Monday, 30 September 2013

The way we are



There is a major problem at our seaports and that problem is basically that of an ambiguous clearing system. Unfortunately until the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, intervened penultimate week, the problem had almost degenerated to an unmanageable level with the principal actors digging in their heels.
Customs officers and their agents were shouting themselves hoarse and heaping all the blame on terminal operators. Senior government officials who visited the port were overwhelmed by the loud voices of the agents and in an attempt to please them, took rather simplistic paths and made public pronouncements that compounded the situation.
It was the Transport Minister’s intervention that brought calm to the whole situation. He adopted a completely different approach. He decided to set up a committee made up of all the stakeholders to critically examine the various issues and make recommendations to government. He also gave them a deadline of one week. That was leadership in action; contrary to the unproductive approach of other government officials including the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Services, Leke Oyewole.
I am aware that the Committee set up by the Minister has completed its assignment and submitted its report last Friday. I have seen the report but I must state that the recommendations made will only address the problem in the short term. We need a long term solution to port congestion so that we don’t keep going through this every now and then.

To evolve a long term solution, it is important to understand the real cause of the problem and to do this; I like to share an online post with you.
Responding to the issue of corruption at the port, a fellow maritime reporter posted the following on our website:
Is there any government agency that is as corrupt as the Nigeria Customs Service?
Just the other day we were with the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers' Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, who paid an unscheduled to the Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and we were opportuned to visit the office of the Officer in Charge of the Ashaye car park, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs whose name I know but cannot mention.
In the course of the visit, my colleagues placed their recording device on his table and because I could find a space in the front of the table I had to go behind the Deputy Comptroller's table to find a way for my own midget and lo and behold, what did I see under the officer's table? Bundles of bribe money in one thousand naira notes stacked under his table and that was just about 12 noon. So imagine how much that man will take home at the end of the day's job.


In my opinion, this colleague’s discovery is at the heart of the matter; corruption. Because of the stupendous money Customs officers and operatives of other government agencies at the ports are making every day, they have entrenched a cumbersome and inefficient process that benefits them and makes everyone else their slaves.
Does anyone sincerely believe that a Customs officer who makes the kind of money described above will allow an efficient clearing system take root at the port? No he won’t. He will do everything possible to sabotage efficiency and look for ways to heap the blame on others.
We conveniently forget that officials of government agencies are the greatest threat to prompt cargo clearance. They have erected all manners of human barriers that make it impossible for cargo to be cleared out of the ports in good time.
I buttress my argument here with the recent Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) report released by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Nigerian ports. The report revealed that an importer or agent will require a minimum of 79 signatures of government officials to clear his/her goods at the nation’s gateways. And each signature costs money.

This mind-boggling revelation has not been acted upon by anyone. It has been conveniently kept aside.
The CRA also identified ineffective administrative practices, weak institutions and huge discretionary powers enjoyed and exercised by officials of government agencies as a major source of corrupt practices at the ports.
The CRA findings confirmed that government officials in the port not only enjoy huge discretionary powers but are also able to delay indefinitely the required signing of documents without consequence.
The CRA, conducted in six major Nigerian ports including the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) Apapa, Tincan Island Port, Port Harcourt Port, Onne Port, Warri Port and Calabar Port is a prevention tool which interrogates processes and procedures in a given system as well as identify areas which are vulnerable to corruption with a view to providing recommendations.
Since that report was released by the ICPC – an agency of the Federal Government set up to fight corruption – no one has taken any action. The Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry of Transport which supervise the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) respectively have not deemed it fit to act on the report.
Now that import volume has peaked and containers have built up at the port, the consequences of government inaction have become glaring.
Apart from the issue of corruption at the port, we do not have a clearly articulated cargo clearing policy. Can anyone show me a document that details the processes involved in clearing cargo at the port?
Agreed, the Nigeria Customs Service relies on the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to perform its operation but I think we need to have a well documented and published cargo clearing policy. A step by step procedure that also indicates the time to be spent at each stage and who to hold responsible if the time is exceeded, will do our port system a lot of good. 

Our dead shipping companies


Ships & Ports Daily newspaper carried a stunning report last week that no fewer than 80 per cent of shipping companies owned by Nigerians have either completely shut down their operations or were barely struggling to survive.
According to a survey carried out by the leading national maritime publication, out of 12 indigenous shipping companies surveyed, only two can be said to be operating viable businesses while the 10 others, representing 83 per cent of the companies surveyed, are either completely dead or are in comatose condition.
The companies sampled in the survey conducted recently include Equitorial Energy, Oceanic Energy, Morlap Shipping, Peacegate, Pokat Nigeria Limited, Al-Dawood Shipping, Potram Nigeria Limited, Joseph Sammy, Genesis Worldwide Shipping and Multi-trade Group all in Lagos; Niger-Delta Shipping in Warri, Delta State; and Starzs Investment Group in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

Ironically, all the shipping companies surveyed in Lagos are either dead or struggling to survive while the ones in Warri and Port-Harcourt are thriving.
A visit to the business premises of the 10 shipping companies, according to the report, revealed that the once thriving ventures have completely lost their glamour, with most of them owing staff salaries of up to one year.
The companies, which the General Secretary of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Capt. Niyi Labinjo, described as “struggling heavily”, have mostly downsized and are operating with less than 20 per cent of the workers they had about two years ago. All the companies are also heavily indebted to banks and are mostly unable to service the loans they took to buy ships.
Labinjo, who is also the President of Al Dawood Shipping, said that most of the ship owners have resorted to selling their landed properties to enable them service their bank loans, while others have lost prime properties to the banks.
The companies also owe their crew arrears of salaries ranging from six to 14 months, while some have sold off their vessels.

Genesis Worldwide Shipping, which was once seen as a thriving indigenous shipping company just four years ago, has completely gone under with not a single ship to operate.
The company, at its peak less than five years ago, had six ships.
The same fate, according to the report, has befallen Joseph Sammy Nigeria Limited with one of its staff describing it as “almost dead”. The only vessel left in the company’s fleet, MT Kemepade, was stolen recently. The ship was taken to a ship breaking yard in Ghana and the breakers were about to commence work on it before the owners found out. The case is in court in Ghana.
Borrowing Labinjo's words, I must say that the situation is indeed pathetic. The report, published on Monday last week, should worry every right thinking Nigerian; especially those Nigerians saddled with the responsibility of developing and encouraging indigenous participation in the shipping sector.
Chairman of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, was the first to raise the alarm over the hardship confronting Nigerian ship owners.

Chief Isaac Jolampamo, sometimes in February this year, had said that many Of the shipping companies owned by Nigerians were suffering untold hardship as a result of illegal activities on the nation's coastal waters and the domination of the Cabotage trade by foreigners despite the Cabotage law.
Jolapamo noted that these foreign companies, most of which are operating illegally have gradually succeeded in driving their local counterparts out of business. He said the local shipping fleet was being systematically depleted as a result of lack of jobs for the vessels. Jolapamo said that his own company, Morlap Shipping, which had six vessels 10 years ago had only one left by February 2013.
Since the story broke last week, I haven't heard of any response from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the agency saddled with the responsibility of developing indigenous tonnage and of implementing the Cabotage Act.

Some industry experts have claimed that the dire straits in which the indigenous shipping companies found themselves are traceable to the non-availability of jobs for their ships to execute.
The situation, according to industry analysts, is compounded by the trio of poor implementation of the Cabotage Act, non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), and lack of implementation of the fleet maintenance and repair subsidy by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The question therefore is, what is NIMASA doing about this development?
Does anyone know or should we just wait until all the shipping companies collapse before we start asking questions? 

Minister Idris Umar’s habitual lateness to official functions



The 2011 World Maritime Day celebration was scheduled to hold at 10am that fateful day, Tuesday 27th September, 2011 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but it did not start until about 3pm.
Several dignitaries, including chief executives of various government agencies and their retinue of aides arrived the venue in good time. The State Deputy Governor, Engr. Tele Ikuru, had also come in but had to leave after waiting in vain for a while. Yours sincerely also waited (im)patiently.
Our Chief Host and Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, had kept us all – his loyal subjects - waiting. He kept us waiting for five hours and, wait a minute, …eventually failed to show up!
The story then was that he missed his 9am flight and the next available flight was 11am. And we waited and waited.
The organisers of the event quickly hired a comedian who turned the otherwise serious business gathering to a comedy show.

At about 3pm, a representative of the Minister sauntered into the hall apologising on his behalf. It was the Director of Maritime Service, Alhaji Nagogo.
In June 2012, Nigeria hosted the 35th Council Meeting/11th Round Table of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) in Lagos. It was an international event by all standards and Minister Umar was scheduled to perform the opening ceremony on 25th June, 2012 at 10am.
The magnificent hosting put up by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was almost marred by the Transport Minister’s habitual lateness as he failed to show up in good time at that Opening Ceremony. Our Minister kept the international maritime community waiting for over two hours just to come and declare the event open. Eventually, it was Alhaji Suleiman Nagogo, again, to the rescue.
Last Friday, the Minister was scheduled to perform the flag-off ceremony of the evacuation of containers from the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa by rail. The event was scheduled to kick-off at 10.30am. Again, Minister Umar kept everyone of us waiting. Three hours later, the Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Railway Corporation, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, arrived and was announced as representative of the Minister. So the ceremony commenced.

