nigerians, but it is also the same Nigerians, who allow themselves to be used to license these foreign companies, meanwhile, these foreigners are the ones controlling things and the Nigerians are mere fronts receiving pittance which they also regret at the end of the day, we are so naive.
When I was the Chairman of the Apapa chapter of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), I fought very hard to make sure that these foreigners were not allowed into the Ports and that these jobs were preserved for Nigerians.
It is all about us, the way we make our beds so shall we lie on them, some of us are ignorant and so act out of poverty and needs, but we should be reasonable and try to resist some of these exploitative tendencies. Again, it is all in our hands to do what is right to protect our businesses and our people. Like I said earlier, this area is exclusively reserved for Nigerians, but I don’t know anymore. Part of the problems is that probably about eighty percent of those you see as freight forwarders are touts who are not licensed and this makes it easier for foreigners to use them to get licensed and take away jobs from Nigerians. What is the make up of the business? It all about an importer giving you a bill of lading and you go about the process of clearing the goods.
Now, how do we eliminate quacks and non-educated people from the business? The regulators in the industry, the CRFFN and the Shippers Council should all endeavour to do their duty and sanitise the industry as this has become a big problem.
Question: Sir, is the role of the CRFFN properly handled by the Council?
Answer: That is actually where I am going. Even though the CRFFN was the brainchild of NAGAFF, I do not think that they have been alive to their obligations, I am not a fan of the CRFFN right now as it is. They are not performing, I have had to ask Dr. Aniebonam on one of our platforms to consider taking up the headship of the Council as the originator of the idea of the CRRFN, but he shrugged it off saying that he has grown beyond that.
Question: Sir, there is a document showing that Maersk Line and APMT are registering freight forwarding companies, what is your take on that?
Answer: Well, we can say that these are multinational companies registered in Nigeria and employing Nigerians too, but again, it begs the question of who is a Nigerian, I leave that for you to ponder. There is a lot of things happening that are not normal or legit, but because of the kind of people that we are, we let them happen.
Question: When you talk about foreign companies registering freight forwarding companies, is it not a policy thing that Nigeria she should have certain percentages?
Answer: First and foremost, to register a company, you go to the CAC and then you get it licensed with the Customs for freight forwarding business. We have sold ourselves cheap by allowing ourselves to be used to register these companies and get some small change, but at the end of the day, the foreigner carts away most of the proceeds from the business. There was a time that I was helping a Lebanese importer to clear his cargoes and I was doing fast track for them until I discovered that they have been making wrong declaration, I was so outraged that I confronted the fellow and in the end, I lost the business because I stood my ground.
Question: Sir, what is the way forward?
Answer: Well, I just hope that as individuals, we will have the will of mind and as government, we will have the political will to start doing the right, I do not know, maybe it will start happening after 2023.
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