By Steve Agbota , [email protected] 08033302331

“Freight forwarding industry is the hallmark of the economic activities and the economic destiny of Nigeria that cannot be toyed with. Therefore, the practice of freight forwarding in the country as economy emancipation is very essential as far as the logistic chain is concerned,” these are the words of immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, at the maiden graduation ceremony in freight forwarding and supply chain management in Lagos.

For decades, freight forwarders have been regarded as odd and abandoned professionals when compared with other operators in nation’s maritime sector. Shippers, customs, terminal operators, port security agencies, etc, were well organised, regulated and supervised by statutory agencies, while freight forwarders were like children with no parents.

In spite of the very useful role they play in getting imported goods cleared and contributing large sum into Customs revenue annually, freight forwarders in the nation’s ports cut the image of ill-trained hustlers who operated like sheep without a shepherd at the ports. That was the situation before 2007.

To change the narrative, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) sets the minimum qualification for practising freight forwarding in Nigeria. This is the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management or its equivalent, the Executive Professional Diploma in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management.

The purpose was to provide the training, retraining, educating and professionalising the freight forwarders with the right tools and knowledge to meet international best practices as regards trade facilitation.

Today, CRFFN has graduated over 400 people in freight forwarding, supply chain management across 16 accredited tertiary institutions in the country.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony during the weekend at the University of Lagos, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said that the freight forwarding profession in Nigeria is changing for the best, it was aimed at moving freight forwarding from just an all comers’ affairs to a professional freight forwarding industry.

Ameachi, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani said: “With over 400 of you today graduating, we are sure that freight forwarding in Nigeria is changing for the best. I want to say a big thank you to CRFFN and all our training institutions all over the country who has made this to happen and we pray that we continue to do this for the rest of the practitioners who would want to come in or already in to be professionalised, certified for proper freight forwarding practice.”

He, however, expressed hope that the Ministry would continue to have the support of the training institutions in achieving the training.

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Meanwhile, the guest speaker, Hassan Bello, pictured the freight forwarding industry as the economic destiny of the country, saying the practitioners must be trained and retrained because of their importance to the nation’s economy.

He said that there is need to look at the greater picture and see that the freight forwarders or the clearing agents who operate in the port are professionals because they perform very important function.

“The freight forwarders have relationship with the shipper abroad and also, the consignee here. They move goods from one point to the other, they deliver goods, and they warehouse goods. So, they must be trained to avoid things that are negative as far as movement of cargo is concerned.

“And I am talking about delay, now in Nigeria, we have a port that has a 21 days dwell time and if we have sanitised, professionalised freight forwarders in Nigeria, they would, to a very large extent shorten the dwell time of cargo. So, we need to paint a picture of vibrant freight forwarding institutions. They can’t but be professional, the image that we have of freight forwarders being some touts or full of quackery has got to stop and there is no time than today.

“From now on, as you graduate and move on to handle what statutorily is your responsibility, Nigeria would march with the international community in institutionalising professionalism, honesty, dignity in that very important profession called freight forwarding. I have always called them the philosopher king of the maritime industry,” he added.

Speaking earlier, the Registrar of CRFFN, Samuel Nwakohu, noted that nurturing CRFFN and ensuring that each registered practitioners were professionals had been a challenging one as a result of stereotyping.

According to him, the average practitioners of old saw themselves as clearing agents whose responsibility begins and ends at various terminals in the port, which was the narrative that the CRFFN had succeeded in changing.

“Today, freight forwarding was no longer restricted to the ports alone as it was a long chain. We cannot regulate an uninformed body of practitioners; certainly, we cannot preach and promote standard to an illiterate body of practitioners. This consciousness led us to further activate one of our agenda, which is to promote freight forwarding as a career by ensuring its integration into tertiary education curriculum in Nigeria. “These over 400 graduands are proud product of this partnership with higher institutions in Nigeria. We are, indeed, very grateful to our partner institutions for their favourable disposition to this relationship initiative. It is our plans that the manpower development programme, which is evidenced by today’s occasion and which CRFFN is currently pursuing, will crystallise to a mandatory continuous development programme for all freight forwarders in Nigeria.”

He, therefore, hoped that their participation in the rigorous academic process would ginger others to seek relevant training and qualification to practise freight forwarding.