I am also aware of several instances where journalists were asked to meet the Honourable Minister in some place for either a briefing or facility tour and the journalists were kept waiting for hours.
I have a lot of respect for the Minister but this is unbecoming of his high office.
Will the Honourable Minister be happy if he arrives at the venue of an official function and the guests keep him waiting for hours before showing up? What would his reaction be if any of the chief executives under his Ministry arrived an event three hours after him and behind schedule?
The implication of keeping such senior government officials and businessmen and women waiting for hours on end is better imagined.
I know that Nigerians - especially those in government - are notorious for their lateness.
The concept of Nigerian time - a jargon that describes an average Nigerian’s lack of respect for time, has gradually become a monster, assuming a life of its own.

It is common knowledge that majority of Nigerians do not see anything wrong in turning up late at events. Many regard such repulsive attitude as “one of those things.”
It seems that corruption is not the only Nigerian, lateness is also a Nigerian and by extension, an African.
So disturbing is this trend that we, as Nigerians, must act quickly to rid ourselves of this cloak of tardiness that has blanketed us as a people from time immemorial. Nigerian Time has been the source of many embarrassing moments for this country. It has become the butt of many jokes.
One question for the Minister; does he go late to the Federal Executive Council meeting?

Why Nigeria should pull out of ETLS



It is my opinion that Nigeria is losing a lot more than it is benefiting from the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS). I am all for the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade, free trade and regional integration but these must be fair to all parties concerned. Because Nigeria is getting the short end of the stick, it is time, therefore, to urgently take a second look at its continued participation in the scheme.
ETLS was established in line with the objective of the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS) of promoting cooperation and integration and as one step towards the creation of a common market which, according to the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, should be established, among others, through “the liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among Member States, of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and the abolition of non-tariff barriers in order to establish a free trade area at the Community Level.”
ETLS was first implemented in 1979 with only agricultural products, handicrafts and crude products being allowed to benefit from the scheme. In 1990, however, it opened up to include industrial products. And it was at this point that abuse of the scheme by fellow West African countries set in.
The idea behind ETLS is for goods, originating within the sub-region, to move freely within the sub-region. It is therefore the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area.

From available literature, the objectives of the creation of the Free Trade Area is to encourage entrepreneurial development in the sub-region, increase intra-regional trade and boost economic activity; increase West African competitiveness on the global market and increase the GDP of member states, thereby creating better welfare for the citizens.
ETLS set out to establish a Customs Union among all member states aimed at the total elimination of Customs duties and taxes of equivalent effect, removal of non-tarrif barriers and the establishment of a Common Customs External Tariff to protect goods produced in the 15 ECOWAS countries.
The group of goods covered under the scheme includes unprocessed goods including livestock, fish, plant or mineral products that have not undergone any industrial transformation, traditional handicraft products and industrial products originating within ECOWAS member states. These groups of goods enjoy concessions including total exemption from import duties and taxes; zero restriction in quantity and non-payment of compensation for loss of revenue as a result of their importation.

Goods that qualify for the scheme must originate in member states and must be accompanied by a certificate of origin and an ECOWAS export declaration form.
This, however, is where the problems lie as Nigerian authorities have no means of ascertaining the origin of goods coming into its territory.
I think we should review our continued participation in the ETLS for the following reasons:
1. Nigeria is the biggest market in West Africa and is a target market by many foreign manufacturers especially from Asia who ship goods to those countries and bring same into Nigeria under the guise that they are produced in West African countries. They benefit from the ETLS and dump goods into Nigeria to take advantage of its huge market. Nigerian industries/manufacturers suffer as a result while Nigeria loses huge revenue and its youths wallow in acute unemployment.
2. There are 15 ECOWAS member states made up of Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote D'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Nigeria’s population is more than the combined population of the other 14 Member States. Indeed the country’s population is about 55% of the entire sub-region so it is a natural target market for exporting nations and under the present blanket ETLS arrangement, it will be impossible to derive commensurate benefit as other West African nations.
3. Some countries, especially those that are Nigeria’s neighbours, hide under ETLS to encourage and support unbridled smuggling of goods into the country.
4. Cheap Chinese textiles daily flood Nigeria under the guise of ETLS and have destroyed Nigeria’s textile industry.
5. Few Nigerian manufacturers take advantage of the ETLS to sell their products in other West African countries. Even if they want to, it would be difficult to compete with the goods of those countries due to high cost of production.

Just last week, the Tomato Processors Association of Nigeria (TPAN) decried the amount of money spent on importation of processed tomato paste, saying that the country has become a dumping ground for fake and low quality Asian tomato paste. The association in a statement said cheap imports were causing serious damage to the tomato industry. While noting that the international standard is 28 percent brix for canning and between 34-36 percent brix for drumming, the association regretted that majority of tomato paste imported, however, doesn't exceed 26 percent brix, resulting in watery paste.
It is an open secret that most of these processed tomato paste, like many other consumer goods produced in Asia, are imported under the guise of the ETLS.
A Gap Analysis on the Ecowas Free Trade Area conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and validated in 2010 revealed that Nigeria there is a general lack of awareness among private sector traders indicating they had limited, detailed information on ETLS protocols. I think it is more of apathy though.
According to the USAID report: “The Nigeria Gap Analysis study revealed that incomplete or inconsistent implementation of ETLS protocols within the country has a host of negative effects, including increasing the costs and unpredictability of trade and discouraging business expansion and investment. There is a gap between the passing of legislation for ETLS protocols and its implementation; likewise between central government’s and border officials’ respective understanding of ETLS protocols. Many issues traders face are simply illegal - tolls, bribes, corruption - and a pervasive attitude of officials preying on traders persist.”

This was in 2010; over 30 years into the implementation of the ETLS. Three years after the report was published, the situation is not any better, so why stick to it?
The Nigeria Customs Service has also reported huge revenue loss as a result of the implementation of ETLS even at it has claimed several times in the past that some importers are hiding under the scheme to smuggle goods that did not originate from the sub-region into the country.
Former Customs Area Comptroller, Seme Border of the Nigeria Customs Service, Abubakar Sahabi, said the command lost N1.2 billion to the abuse of ETLS in the first half of 2012 while N998 million was lost to the scheme in the first half of this year.
Indeed, almost all the Customs Commands lose money, one way or the other to ETLS.
It is my view that due to the monumental loss Nigeria has suffered under the scheme, only agricultural products, handicrafts and crude products be allowed to be traded freely under the ETLS scheme in the sub-region. 

The folly of import prohibition


Countries ban importation of certain items mostly to protect their local industries but in Nigeria, the resultant effect is more often than not, the opposite of that intended by government.
I have taken time to study our country’s import prohibition list as published on the website of the Nigeria Customs Service. I think it will easily qualify as the world’s longest prohibition list. In all, there are 24 headings under the list. They include:
1. Live or dead Birds including frozen
2. Pork, beef
3. Birds eggs
4. Refined vegetable oils and fats (but excluding linseed, castor and olive oils. Crude vegetable oil are however not banned from importation)
5. Cocoa butter, powder and cakes
6. Spaghetti/Noodles
7. Fruit juice in retail packs
8. Waters, including mineral waters and aerated waters containing added sugar or sweetening matter or flavoured, ice snow (but excluding energy or health drinks, liquid dietary supplements e.g. Power Horse, Red Ginseng etc) and beer and stout (bottled, canned or otherwise packed)
9. Bagged cement
10. Medicaments falling as indicated below:
• Paracetamol tablets and syrups
• Cotrimoxazole tablets syrups
• Metronidazole tablets and syrups
• Chloroquine tablets and syrups
• Haematinic formulations
• Ferrous sulphate and ferrous gluconate tablets
• Folic acid tablets
• Vitamine B complex tablet (except modified released formulations)
• Multivitamin tablets, capsules and syrups (except special formulations)
• Aspirin tablets (except modified released formulation and soluble aspirin)
• Magnesium trisilicate tablets and suspensions
• Piperazine tablets and syrups
• Levamisole tablets and syrups
• Clotrimazole cream
• Ointments – Penecilin/Gentamycin
• Pyrantel pamoate tablets and syrups
• Intravenous fluids (dextrose, normal saline etc)
11. Waste pharmaceuticals
12. Soaps and detergents in retail packs
13. Mosquito repellant coils
14. Sanitary wares of plastics (but excluding baby feeding bottles) and flushing ceinstern and waterless toos toilets.
15. Rethreaded and used pneumatic tyres but excluding used trucks tyres for rethreading of sized 11.00 x 20 and above
16. Corrugated paper and paper boards and cartons, boxes and cases made from corrugated paper and paper boards, toilet paper, cleaning or facial tissue excluding baby diapers and incontinent pads for adult use and exercise books
17. Telephone recharge cards and vouchers
18. Textile fabrics of all types and articles thereof and yarn including African print (printed fabrics) e.g. Nigeria wax, Hollandaise, English wax, Ankara and similar fabrics
Carpets and Rugs of all types; but excluding lace fabrics, georges and other embroided fabrics; made-up garments and other textile articles.
19. All types of foot wears and bags including suitcases of leather and plastics (but excluding safety shoes used in oil industries, hospitals, fire fighting and factories, sports shoes, canvass shoes all Completely Knocked Down (CKD) blanks and parts)
20. Hollow glass bottles of a capacity exceeding 150mls (0.15 litres) of a kind used for packaging of beverages by breweries and other beverage and drink companies
21. Used compressors, Used air conditioners and used fridges/freezers
22. Used motor vehicles above fifteen (15) years from the year of manufacture
23. Furniture but excluding baby walkers, laboratory cabinets such as microscope table, fume cupboards, laboratory benches, stadium chairs, height adjustment device, base sledge, seat frames and control mechanism, arm guide and head guides, skeletal parts of furniture such as blanks, unholstered or unfinished part of metal, plastics, veneer, chair shell etc, motor vehicle seats and seats other than garden seats or camping equipment, convertible into beds
24. Ball point pens.


