By Stephen Ubanna
For much of March and earlyApril, 2018, Olayiwola Shittu, who, until Saturday, April 14, 2018, was president , Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, and his successor Tony Iju Nwabunike, a pioneer Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria, CFFRN, were said to have set in motion the machinery for handing of power to the incoming president of the Association. The duo were said to have set up an inauguration Committee to handle the assignment.
The duo were also said to have met at different times on the way forward for the Association. The fallout of the meetings was the Culmination of the handover of the insignia of office of the President of ANLCA by Shittu, the former President to Nwabunike on Saturday , April 14, 2018. in a The ceremony attracted people from all works of life, including Aminu Dahiru, , Assistant Comptroller General in charge of Nigeria Customs Service, Zone A, Lagos, who represented Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and the Comptroller General. and Gani Adams, Aare Onakakafo, the Yoruba traditional war General . The insignia formally confirmed Nwabunike as the president of ANLCA, for the next four years. It was the first time since the establishment of ANLCA by an Act of parliament in 1954 that power is shifting from an elected President to another elected President without rancour or Court cases.
As a prelude to the swearing in of Nwbunike, the new President , Dahiru, who was the representative of the Comptroller General, was given opportunity to give his goodwill message. The Customs Zonal Coordinator, however, saw it as an opportunity to lambaste the importers with their agents over their crooked ways of doing business at Nigeria ports, airports and land border stations, pleading with them to support. H e promised a level playing field to stakeholders and support to the new leadership of ANLCA. Going back the memory lane, he alluded that he knew Shittu, the outgoing president and Nwabunike, the incoming , when he was a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of Enforcement, Tin-can Island port in 2012. He has a good sense n of humour forcing the people to laugh repeatedly.
Appealing to agents to reduce the friction with officers, he cautioned them to make genuine declarations, correct Classifications and Valuations of their imports as well as reduce alterations to their import documents.
He had recalled of the robust relationship between the Customs and agents which had existed over the years, urging the new leadership to Endeavour to sustain it as both Customs and agents need each other to remain relevant. He is right . The Customs collect the duties and other relevant charges at the seaports, airports and land border stations while the agents are the ones that that pay the duties and the other charges by serving as a go-between importers and Customs . There was absolute silence as agents turned to look at one another. The look in their faces show that they were all guilty of the crime.
The agents may have heaved a sigh of relief when Adams, Aare Onakakanfo fired back at the Customs Authorities over its high tariff on imported goods, urging the government to reduce to encourage more imports of cargoes into the nation’s seaports.
He pleaded with the ACG to take their complaint to Ali, who in turn should take it up with Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance to force the government to reduce the tariff on imported goods. The Aare lamented that many Nigerians in diaspora who were used to shipping vehicles and other goods from contributions in their places of work may have been discouraged to continue in the business because of this outrageous tariff .
He fears that if nothing is fast done urgently to ameliorate the situation, most of these Nigerians in Diaspora may become liabilities to their parents, brothers and sisters at home as they may be forced to be sending money to them to feed and meet up other daily expenses. The speech by the Customs ACG and Are Adams may have opened the floodgate for other speakers to shower praises on Shitu for his outstanding leadership.
Until , he handed over to Nwabunike on Saturday, April 14, 2018, , shittu was at the helms of affairs in ANLCA for eight years, having been elected in Portharcourt in 2010. Indeed, the encomiums that were showered by members of the Association including a foremost agent , Nze Anyamene and the President of the Customs Brokers Association of Liberia, who came with a high powered delegation to witness the handover ceremony speaks volume, of Shittu’s influence beyond the shores of Nigeria.
The former ANLCA President who was regarded in Agents circles as the father of the Association and a bridge builder beyond the shores of Nigeria was said to have been honored with the Liberia Coat of arms to show their appreciation of his works in the country. The representative of the Liberia’s Brokers Association, Toby, was said to have sent greetings from the government to him, stressing that they would want him to come over to Liberia to continue the Brokers business if he did not find Nigeria suitable for business any longer.
He revealed that with the initiative of the former ANLCA president, they were already working on the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Brokers Association, with the implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, ETLS and Common External Tariff, CET, in the region.
Toby, the president, of the Liberia s brokers Association is optimistic that Nwabunike will continue from where his predecessor stopped to see to the realization of the dream of the formation of the ECOWAS Brokers Association.
Earnest Elochukwu, a foremost agent based in Portharcourt and former acting president of the Association during its period of crisis, who was said to have technically handed over to Shittu in 2000, described the change of baton in ANLCA as a” celebration of successful leadership”.
Appealing to the Anambra state born ANLCA, president to take a cue from the former President of the Association, Elochukwu explained that it is the only way to guarantee him a successful tenure instead of doing things that would polarize the Association.
He urged him to use the talents in the Association wherever could find them , no matter the Political divide. ”You are not in Competition with any person, follow what the Constitution of the Association stays, galvanize agents to do what you want them to do as you were elected to project ANLCA, He warned the ANLCA president, do not turn yourself into a dictator but see yourself as an” obedient servant of the agents”.
Eyewitness account disclosed that there was a standing ovation when Shittu stood up to talk. ”I knew a day like this will come’, he reportedly said. I have a retirement countdown application in my phone which was counting my days in office and when the time was ripe me to go, i the alert rang, he further said. The former ANLC president was said to have urged those in a position of leadership to know that a day like this would come for their retirement to start preparing for it from the first day in office.
In a voice laden with emotion, Shittu was said to have told the audience that ”in the journey to leadership, there would be a lot of betrayals , noting that in the beginning the leadership may be owned by a section of people who may claim to have master-minded his election and therefore no person has the right to question the rule of the majority now”.
Philosophically speaking, SShittu said, ANLCA is an evolving project that would outlive every member”. The former President may have had his support to Emmenike Nwokeji, to succeed him because of his loyalty.
It is not surprising why Nwabunike declared on his inauguration day that there is ”no victor no vanquished, remind one of the statement credited General Yakubu Gown, a former Head state, while making his broadcast after the surrender of Biafra in January, 1970. He pleaded with members to support the support the new EXCO ”to keep the vision mission of the Association alive”.
he may have spoken what the agents would want to hear when he rolled out his plan for the Association in the next four years: Development off a befitting Brokers village with the State of the art training facilities, ancillary services such as conference centre and Clinic . This is in addition to a hotel that would be built in the Brokers village , he said .
this may sound ambitious , establishment of Chartered Institute of Brokers, but the new ANLCA boss has promised to pursue it to its logical conclusion. H e has made the registration and Conferment of the status of a Chartered Institute of Customs Brokers as one of major plants of the Administration to ‘develop a Certification training programs for members to improve service delivery, standardization of operations and processes,” thus making ANLCA a truly professional body.