Monday, 30 September 2013

Stakeholders ‘fault’ Customs bill? Hellooo..!!!

I read an article in one of the newspapers sometimes last week that ‘stakeholders in the maritime industry’ have faulted the Customs and Excise Management Act amendment bill currently before the National Assembly and have threatened to petition the Senate over the bill. Whatever that means!
I am neither for nor against the bill but it is important to understand that whatever was said at the so-called meeting does not represented the position of the maritime industry. It is at best the opinion of a handful of people who were gathered by a group that is desperately seeking relevance.
I agree that a few genuine stakeholders were misled into attending the meeting but does their presentation represent the position of the maritime industry?

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) have denied being a part of the so-called resolution. Several other organisations and interest groups including the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, the Nigerian Licensed Ship Chandlers Association, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron, the Port Consultative Council, the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, the Institute of Marine Engineering, the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Shipping Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Association of Stevedoring Companies, Nigerian Maritime Law Association, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Finance – I can go on and on – did not attend the unimpressive gathering. As a major stakeholder and President of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), I wasn’t at that meeting.

So is it correct to describe the outcome of the meeting as representing the position of ‘maritime stakeholders’? Isn’t it deceptive to go behind all these major organisations and interest groups to issue a statement purportedly on their behalf without their input or consent? And again, was it proper for the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria – who were said to have sent representatives to the gathering – to attend a meeting put together by an unknown private organisation to criticise a sister agency? Did they understand that they were going to be used to mount a media campaign against the Nigeria Customs Service? If they had issues with aspects of CEMA, aren’t there official channels of communicating such to government? Are the doors of the National Assembly shut to them? Are they aware that there was a public hearing by the House of Representatives and there will likely be another by the Senate on the bill?

I believe those behind this propaganda are acting a script. They are out to seek relevance and attention but it is morally wrong to use the names of stakeholders in the industry to do so.
And again, who told those people that they can speak for the maritime industry or gather stakeholders and articulate the position of the industry on such a major issue? Are the stakeholders too dumb to speak for themselves? Don’t they know the way to the National Assembly to make their positions known to the lawmakers? I’ve seen a lot of absurdities in the industry and a lot of pseudo-activists but this one is particularly laughable and kind of childish. I bet the very few people who attended the meeting did not suspect that the conveners had a motive; that they merely wanted to use them to lend credence to their unwholesome scheme.
A couple of those who attended the hurriedly organised meeting complained to me afterwards that they did not know they were going to be used for media hype. Now that the script has played itself out, they regretted ‘honouring’ the invitation.
Well, let it be known that the real stakeholders are back from the Christmas holiday. They are now ready to speak on CEMA and their own positions will also be conveyed to the National Assembly.

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