The ban placed on a good number of the items listed above have much more serious side effects on the economy than government may be willing to admit.
Except for a few, most of the listed items have insufficient local substitutes. The ban on importation of textiles for instance is ill-advised because all the textile mills in Nigeria have closed shop due to the high cost of production. It is impossible for our textile mills, with the erratic power supply and poor state of infrastructure in the country, to manufacture products that will compete with the cheap Chinese imports that flood our markets.
The consumption of textile materials is very high and since local production is insufficient, smuggling is bound to thrive. When there is a huge demand and when the supply line is cut off, people will naturally look for other avenues/options available to them. This is what has led to importing these goods through unofficial channels. We all know what impact these unofficial channels have on the official economy.
The point I try to make here is that if there is sufficient local substitute for an item, then it will make a lot of sense to prohibit its importation but where there is an obvious gap in local production, banning such item will only fuel smuggling. With the porous nature of our borders, it is important to ensure that local substitutes are also able to compete in terms of price and quality with imported ones before a ban is put in place otherwise, the cheaper imports will soon find their way in and send the local manufacturers packing.

We see all these banned items everywhere; at the supermarkets, at local shops, by the roadsides; name it. The items are smuggled in and government is unable to charge import duties on them because they are banned. It is double loss to the economy.
Government’s new stance on rice importation, for instance, is ill-advised with the imposition of 110 per cent Customs duty. There is a huge gap between consumption and local production. According to government statistics, yearly consumption of rice is about 5.5 million metric tonnes with local production accounting for about 1.8 million metric tonnes, thus necessitating the need for importation to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, because of the excessively high import duty imposed at the beginning of this year, more than half of these imports are smuggled into the country.
An analysis of the vessels coming into the country at the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa revealed that since the beginning of this year, only one rice vessel has discharged at the port whereas more than 10 vessels were discharged monthly prior to the 110 per cent import duty policy. And there has not been scarcity of imported rice in the market simply because Customs operatives are incapable of stopping the commodity from being smuggled into Nigeria. Shipping lines simply discharge the commodity at Cotonou port and allow smugglers ferry it, in small quantities, into Nigeria.
What government has done with this long prohibition list, and other import policies that were not properly thought out before they were slammed on the economy, therefore, is promote smuggling with its attendant consequences.
It is not too late take another look at the list and other smuggler-friendly policies. 

Using God to cover-up non-performance


It was Mrs. Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, Chairman of the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) Planning Committee that invited me to the formal launch of the autobiography of erudite scholar, foremost constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Ben Nwabueze sometimes last month at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Victoria Island, Lagos. The invitation did not hold much fascination for me but I have tremendous respect for Mrs. Onyema-Orakwusi whom I have worked closely with on various committees including NIMAREX for a while. Besides, I love reading biographies and autobiographies. I have read quite a number of stories of great men and women and this has helped me tremendously in my life journey. I thank my stars that I finally decided to honour the invitation.
Apart from listening to beautiful speeches delivered by notable figures such as former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Abia State Governor and Chairman of the All Nigeria People’s Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe and Prof. Nwabueze himself; the review by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, was the most intelligent and liveliest book review I ever listened to.
What impressed me immediately was that the book wasn’t launched. It was only unveiled and presented to the audience. Moneybags were not called to the podium to show off their wealth and make pledges of financial donations which they might not honour. What a sweet relief, I said to myself. There was no arm twisting of any kind by the organisers to raise money from the guests.
The book was on sale, the Master of Ceremony announced, and anyone interested in purchasing copies should meet the ushers outside. This was a radical departure from the typical Nigerian book launch.

I quickly bought both volumes of the former Education Minister’s autobiography at the cost of N16,000 and started reading right from the car.
I soon discovered that Prof., as Nwabueze is fondly called by his admirers, is not your regular run-of-the-mill person. He has got a mind of his own and is not under any form of pressure to conform to the norm.
I was particularly impressed about his independent-mindedness on issues and especially on religion. While he admits being a Christian, he does not attend church services simply because he believes many of our ‘men of God’ are not really Godly.
Of interest to me in this column this week is his criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan’s use of God as a decoy for non-performance.
He believes Europe has deliberately used religion to implant the mentality of subservience in Africans, including African leaders. He cited two incidences through which this mentality of subservience has manifested, one of which concerned him personally. The other incident, according to him, had a national dimension. Please permit me to quote directly from the book:

The other incident that occurred recently on 14 April, 2012 was a speech by President Goodluck Jonathan during a national prayer breakfast meeting attended by senior Christian clerics and at which the sermon was delivered by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In the speech, as carried in the Sunday Independent newspaper of 15 April, the President said that the election of himself, his Vice-President and the State Governors was the choice of God, and that, by their election, God wanted to use them to solve the needs of Nigerians for peace, security, health care and electric power. He further said that “there is nothing that God cannot do”; he then went on, not only to affirm his confidence that “with Him on our side, every stumbling block on our way shall become a stepping stone into national rebirth”, but also to assure that “God who begun a good work in our country will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The speech was punctuated at every turn by references to God and “supplications” to him to “transform” the country, using its elected functionaries. The speech certainly manifested a mentality of subservience implanted in the President by Christianity.
As The Patriots, of which I am Chairman, pointed out in its reaction to the President’s speech, it is a truth, sanctified by the collective wisdom and experience of humankind, that God helps only those who help themselves, not those who wait helplessly for God’s salvation, like manna from heaven. The implementation and accomplishment of the needs of Nigerians mentioned in the speech requires that the entire nation, men and women, the young and the old, should be mobilized and galvanized for the task. This first step, which is necessary before we can qualify for God’s help, has not been, and is not being, taken.
To qualify for God’s help in the “daunting” task of “national transformation”, the country needs, furthermore, a leadership whose sincerity of purpose is so transparent as to induce people to adopt the desired new patterns of behavior in place of the old ones and whose dedication to the cause is sufficiently total and selfless to inspire confidence, a leadership that is seen to be practicing what it preaches. People cannot be persuaded by the leadership to be honest, public-spirited, patriotic, faire-minded, law abiding, devoted, disciplined, and to abhor corruption, etc, if the leaders themselves do not practice those virtues. Far from inspiring popular change in the desired directions, a leadership that does not practice what it preaches, and is not seen to be doing so, creates disillusion and disenchantment among the people.

A leadership of the kind described above is what is required by “national transformation” talked about by the President in his speech; it means one and the same thing as a Social Revolution led by a person imbued with, and fired by, a revolutionary ardour; a leader highly motivated in the national interest and in the cause of national transformation, a leader prepared to commit suicide by sacrificing his vested economic interests and ambition to stay in power. Certainly, “national transformation” requires more than prayers at “a national prayer breakfast meeting”!!!
As long ago as 1937, in his book, Renascent Africa (1937), at page 191, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Great Zik of Africa, the acclaimed Father of the African Revolution against European colonialism in the continent, reproached the Nigerian politician of those days for not having the stomach for revolutionary action.
He looks to God for everything. He wants God to help in raising cocoa prices. He wants God to cause the firms to reduce their prices to suit his purchasing power. He wants God to soften the heart of Government so that his will may not be ignored by an official majority.
Today 75 years after, we are waiting for and praying to God to transform for us, our nation threatened with collapse by an all-pervading rottenness brought upon it by our greed and selfishness, aggravated by a lack of fervor for revolutionary action on the part of our political leaders.
I have quickly added Nwabueze to my list of most admired personalities. I simply love the forthrightness, candour and independence of mind of the 82-year old professor.
And his take on President Jonathan reminds me of what we are suffering in the maritime industry, in the name of God. The leader of the apex maritime regulatory agency speaks in like manner with the President. What Nwabueze said about His Excellency, therefore, aptly applies to the NIMASA helmsman. We need to get our hands dirty and stop passing the buck to God. 

