Igwe Dino Kingsley, founder and convener, Maritime Advocacy Group.
By Dili Utomi.
We will continue to resist the collection of this wicked and illegal POF- MAG
By Dili Utomi.
Another pressure group within the Maritime sector has come out to protest the collection of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) that just took off on the 1st day of March 2021 at the Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT). Speaking at the protest ground at the TICT administrative office at point road Apapa, the founder and convener of the Maritime Advocacy Group, Igwe Dino Kingsley spoke exclusively to us on this thorny issue.
He said “We all know the State of the country right, the difficult business environment, the people are suffering, the government has been taxing us on several fronts. We battle with multiple alerts on our transactions from the different units of Customs and the shipping companies have not been fair to us as we pay different kinds of fees including demurrage on cargoes and same goes for the terminal operators. All of a sudden, our own supposed regulator the Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN ) is now imposing another bill on us to be pay, a fee which they call the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF). Come on man, most members pay their registration fee at the beginning of the year and now you want us to pay per job at hand? You want every practitioner to pay the sum of two thousand naira as a POF, what is the reason for that, who is the money going to, who will manage the money and what is its purpose? Where is the legislation for that? We do not know the CRFFN as a government revenue generating agency, they are supposed to be our regulators caring for our own interests. We have never seen them intervene when freight forwarders are being maltreated by either the shipping companies, terminal operators or Customs, but they seat in the comfort of their offices to now impose this illegal fee on us to pay to enrich one or two of the board members, we say no to that”.
I think to the best of my knowledge, there was no meeting or any form of agreement where it was generally accepted that this fee should be collected, we only saw on the notice board at the TICT on the 28th of February that starting from the 1st of March, the collection of POF was going to be implemented. There was no meeting, no awareness or sensitization campaigns whatsoever over this issue; and immediately the TICT started its implementation though other terminals refused to follow suit as they acknowledge the illegality of the fee. This is fraud and it cannot stand.
People are already overtaxed and this is one of the reasons for the insecurity in the country. When a government makes it difficult for the people to make honest living, some will definitely give up and go into crime as they may not be able to resist the urge, we should not make the country to take that route and should do all in our power to make the country go through the right direction.
We are not backing down from this standpoint, we will keep resisting this wicked and illegal collection until it is stopped, because this fraud and should not be allowed to continue. Again, we are also exploring other legal means to put a stop to it, we are not letting go of this fight against injustice”.
On the fact that the members did not turn out en mass for the protest Mr. Igwe said that the fact that the protest was impromptu and the fact that it was called on a Friday was the major issue as most freight forwarders did not want their cargoes to be left over the weekend as they will attract demurrage if left uncleared. I can assure you that most of them will turn out en mass next week.
He chided the CRFFN members for saying that some that the fee will be channeled to the area of welfare for the members, stating that “we know by experience that a lot of members have died in the course of doing this business, but no one has cared for their families”.
Humble Prince Agbonlahor, member, Maritime Advocacy Group.
Another member of the group, Mr. Agbonlahor Prince Humble also stated that he was shocked at the action of the CRFFN as he noted that this illegality will not be allowed to fester. He stated that it was rather curious that a very short notice was given by the management of the TICT before the implementation of the collection of the POF and said that it has always been a ploy carried out to exploit Nigerians. He said that because these operators play cheap mind games by asking you to comply with the payment of the POF or you have your cargo entering demurrage and attracting a higher fee of twelve thousand naira. He warned the management of the TICT to desist from forcing members to pay the POF or have their terminal picketed.