Obasanjo, a maritime hero


“History will forgive us for taking wrong decisions but will never forgive us for not taking decisions at all.” - Author unknown

Notwithstanding the various criticisms that trailed his administration, I believe former President Olusegun Obasanjo did more for the growth and development of the maritime industry than any other Nigerian Head of State, including the incumbent.
I cannot readily identify any concrete evidence, in over six years, of a burning desire to develop the maritime industry. The Jonathan/Sambo years are as bad as the YarÁdua/Jonathan years.
Critics might contend that it is too early to judge President Jonathan’s two years old government but I say nay.
Right from his first year in office, Obasanjo showed a clear understanding and demonstrated the political will to tackle the various challenges confronting the maritime industry.
In 1999, Obasanjo left no one in doubt that his administration would reform the ports. He started with reforming dock labour – the one strong force that held the shipping sector captive for over a decade through the dreaded Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). It was clear that without a reformed dock labour industry and without breaking the stronghold of MWUN on the shipping sector, no meaningful progress would be achieved.

The Joint Docklabour Industrial Council (JODLIC) was set up in 2000 under the now repealed Nigerian Dock Labour Decree 37 of 1999 after the dissolution of the National Dock Labour Board in 1999 to achieve the reform objectives. JODLIC subsequently transformed into the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) following the enactment of the Nigerian Maritime Labour Act of 2003 which Obasanjo promptly signed into law. JOMALIC was a tripartite organization made up of workers’ representatives, employers and the government in line with the recommendation of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
JOMALIC became as a veritable platform for industrial labour relations and conflict management/resolution in the maritime industry.
By the time Chief Ojo Madueke took over from Dr. Kema Chikwe as Obasanjo’s second Transport Minister in 2000; the ground had been prepared for a definite move against the then tyrannical leadership of the MWUN. The action was swift and decisive – laying a solid foundation for the port reform of 2006. On this score alone, no Nigerian leader compares to Obasanjo in not only having a good understanding of the industry’s problems, but of possessing enough political temerity to tackle the problems.
President Obasanjo wasn’t done yet. In 2003, he signed the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage Bill) into law.
The Cabotage Law was spearheaded by then Chairman of the House Committee on Marine Transport, Hon. Okey Udeh, and was collectively driven by stakeholders in the maritime industry. It was a collective action backed by President Obasanjo.

The Cabotage Law – now bastardized at the stage of implementation – was a culmination of agitations by Nigerians to participate more in the country’s domestic shipping trade in line with their counterparts in over 50 maritime countries worldwide. The law intended to open up coastal and inland shipping business to Nigerians. About a decade down the line, Nigerian ship owners are not any better though not because the law was not well conceived but because those charged with its implementation decided to circumvent it.
The intention of government at the time was to use the instrumentality of the Cabotage Act to institute a liberal protectionist maritime industry policy for the resuscitation and protection of the local shipping industry from incapacitation due to the domination of carriages from point to point within Nigerian waters. It also was also meant to check unhealthy competition from the highly subsidised foreign vessels.
We all believed at the time that through the Cabotage Act, the local industry would be able to control and become very strong in domestic shipping before venturing into regional or international shipping where it would then be able to withstand competition from the highly subsidized foreign ships in international shipping.
After the Cabotage Law came the big one – the Port Reform of 2006. Nothing would stop Obasanjo from implementing his reform agenda for the ports. Not the workers, not the outcry of a few uninformed lot and certainly not the absence of a separate legislation for that purpose. In the President’s opinion, and rightly so, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act provided sufficient cover for the exercise.

But for Obasanjo’s doggedness in performing that painful, but necessary, surgical operation on Nigerian ports seven years ago; we would have experienced a total meltdown in the system and the Nigerian economy would have paid dearly for it.
I align with the assertion of the Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria, Mr. Val Usifoh, when he described Obasanjo as the saviour of Nigerian ports.
Following closely on the heels of the port reform was merger of the National Maritime Authority (NMA) with JOMALIC. That merger became effective on August 1, 2006, giving birth to the National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NAMASA) which later became the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
One month to the end of his administration, Obasanjo signed the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act.
The Council was charged with, amongst other responsibilities, regulating and controlling the practice of freight forwarding in Nigeria and promoting the highest standards of competence, practice and conduct among members of the profession.
It is clear, therefore, that not only did the former President hit the ground running with regards to the developing the maritime industry, he was able to sustain the tempo all through his tenure.
But what do we see today in terms of President Jonathan’s interest for the industry? Nothing, I must say. Apart from appointing a Senior Special Adviser on Maritime Affairs whose impact the industry is yet to feel, nothing meaningful has been achieved under this regime for the shipping sector.
President Jonathan made one attempt to address the challenges of the industry last year. Specifically on 23rd July 2012, he hosted the Presidential Maritime Security Retreat on Harnessing the Potential of Nigeria’s Maritime Sector for Sustainable Economic Development at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. At the end of the retreat, a committee made up of eminent persons in the maritime industry and chaired by Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, was set up to make far reaching recommendations to the President on how to develop the maritime industry. The Committee has since concluded its assignment and submitted its report but one year after, the report has neither been made public nor implemented. That is how serious this government has been with the ‘transformation’ of the maritime industry! 

Another look at the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports (Part 2)


Trapped in the morass of a thieving and an uncaring governing elite that has done everything but govern well, the Nigerian Ports that constitute one of, if not, the most veritable gateways of trade between the import-driven economy and the rest of the world, appear riddled with endemic corruption. Everywhere you go, from the Federal Ministry of Transport, the supervisory ministry that overseers the entire gamut of transport and logistics industry; the Nigerian Ports Authority – a major parastatal in the maritime sub-sector, and to the Nigerian Customs Service – the para-military agency that polices the land, air and sea borders of the country, all your nostrils can sniff is the putrid stench of corruption. And, to all intents and purposes, the three major priorities in all these agencies are: corruption, corruption and corruption.
Dan Amor, June 2012
Last week I identified corruption by operatives of government agencies as one of the main factors responsible for the high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports. I intend to illustrate this assertion with practical examples.
Jamiu (not real name) is a Superintendent of Customs. He was posted to Tin Can Island Port in 2009 from Katsina State. Jamiu borrowed N10,000 from a colleague in Katsina to travel down to Lagos to resume at his new post. Today, he lives in his own house, worth over N60 million, at Palmgrove in Lagos State. Jamiu is already the envy of a good number of his colleagues, including senior officers. His children attend one of the most expensive schools in Lagos and he’s rich enough to sponsor them on summer vacation to Europe or America every year.
Jamiu works in the Customs valuation unit at Tin Can Island Port where he is the second-in-command. Making money is as simple as it can be in the unit. Agents stream to the unit everyday to negotiate with officers on the value of the consigments imported by their principals. The lower the value of the goods, as determined by the valuation unit, the less the importer pays in import duty into government coffers. It is a matter of negotiation. And it is a cash and carry business. Any importer or agent that is not willing to settle will have to contend with the high value assigned to his consignment by the valuation unit. The unit rakes in over a million naira daily and as 2IC, Jamiu goes home with over N100,000 – the equivalent of his monthly legitimate salary – daily. Part of the unit’s collection is used to settle the ogas at the top outside the unit at the command, in the zone and in Abuja.

Jamiu and his colleagues will do everything possible, including seeking spiritual interventions, to remain in their position. Promotion is not even desirable for them at this time, after all there are several very senior officers including Comptrollers and Assistant Comptrollers General of Customs that are struggling financially because they have to make do with their salaries only.
Khalil (not real name) is a manager level official of the National Agency for Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). He was posted to the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa three years ago. He heads the NAFDAC inspection team.
Khalil’s posting to the port was sheer providence as he never lobbied for the posting but now that he has tasted the pudding, he is not ready to let go easily. He will also do everything possible to remain in his present position.
Statutorily, some consignments must be approved by NAFDAC before they are released by Customs to the owners. NAFDAC officials have to stamp and sign the release documents of consignments that fall into such categories. Khalil’s team charge anything from N50,000 to N200,000 to stamp a document. Non-cooperation by the importer or agent means days of delays which will translate to more cost to the importer.
Khalil and his assistant collect over N600,000 unreceipted money through this means. Of course, part of the illegal proceeds is used to settle the big bosses in the office.
Police officers and security personnel of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) are not left out of the odious system. They make money mostly from truck operators. It is difficult or impossible for any truck to enter any of the two ports in Lagos – the Lagos Port Complex Apapa and the Tin Can Island Port Complex – without settling the security operatives. The average settlement sum is N5,000 per truck for a trip into the port.
The above are only some examples of the numerous profiteering schemes devised by officials of government agencies at the port.
The lack of regulation of the government officials coupled with the connivance of the superiors have led to a litany of ignoble corrupt practices in the port system.
The flagrant and pecunious graft that exists in the port translates to more cost to the importer and this is eventually passed on to the final consumer. 

Another look at the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports


Private terminal operators have inadvertently become the whipping child of Nigerian ports. Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) used to be at the receiving end of the blame game before port concession but that has since changed with the coming of port concession in 2006.
Whenever people mouth ‘high cost of doing business at the port’, without much thoughts, they readily point accusing fingers in the direction of concessionaires.
I think this is rather simplistic and a reflection of lack of deep thoughts and understanding of port operation in the country.
The truth is that private terminal operators have not only done much to improve the fortunes of our ports, they have also reduced the cost of doing business within their own spheres of influence.

Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, who visited the port penultimate Friday succinctly captured the contribution of the terminal operators when he said “Any ship that comes into Apapa docks immediately but the time of discharge will depend on the type of cargo to be discharged. Before the concession, many ships were waiting to berth such that you see a large number of ships lining up to the Atlantic waiting to berth but now it looks as if there is no business going on in the port. What we see now is due to the work that all these terminal operators have done in the port.”
The Minister, who led the Policy and Monitoring Committee of the National Council of Privatisation (NCP), to the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa also said that port operation in Nigeria has come a long way, stating that “obviously with all the improvement and investment taking place we are heading to a situation where there is a significant headway.”
“For instance, the additional surcharge imposed on every containers coming into Nigeria has been removed and this has been a significant benefit to the importers and those who are doing business at the port”, the Minister stated.

What the Minister said had been stated severally in the past by other leading personalities and keen watchers of port operation in the country.
The situation in our ports today, especially due to increased volume of import by about 200 per cent over the past seven years, would have been worse but for terminal operators.
But port operation and its associated costs are way beyond the direct influence of private terminal operators. There is more to it than that. As a matter of fact, the amount paid to terminal operators, according to the Managing Director of APM Terminals Apapa Limited, Mr. Dallas Hampton, is less than 2 per cent of the cost incurred by importers in the logistics chain. Where then lay the big chunk of this cost of doing business at the port?
In my opinion and from years of observation, high import duty, corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks are the major reasons why Nigerian ports remain the most expensive among ports in the West African sub-region. Not terminal handling charges or progressive storage charges.

High import duty, corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks are the factors responsible for the high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports by way of increasing the amount of money importers spend on taking delivery of their consignments out of the port.
As a matter of fact, the costs incurred by port users as a result of these factors becloud the worthy gains of port concession.
Apart from being compelled by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in 2006 to charge 30 per cent less than what NPA used to collect as Terminal Handling Charges, port concessionaires have succeeded in reducing the dwell time of vessels, improved turnaround time of vessels and enthrone, to a reasonable extent, efficiency in port operation.

Despite the improved turnaround time, unnecessary delay of vessels by government officials upon arrival and before departure is still commonplace.
Time is money in shipping and that is why in other climes, conscious efforts are made to avoid delaying a ship because the cost implication may be as much as $10,000 an hour. Elsewhere when a vessel arrives the port, it sails straight to berth and begins to discharge almost immediately while regulatory authorities simultaneously carry out their regulatory duties. But not so in Nigeria! When a vessel arrives at our port, it is first kept waiting for about six hours by the authorities under the guise of searching, rummaging and performing other regulatory functions. The vessel is also kept for an average of another six hours after discharging before it is allowed to sail. So unlike at other ports, a vessel calling at Nigerian ports wastes an average of twelve hours to bureaucratic bottlenecks. The average cost of this on a medium size ship will be about $120,000 (N19 million).

Will the shipping company absorb this cost? Of course not, it will pass it on to the shippers and consignees.
Delays in the clearance of cargo also contribute to the high cost of doing business. Many importers and agents do not commence the process of clearing their cargoes until the vessels arrive. If the clearance process could commence pre-arrival of vessels, most consignments would be cleared within the first three days of arrival which are rent free days and thus substantially reduce charges associated with storage payable to terminal operators and demurrage payable to shipping companies.
A publication titled Why Does Cargo Spend Weeks in Sub-Saharan African Ports? written by Gaël Raballand, Salim Refas, Monica Beuran, and Gözde Isik and published by the World Bank last year ranked Nigerian ports as having the highest cargo dwell time in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The book was the outcome of research conducted on ports operations in six countries in the region.
The authors of the book claimed that most ports in Sub-Saharan Africa have average cargo dwell times of about 20 days, compared to three to four days in most large international ports. They blamed the trend on the low level of professionalism of importers and clearing and forwarding agents and the strategies of shippers.
Apart from bureaucratic bottlenecks at the ports, corruption is also a major culprit. I will dwell more on this some other time. 
 

The burden of Nigerian seafarers

 

 On Tuesday 25th June, 2013, we all gathered again on the occasion of the 3rd Day of the Seafarer event to pay tribute to the hard work and bravery of sailors worldwide.
The work of a seafarer is one of the most difficult, dangerous and challenging jobs in the world today. Away from family and friends for many months at a time, in multinational crews with others who may not speak the same language, seafaring can be a tough, lonely and hazardous career.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had chosen this year's theme for the Day of the Seafarer celebration as Faces of the Sea. It was a natural evolution, according to IMO, from last year’s successful theme of It came by sea and I can’t live without it. Fundamentally it moves the theme to bringing the campaign back to the unsung heroes of shipping – the seafarers themselves and literally spotlights the human face of shipping and the sacrifices that seafarers make.
In 2010, the Diplomatic Conference which met in Manila to adopt milestone revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (the STCW Convention) and its associated Code, also agreed that the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole, should be marked annually with a Day of the Seafarer. The date chosen was 25 June, the day on which the amendments were formally adopted.

The campaign objectives are to increase awareness among the general public of the indispensable services seafarers render to international seaborne trade, the world economy and society at large; and to redouble efforts at the regulatory level to create a better, safer and more secure world in which seafarers operate.
In addition to the natural hazard of the job, Nigerian seafarers face several other challenges including incomplete training, joblessness, poor remuneration and stagnation.
As I sat in the hall gazing at the face of one seaman after the other; I realized that hope is still far off for majority of them.
Many are not even seafarers yet in the true sense as they have been stuck mid-way in their studies because they are unable to acquire relevant seagoing experience to qualify for Certificate of Competency.
To work as a crew member on a commercial vessel, possession of a Certificate of Competency is compulsory.

A good number of Nigerian cadets especially those of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron spend a long time in the labour market. This problem is compounded by the fact that they are unable to acquire seagoing experience on board ships.
Different Ministers of Transport have promised to address this issue. Such promises were made once a year usually during the annual passing out parade of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria. And that is where such promises end. They are more often than not mere political talks.
In fourteen years of reporting the maritime industry, I have not seen any major step taken to address this shortcoming.
The few fortunate Nigerian seafarers that have jobs are poorly remunerated while the unemployed are in the majority.
While their counterparts elsewhere are handsomely paid to make up for the high risks they face in the course of doing their jobs, Nigerian seafarers are languishing in abject poverty, unemployment and penury.
I have been a significant part of observing the annual Day of the Seafarer in Nigeria and I am aware that it is the same tale of woes year in year out. Who then is listening? Who will lend a helping hand to these hapless seafarers?

I have heard it said severally that life would have been a lot better for the seafarers if the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) had not been merged with the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA) to give birth to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The argument was that JOMALIC, as an agency of government dedicated to the seafarers and dockworkers’ well being, had a narrow focus whereas NIMASA has a lot of issues contending for its attention. Perhaps so. Perhaps not.
While Nigeria’s ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 has been greeted with so much euphoria, it may not hold much promise for seafarers who have not completed their trainings or who have no jobs. It protects only those in employment. It does not guarantee anyone job or sea-time experience.
It is my opinion that NIMASA needs to step in to help the Cadets broker arrangements to acquire relevant sea-time experience. That way, they can complete their trainings and become competitive in the open market.
It is also my opinion that Nigerian shipping companies should be empowered and supported to survive so that they in turn will provide employment to Nigerian seafarers even if it is for coastal water operation.
Ship breaking: An untapped goldmine 

Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of two to three decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair become uneconomical.
Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially steel, to be recycled. Equipment on board the vessel can also be reused.
As an alternative to ship breaking, ships are also sunk to make artificial reefs after being cleaned up. Other possibilities are floating (or land-based) storage.
Until the late 20th century, ship breaking took place in port cities of industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, most ship breaking are carried out at the beaches of developing countries, with the largest beaching operations at Gadani in Pakistan, Alang in India, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Aliaga in Turkey. This is due to lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations dealing with the disposal of lead paint and other toxic substances.
The shipyards at Alang recycle approximately half of all ships salvaged around the world. The yards are located on the Gulf of Khambat. Large supertankers, car ferries, container ships, and a dwindling number of ocean liners are beached during high tide, and as the tide recedes, hundreds of manual laborers dismantle each ship, salvaging what they can and reducing the rest into scrap.

Gadani ship-breaking yard is the world's third largest ship breaking yard. The yard consists of 132 ship-breaking plots located across a 10 kilometre long beachfront at Gadani, Pakistan, about 50 kilometres northwest of Karachi.
In the 1980s, Gadani was the largest ship-breaking yard in the world, with more than 30,000 direct employees while about one million others also depend on the yard. However, competition from newer facilities in Alang, India and Chittagong, Bangladesh resulted in a significant reduction in output, with Gadani, today, producing less than one fifth of the scrap it produced in the 1980s.
Over 1 million tons of steel is scavenged per year at Gadani and much of it is sold domestically. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, a record 107 ships, with a combined light displacement tonnage (LDT) of 852,022 tons, were broken at the yard whereas in the previous 2008-2009 fiscal year, 86 ships, with a combined LDT of 778,598 tons, were turned into scrap.
Some ship breakers still remain in the United States and they work primarily on government surplus vessels. There are also some in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for tankers. China used to be an important player in the 1990s. It is now trying to reposition itself in more environmentally friendly industries.
In addition to steel and other useful materials, however, ships (particularly older vessels) can contain many substances that are banned or considered dangerous in developed countries. Asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are typical examples. Asbestos was used heavily in ship construction until it was finally banned in most of the developed world in the mid 1980s. Currently, the costs associated with removing asbestos, along with the potentially expensive insurance and health risks, have meant that ship-breaking in most developed countries is no longer economically viable. Removing the metal for scrap can potentially cost more than the value of the scrap metal itself. In the developing world, however, shipyards can operate without the risk of personal injury lawsuits or workers' health claims.

Asian scrap yards generated $6.3 billion (about N977 billion) from beaching last year, according to shipping-industry data provider Lloyd's List.
European shipowners sent a record 365 vessels to South Asia's beaches last year. Turkey and China also recycle ships but they don't pay as well for scrap and their capacity is limited.
Yards in Turkey and China buy ships for scrapping at $300 to $340 a ton of steel, depending on the grade, compared with $410 in South Asia.
Some 300,000 people are dependent on the ship breaking industry in Bangladesh. Ships usually are sold to middlemen who then sell the vessels to ship breakers who can sell the scrap steel. South Asian ship breakers typically will recycle not only the steel, but the contents of a ship, for example its furniture and dinnerware, as well. Ship breaking is not without potential hazards though as many ship breaking yards in developing nations have lax or no environmental law, enabling large quantities of highly toxic materials to escape into the environment and causing serious health problems among ship breakers, the local population, and wildlife. Environmental campaign groups, such as Greenpeace, have made the issue a high priority for their activities.
The World Bank estimates that 79,000 tons of asbestos and 250,000 tons of other carcinogenic chemicals will be dumped on Bangladesh's beaches alone over the next 20 years.

Despite these potential hazards, business is booming for the iron eaters as the scrappers are called, and not just in Asia. The ongoing global shipping crisis has forced fleet owners to downsize as older ships become unprofitable. A record number of more than 1,000 ships were scrapped worldwide in 2012. India accounted for the largest number, 527, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and China. The expensive steel giants are sometimes taken out of circulation after only 15 years.
European ship owners prefer to dump their defunct ships in South Asia, where there are few environmental and occupational safety regulations, but where steel is all the more valuable. The high-quality steel used to make the vessels is in great demand as a resource. Recycling ships currently satisfies 9 percent of India's demand for steel.
Pots, beds, TV sets -- everything that crews of the scrapped ships once used on board -- are re-usable.
While we have a handful of ship breaking operations at Ilashe Beach in Lagos, this huge multi-billion dollar industry is largely untouched in Nigeria.
Investors should begin to look at taking advantage of this huge industry.
The health and environmental hazards associated with ship breaking at the beach should not be a deterrent to investing in the sector as fixed docks can be built in contrast to the controversial disassembly on the beach. The Federal Government also has a major role to play in encouraging the development of this industry.
Government will do well to institute measures including the declaration of a portion of our coastline as a ship-breaking yard, reduction in import duties on ships designated for breaking-up to encourage patronage and the creation of a dedicated department under the Ministry of Transport to regulate and address infrastructure and logistics issues. 
Of frequent changes at Customs Commands

Present Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi, was appointed into that office by his late kinsman, President Umaru Yar’Ádua, on 18th August 2009.
Despite various controversies, especially as a result of alleged certificate forgery, that trailed his appointment; Dikko has enjoyed relative stability as Nigeria’s Customs boss having spent almost four years in the saddle.
While Dikko has enjoyed stability in office, he has used his exalted position to deprive his field officers of same. Under Dikko, it would be a miracle for a Customs Area Controller to serve at any given location for more than six months.
At the foremost Customs Command – the Apapa Area One Command – Dikko has redeployed the Area Controllers a record seven times while Tin Can Island Port Command has had eight Area Controllers in Dikko’s three and half years rule.
The current Apapa Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Charles Edike, was posted to the Command three weeks ago from Murtala Muhammed International Airport Command where he served for barely four months. Edike took over from Comptroller Mohammed Umar who was posted to the Command in January 2013 and barely lasted for four months. Before Umar was Comptroller Garko Yusuf who served for three months. Garko took over from Comprtoller Idris Suleiman whose tenure lasted for six months. Suleiman’s predecessor was Comptroller Abdukadir Azarema who served for eight months; before Azarema was Dan Ugo who later became the Controller of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Lagos. Ugo’s tenure lasted for five months. Akinade Adewuyi, the first Apapa Customs Area Controller appointed by Dikko, was asked to hand over to Ugo after only two months on the seat.

Before the coming of Dikko, CACs had an average tenure of two years at their Commands. Past Controllers at Apapa Area 1 Command such as Oyeniyi S. O and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar spent two years each between the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Even the Comptrollers that served in the most recent past under Dikko’s predecessors such as Rasheed Taiwo, Olu Adeniyi, Angyu N. H. and Hamidu A. A. all served for between two and three years.
It is instructive to note that over the 30-year period preceding Dikko’s appointment; the Apapa Area One Command had a total of only twelve CACs whereas in three and a half years of his own regime, the same Command has had eight CACs.
The story is not any better at the Tin Can Island Port Customs Command. The roll call of CACs over the past three and half years include the incumbent Comptroller Zakari Jubril; Olanrewaju Tajudeen; Titus Aremu; Isa Nuhu; Charles Edike; Austen Warikoru; David Agbaje, and Ibrahim Mera. Each of these Area Controllers served an average of 5.6 months at the Command.
As it is at Apapa and Tin Can, so it is across all other Customs Commands and formations.

I could not find any theory in management books to support Dikko’s logic for creating the deliberate climate of instability at the various Customs Commands. I however know that whatever his reason(s), the policy will have negative consequences on both the officers being so often displaced and on the NCS in the long run.
Dikko has done well in some areas especially with regards to improved staff welfare and increased revenue collection on behalf of government, but I think the frequent changes of CACs remain a sore point of his administration.
For one, I think the frequent changes will impact negatively on the psyche of the affected officers more so that their families will have to be constantly relocated and new schools sought for the children. And those who chose to leave their families in a particular location will have to constantly leave their duty posts to visit them. This could create distractions, take a toll on the affected officers’ finances and lower their morale.
If morale is low, productivity will be impaired as it has been proven that morale and motivation provide the impetus for production. A decrease in morale will result in decreased productivity.
Those who opt to leave their families at specific locations while they move around during postings stand the risk of running multiple homes. Some of these officers might enter into relationships with other women with the attendant consequences.

I also believe that while Dikko and his close aides may be applauding their tactic as a good formula for boosting revenue collection, he is on the long run destroying the fabric of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Customs helmsman’s formula of administration is nothing but a trick – a cunning scheme intended to outwit his foot soldiers not to gain any foothold at their various commands. It is neither born out of any sound management principle nor proven management practice in civil, military or paramilitary settings.
The instability at the various commands also has dire consequences on stakeholders.
While Customs operations are guided by provisions of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA), truth is that the Area Controllers exercised a lot of power and discretion especially with regards to the clearance of goods and payment of duties. What happens with these frequent changes then is akin to frequent policy changes at the Area Command level.
And as I was trying to conclude this piece, my colleague informed me that the Controller at the Customs Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja has just been replaced – after three months. 
Jane Shoboki: Saint or Sinner?

Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Jane Shoboiki, is either a very good Customs officer or a very bad one.
Shoboki has consistently been in the news for the wrong reasons. The first time she came into the limelight, she was the officer in charge of the Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) at Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
On Wednesday, 1st August 2012, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, accused Shoboki of invading the NAGAFF headquarters at 2A Maybin Street, GRA Apapa, Lagos with heavily armed soldiers.
Aniebonam claimed that Shoboki stormed his office in his absence, accusing him of alleged blackmail and writing damaging petitions against her. She allegedly vowed to kill the NAGAFF founder for daring to transgress against her person. Shoboki and her troop, the association claimed, departed the premises at about 2.45pm of that faithful day after holding the occupants hostage for about 30 minutes.

Speaking with journalists later, Secretary-General of NAGAFF, Increase Uche, who was an eyewitness to the incident, related it thus: "The security men were about opening the gate when the soldiers jumped down and forced the gate open. Then they moved in and the Hilux van turned facing the exit while 12 soldiers moved in and headed to the founder’s office. When they got there, they held everybody captive, ordering them to come out of the office. I went down there to discover what was going on and saw the soldiers lined up blocking the entrance to the office. I shook their hands and asked if we were safe. They said no! That our founder is in trouble! That he has been writing petition against the wife of their oga. That doesn’t he know that the woman is a wife to a Brigade Commander? That their mission here is to kill him! That was when the woman that led them, Jane Shonoiki, the CIU woman alighted from the black jeep, saying that she wants to see that "fool, that idiot who was dismissed from Customs!' That they want to bring him out here and make sure that he is killed. That from now he should know that he is no longer safe in Lagos ... That was the statement she made last before she turned with the soldiers and moved out."
Shoboki had been riled by a petition titled Unlawful Illegal Activities of Mrs Jane Shoboki Deputy Controller of Customs Attached to Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU) Tin Can Island Port Lagos signed by legal adviser of the association, Barrister Larry Okonkwo, and dated July 27, 2012.
In the document, she was accused of unbridled corruption and of using her husband’s position as an Army General to intimidate and harass her colleagues and Customs agents.
While Shoboki maintained dignified silence in the face of media onslaught over the alleged invasion, the Tin Can Island Port Customs spokesman, Chris Osunkwo, denied the allegations leveled against her.

Just last week, activities at Terminal B2 of the Customs Tin Can Island Port Command were grounded as licensed Customs Agents staged a protest over allegation of extortion and highhandedness of a senior Customs officer. The officer in question was the one in charge of the vehicle seat and it turned out to be Jane Shoboki.
Yes, Shoboki again! Less than a year after the NAGAFF invasion!
The aggrieved agents accused Shoboki of demanding between N100,000 and N200,000 kickback to clear a car.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of the command, Chris Osunkwo, again rose in defence of the embattled Customs woman claiming that the agents were angry at her because she insisted of being thorough in her job.
Hear him: “The reason why they are calling for her removal is because Shoboiki is not bending to their demands. If she demands money from them, they will be glad to pay. It is because she does not want their money and she is insisting that due process be followed; that is why they were agitated and very angry.”
Going by Osunkwo’s stout defence, Shoboki must be a saint but I dare say she is not.

For one, she is not the only Customs officer at Tin Can Island Port and she is not the only wife of an Army General in Nigeria. Neither is she the only thorough and diligent officer of the Nigeria Customs Service. She needs, therefore, to come off her high horse and treat the stakeholders of Customs with some amount of dignity.
NCS is a service organisation and it is important for Shoboki to free herself from the military mentality that has kept her perpetually at loggerheads with the people she was employed to serve.
A few weeks back when a reverend sister levelled allegations of sexual assault against another Customs officer at the same Tin Can Island Port, the founder and some prominent members of NAGAFF rose up in his defence. They vouched for his character as a gentleman officer. This tells me that the freight forwarders are not as irrational as the likes of Shoboki and my friend Chris Osunkwo will want the world to believe. I think all the agents are asking for is some level of respect from Shoboki.
I heard she resorted to using soldiers again when agents started the protest against her alleged high-handedness. This is an anomaly which should not have been permitted by the Tin Can Island Port Customs Command Area Controller in the first instance. Shoboki shouldn’t have been allowed to bring soldiers into the port to harass port users in the name of providing protection for her.

I think the two public show of shame involving Shoboki should not be taken lightly by the Customs High Command.
My thought is that Shoboki is not a service oriented Customs officer. She should therefore be deployed to a unit where she will not have direct contact with the external publics of Customs since it has been proven severally that she is not in control of her temper.
As it is, Shoboki has succeeded in attracting bad press and opprobrium to the Nigeria Customs Service and the earlier the Comptroller General redeploys her to the backstage, the better for everyone. 
Adieu Captain Omotayo

"The captain goes down with the ship" is the maritime concept and tradition that a sea captain holds ultimate responsibility for both his ship and his passengers and will die trying to save either of them. The concept may be expressed as "the captain always goes down with the ship" or simply the "captain goes down with his ship".
Captain Emmanuel Sunmola Omotayo died fighting for the development of the Nigerian maritime industry. He pursued his belief till his last breath on earth.
I was at a shopping mall with my family that early afternoon of Saturday 11th March 2013 when a colleague, Godwin Oritse, called to confirm if I’ve heard of the death of Captain Omotayo. I hadn’t heard any such news and it sounded strange to me that Omotayo would die just like that. I quickly made a few calls. I tried to get in touch with the President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Adejimi Adu, who worked very closely with Captain Omotayo but his number was switched off. I wanted to call Omotayo’s number but couldn’t bring myself to do so. Instead, I made a few more calls to other people and to my utter shock, Godwin Oriste was right. Captain Omotayo had died that morning.
Omotayo was at work the previous day – Friday 10th May, 2013. Some of his colleagues said he was his usual active, frank and down to earth self. There was no sign of any aliment. He worked till about 7pm and went home to his new abode at Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Captain Omotayo’s wife and children live in the United Kingdom so apart from a handful of domestic servants, he lived alone. He had scheduled to preside over the meeting of NAMM the morning he died so I suppose he retired to bed early enough to be able to attend the meeting at Apapa in good time.
He slept alone in the room and it was characteristic of him to lock his bedroom door. When he did not come out at his usual time that Saturday morning, his aides got worried. They knocked at the door. No response. After series of persistent knocks, they rightly guessed that something was amiss. The aides forcefully brought down the door and there he was. The medics were quickly contacted but it was too late. If only someone had sensed that something was amiss early enough; perhaps, Omotayo’s life would have been saved. Perhaps if he hadn’t locked the door from inside, maybe his life would have been saved. Or maybe if someone had shared the room with him...Who knows? Only God knows best. Perhaps it was just time for him to depart this world that is full of grief and turbulence. Perhaps God just wanted him back home for a well deserved rest after 58 years of fighting one battle after the other. Who knows?
His lifeless body was quickly evacuated to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and it was interred at his home town in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State last Friday.
Before his body departed for Ekiti, there was a commendation service for the late Master Mariner at All Souls Anglican Church, Lekki Phase 1 on Wednesday.
Captain Omotayo lived in Apapa until about six months ago when he moved to his new house in Lekki. What an edifice he left behind. I also saw very nice cars neatly parked in the house when I went there. But then, nobody talked about his earthly possessions during the commendation service which turned out to be a maritime family reunion of sort.
Several maritime industry professionals and stakeholders from all walks of life gathered within the hallowed building to pay their last respect to one of their own whose departure from the scene was considered premature. It was a maritime gathering no doubt; and the church was packed full. And the tears flowed freely. But in all, many spoke glowingly of the late Vice President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners.
His bosom friend, Captain Olugbemiga Abidoye, played his role to the hilt. Omotayo’s soul will surely be at rest whenever he looks down and sees the likes of Abidoye and Adu offering needed support to his wife, Mrs. Adeyinka Omotayo and their children.
Captain Emmanuel Omotayo was frank to a fault. His passion was the maritime industry and he gave all his life to it. He was Managing Director of Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL) and Golden Shipping Limited – both subsidiaries of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc. He was also the Vice Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and Vice President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM).
I had the opportunity of working with this core professional in all the offices he occupied.
I became very close to Omotayo when I was appointed, in 2007, the Media Adviser of STOAN. We worked very well together. At the onset of port concession when no one saw anything good in private terminal operators, Captain Omotayo, Mr. Michael Hansen, Captain Abidoye, Princess Haastrup and I formulated and implemented strategies that changed the perception of the general public for good. I can attest that he was a courageous and thoroughbred professional.

As Vice President of NAMM, Captain Omotayo always brought me in whenever the association had important events like its maiden edition of the Day of the Seafarer celebration, the NAMM 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2011 and the launch of its permanent secretariat project in February this year.
Omotayo also stood against perceived injustice. In 2006 and in his capacity as Managing Director of Golden Shipping Limited, he dragged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to court over the imposition of what has come to be known as the imposition of the phantom three percent benchmark rate by the agency.
In November last year, Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court in Lagos declared the three percent charge based on stowage factor and benchmark freight collected by NIMASA as "unlawful and beyond the provisions of the law." It was a landmark judgment and a victory for Omotayo.
The enthronement of mediocrity in the shipping sector grieved Omotayo greatly. He was a thoroughbred professional who would not suffer fools gladly.
His life and manner of death offer valuable lessons to all of us.
I can understand the pains of his wife and children at this time. My prayer is the classic one – may God give them the fortitude to bear this loss. May God fill the vacuum created by his painful exit. I hope his medical doctor daughter, Dupe, and her siblings will take solace in the fact that their father lived well.
To his friends and colleagues at Flour Mills, ABTL, NAMM and STOAN; I know it will be difficult to fill the void created by Omotayo’s death. The death of a colleague leaves both a personal and professional void in a workplace. We spend many hours of our lives with our co-workers. We form relationships with them, even if those relationships consist of merely saying hello as you pass by someone's desk each morning. A co-worker's death can mean the loss of a friend, but also the loss of someone we depend on to help us do our jobs. May you also find the grace to bear this great loss.
Personally, I have lost a dear friend, a fair-minded critic and mentor. The loss of a friend is like the loss of a limb. Time may heal the anguish of the wound but the loss cannot be repaired.
Captain Emmanuel Omotayo, till we meet to part no more; rest in peace. 
The Lilypond mischief-makers

Some of the clearing agents operating at Lilypond container depot, Ijora, are either suffering from crass ignorance or engaging in palpable mischief by claiming that APM Terminals Apapa is deliberately starving the depot of containers in order to run them out of business. So if APM Terminals runs them out of business, is it going to be doing clearing and forwarding?
It is disturbing that chapter leaders of the major freight forwarding associations operating at Lilypond have exhibited such ignorance or mischief when the real reasons why containers are not stemmed or transferred to the depot are glaring and have been repeatedly explained by the management of APM Terminals. These agents have deliberately set out to turn the truth on its head and mislead Nigerians through distorted information and blatant lies.
I think it is necessary to go down memory lane and remind ourselves of the history of Lilypond.
Before that terminal was concessioned in 2006; it was a ghost terminal. It was heavily flooded and the Nigerian Ports Authority (which owned and operated it at the time) had long stopped transferring containers there.
Lilypond was completely water-logged with all the super-structures caving in. I was a regular visitor to terminal at the time and I remember its condition vividly. The then Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Iwuagwu, was my good friend and I remember how he used to lament the inability of the Command to generate revenue to meet its target. The current Acting Controller of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘C’ of the Nigeria Customs Service, Owerri, DC Victor Dimka was the Public Relations Officer of Lilypond Customs Command at the time and I remember that we produced a radio jingle which we broadcast regularly on our daily radio programme to attract patronage to the container depot.

Even at the height of port congestion in the late 1990s and early 2000s, NPA could not transfer containers to Lilypond because of its parlous state.
Post-Iwuagwu era at Lilypond was even worse as the terminal became completely paralysed. The customs officers and the agents that are now making all sorts of noise and casting aspersions.
became totally redundant. Most of them even stopped going to work.
Then came port reform and the attendant concession of terminals. Lilypond terminal was concessioned for ten years to a separate company belonging to the AP Moller-Maersk Group – the same group that owns APM Terminals.
Despite taking over a terminal with zero throughput, the new operator quickly got down to work and injected a princely sum of over N3 billion to revive and upgrade it. Investment was made on construction work, safety, people, equipment, information technology, administrative building and the general environment of the terminal. Experienced and competent managers were brought in to oversee its operation. All the runaway agents trooped back. Life returned to the once deserted facility.

In no time, APM Terminals – the same APM Terminals the agents are now accusing of starving the facility of business - started transferring containers to the depot. At the time, importation volume was high and about 60 per cent of boxes were moved from the main terminal to inland container depots or bonded terminals. By 2010, cargo throughput had risen from zero to 23,000 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) and this doubled to an unprecedented 47,000 TEUs in 2011.
Unfortunately, as a result of the global economic crisis, the insecurity situation in Nigeria and the fuel subsidy scam; liquidity squeeze was created in the Nigerian economy.
Consequently, importers were unable to dispose off their goods in good time and they accumulated inventory. They were also unable to access capital to finance importation and volumes came tumbling down.
In 2012, volume remained flat while this year has even been worse. As you read this piece, capacity utilisation at most of the terminals at the ports in Lagos is at an all time low. APM Terminals Apapa, for instance, is at 60 per cent capacity utilisation. So it became impossible (and unnecessary) to transfer containers to offdock falilities.

Lilypond terminal, like other bonded terminals in Lagos, were created as overflow facilities. They are meant to take pressure off the main port when additional capacity is required but are bound to remain idle whenever the main port terminals are not congested. And that is the problem Lilypond and other ICDs are facing at present.
But the agents at Lilypond don’t want to hear this. Suddenly, APM Terminals is now a bad company because it will not transfer containers to them.
They will go to any extent, including using arm-twisting tactics garnished with a sizable dose of propaganda, to get containers to the depot. This is not only a morally bankrupt approach; it is a reprehensible act that won’t yield anything good.
I have recently started hearing the bogus claims by these agents that because APM Terminals is not transferring containers to Lilypond, it is sabotaging Customs revenue. What a cheap pack of crappy stuff! Are these guys that naïve or is this to gain the sympathy of Customs or something? Nothing can be farther from the truth than this cheap and ill-advised claim.
Customs revenue is not jeorpadised by any means. It should be noted that revenue collected at all Customs Commands eventually end up into one and the same Customs account. Ultimately, the Nigeria Customs Service is one with one account. The idea of having Commands at various places is purely for administrative convenience.
Let us assume that in a given year, 1,000 containers are handled at APM Terminals and the Customs duty on each box is N100. If all container are cleared from Apapa, the Apapa Area One Customs Command would collect N100,000 into the central Customs account. Now assume that APM Terminals transfers 200 of these containers to Lilypond; Customs duty remains unchanged at N100 on each container but this time, N80,000 will be collected into the Customs account through Apapa Area One Command and N20,000 collected into the same account through Lilypond Area Command – total N100,000 collected into Customs account. Nothing has changed!

So what is the cry about loss of Customs revenue all about?
Truth be told, I think these agents are crying wolf where there isn’t any. What I expect them to do is go out to look for other clients outside Ijora – their comfort zone.
The Lilypond agents had a captive market and they have formed themselves into a cartel. They have seen Lilypond as their birthright where every clearing job must be done by their members. They have also boxed themselves into a corner by thinking that they can’t operate outside Lilypond.
If containers are not coming to Lilypond, then they should move out to other port facilities and compete for business there rather than sit down and lament all the time. Their past-time has now snowballed into casting aspersions on APM Terminals.
Do they really think that this will change anything? Will this disposition transfer containers to the depot or bring them clearing business? 
Where are the Cowardly Lions?

The Cowardly Lion is a character in the fictional Land of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. He is a Lion, but he talks and interacts with humans.
Since lions are supposed to be "The Kings of Beasts," the Cowardly Lion believes that his fear makes him inadequate. He does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear, which he does frequently. Only during the aftereffects of the Wizard's gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear. He argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly and embarrassedly fearful.
It is natural to be fearful but, according to Professor Wole Soyinka, the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.
Nigeria’s shipping sector is suffering from the tyranny of neglect and incompetence of its managers and very few stakeholders are brave enough to voice it. They hide in their various corners and ventilate their anger against a system that has killed their businesses but quickly add: “it is off record o, please don’t quote me”.
It was ten years exactly, penultimate week, since former President Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, otherwise known as the Cabotage Act while implementation of the Act - which commenced May 1, 2004 – was nine years old.

We all know that implementation of the Cabotage regime has been a major disappointment to all. My interest then was to find reasons why implementation failed despite the noble idles of the law especially with the euphoria that greeted its passage and subsequent assent granted by Obasanjo.
Naturally then, I got in touch with some private sector operators who played key roles in the making of the Act in 2003 and all the chief executives of the implementing agencies for their comments on the one decade failure of Cabotage.
I have my own ideas why Cabotage has failed and the first key reason is the faulty foundation laid for the regime.
I remember clearly that the first Cabotage Director, one Chief Stephen Ezekwem, had no idea what the law was all about. Chief Ezekwem was brought to the then National Maritime Authority (NMA) by then Minister of Transport – Dr. Abiye Sekibo. The only relevant qualification and experience brought by him was his association and relationship with Sekibo.
As if that was not enough and to the chagrin of stakeholders, Sekibo ordered the relocation of the Cabotage Unit from NMA Headquarters at 4, Burma Road, Apapa to Port Harcourt. Sekibo did not stop at that as he made Ezekwem report directly to him; bypassing the NMA chief executive.
That was the faulty foundation laid for Cabotage. Little wonder Dr. Taiwo Afolabi said the law was “dead on arrival”.
Well apart from these clearly warped decisions imposed on NMA by Sekibo, there certainly must have been other constraints encumbering implementation of the law and that was what I sought to find out.

The private sector operators I got in touch with freely shared their thoughts on what they thought went wrong but not so for those who occupied offices that were strategic to the implementation of the Act. By this category of people I mean some former Directors of Cabotage, former chief executives of the NMA and its successor the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and even a former Minister of Transport.
Painfully though, I could not get across to Chief Ezekwem or his mentor Dr. Abiye Sekibo but I really wonder what the duo would have said anyway other than gloat over how they made sure the law was passed and how the structure they set up was not allowed to flourish and the likes.
But then, none of the former government people was willing to be quoted in the media. I remember one of them who was so excited that I considered his view relevant. After praising Ships& Ports for “doing such a wonderful job in the maritime industry”, he launched out into why several things are wrong and how some laudable initiatives are not followed through and how leaders and insincere in decision-making and so on.
After about ten minutes of his monologue, I asked him specifically about the failure of Cabotage and of course, he started talking freely until he suddenly remembered that I was a journalist.
“I hope you’re not quoting me o?”, he asked.
“Of course I am sir”, I told him.
I explained to him that we were working on a report on Cabotage after ten years and that his opinion was important in ensuring that current managers of NIMASA understand the real issues that can help implementation.
“I am sorry Bolaji but I don’t want to be quoted”, he said.
“But all the things you have said are correct. And it is not personal. It will help the system”, I tried to convince him but he wouldn’t budge.

After I managed to convince him that I wasn’t recording our conversation and that it would be unethical to do so without his knowledge and permission, the former NMA big man finally admitted that he was afraid of “my successors thinking that I’m teaching them their job”.
“They will misunderstand me and try to dig out the past and look for something to hold against me”, he said.
I was stunned. So fear was at the root of it all. What a shame.
And the same fear ran through all the others. While they all spoke glowingly about their tenures and about what could be done to make Cabotage work, none was willing to be quoted for fear of the current managers of the regime.
How then can we avoid mistakes of the past if past leaders are not willing to share their experiences and offer advice?
In the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where The Cowardly Lion makes his first appearance, despite outward evidence that he is unreasonably fearful; The Cowardly Lion displays great bravery along the way.
The Wizard gives him a dish of unknown liquid, telling him it is "courage" to drink.
Who will give these former government people courage to drink?