Monday, 26 October 2015

Case for forward-looking approach to port development

Cross River State indigenes were full of delight on Monday when President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off construction of the 260-kilometre Calabar-Kastina-Ala Super Highway road project at Obung.
According to the President, the road which will link south-south and northern parts of the country, when completed, will also ensure a reduction in travel time and man-hour. He described the project was a significant milestone in the economic transformation agenda of the state.
The equally excited state governor, Professor Ben Ayade who globetrotted to get foreign investors to invest in the road project, also disclosed that the state would embark on the construction of a deep seaport in Bakassi. So in addition to a reduction in travel time and man-hour, the road would serve as the artery for evacuation of cargo from the proposed port.
The part that excites me is the fact that the Cross River State government is planning ahead for evacuation of cargo even before construction of the proposed deep seaport has started. This is different from what we have seen with regards to the proposed Ibaka deep seaport which the former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio championed.
While Akpabio claimed that construction work on the deep seaport project had started, the roads leading to the site is practically non-existent. It took us over three hours of travel through deep potholes, craters and gullies to complete a 20km trip from Uyo to Ibaka when I led a group to the site about two years ago. It was a sorry state. I wondered if that was the road Akpabio planned for trailers and other heavy-duty trucks to ply during the port construction work. And did he hope to build the port before building the roads? No sir; it doesn’t work that way.
The major challenge we have in Apapa right is poor road infrastructure which has made life hellish for truckers and commuters.
And that is why I am concerned also about the Lekki deep seaport which has been under construction for over five years.
The development of the Port at Lekki is certainly a most welcome initiative since it will bring a huge boon not only to the economy of the state but that of the entire nation. It goes without saying that a viable deep seaport project will create close to half a million direct and indirect jobs for Nigeria’s teeming youths.
Container throughput at Lagos ports is expected to hit two million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) by 2018 whereas the maximum capacity that the ports and the Inland Container Depots (ICDs) in the State can accommodate is 2.2 million TEUs.
Lagos ports alone handle 90 per cent of the cargo in and out of Nigeria. With this expected growth in container volumes, the combined capacity of Apapa Port fully-developed and Tin Can Island Port and all the Inland Container Depots (ICDs) in the Lagos area is expected to be inadequate within the next five years. The same situation also applies to general cargo terminals.
A new port will therefore be needed to keep up with the demand for capacity, as the existing ports are surrounded by the city and cannot be further expanded.
The natural location, the supporting infrastructures and the support of stakeholders are key success of a greenfield port.
In choosing the location of a Greenfield port, the factors that must be considered include natural deepwater and harbour and supporting navigational channels with commensurate draft.
Other factors include lower risk of encroachment of city development in the immediate future, connection to multimodal infrastructure for evacuation of cargo by road, rail and barge, government support to the investors with policies that will protect investments, presence of adequate supporting services and review of cargo clearance processes to support faster cargo evacuation and reduce dwell time.
Lekki has the natural features for a port, no doubt. Natural harbours have long been of great strategic naval and economic importance. They reduce or eliminate the need for breakwaters which would ordinarily cost a fortune to construct. Some examples of natural harbours are New York City harbour in the United States; Kingston Harbour in Jamaica; Subic, Zambales in the Philippines; Sydney Harbour in Australia; Pearl Harbour in Hawaii; San Francisco Bay in California; Visakhapatnam Harbour in Andhra Pradesh, India; Killybegs in County Donegal Ireland; and Halifax Harbour in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The proposed Port at Lekki is surrounded by the lagoon and you can go in and out of the port area through only one way. Because the Lekki axis is largely a residential area, vehicular traffic in and out is very heavy without the added burden of trucks plying that route.
What will happen when trucks join the fray on the road is better imagined. Due to this constraint and in the absence of a rail system, evacuation of containers from the Lekki Port to the Western part of the country will be very difficult if not impossible. You can’t move goods up north either except a new bridge the size of the Third Mainlaind Bridge is constructed around the lagoon.
Trucks evacuating goods from the port however can head for the Eastern part of the country but then, they will have to travel almost 100 kilometres to link up the Benin-Ore road. Movement of goods out of the port through barges is not an option either because Lekki is backed by a very broad and shallow lagoon; making barging difficult.
The cost of building a new port cannot be underestimated with about USD1.5 billion (about N300 billion) required for investment in quay wall, quay apron, terminals, cargo handling equipment, information technology etc. Potential investors and financiers will certainly be interested in good return on investment, but this might take a very long time if thoughts are not given to adequate cargo evacuation modalities.
Perhaps the promoters of the port would want to borrow a leaf from the Cross River State model.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Of Presidential spokesmen and poor public relations skills

Femi Adesina trended last week for the wrong reasons and with many Nigerians lashing out at him on twitter.
Several uncomplimentary comments about the presidential spokesman on twitter underscore the importance of effective public relations training for would-be occupiers of that office.
Adesina’s posts on Buhari not being appointed Minister of Petroleum and of age not being a yardstick for measuring performance in governance on the side of ministerial nominees sparked off criticisms from Nigerians.
“Femi Adesina is in this govt just to verify his Twitter account…”, “Femi Adesina needs a proper Public Relations professional to coach him. I could help but my service is very expensive!”, “Femi Adesina and his beer parlour tweets …It is not good to mix ogogoro and kunu this FEMI dude needs upgrading”, “When you hear Femi Adesina you remember wailing wailers”, the comments went on and on.
Adesina’s transgressions were his tweets on ministerial appointments: “#ministers People who have been nominated are qualified and are Nigerians. Talking of age, there is a saying that age does not matter”, “#ministers We must rather talk of the mental age rather than the chronological age. It is not the chronological age that matters…”
Adesina had absolutely no reasons to have fired those posts. They were unprovoked and unnecessary. And perhaps he doesn’t know, Nigerians are becoming disenchanted with the new government. I suppose the euphoria is over and reality is gradually setting in.
It was Adesina’s second major gaffe in a month. When Buhari visited Ghana on September 7, rather than focus on the crux of the President’s visit, Adesina posted tweets on Aburi.
“Aburi (pronounced Ebri by Ghanaians) is about 30 minutes trip from Accra, and hosts the Peduase Lodge, used by the President to host guests”. Nigerians would have none of that. He was branded Ghana’s Minister of Culture and Tourism.
We all remember how Reuben Abati lost the respect he earned over a 10-year period in four years of serving as President Jonathan’s spokesman. The former Guardian newspaper columnist and editorial board chairman is still struggling to warm himself back into the hearts of Nigerians five months after leaving office.
Segun Adeniyi did not fare any better in his sojourn at the presidential villa under late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Femi Fani-Kayode and Dr. Doyin Okupe were total calamities as presidential mouthpieces. They earned contempt and ridicule not just for themselves but for their masters also.
None of the presidential spokesmen mentioned above qualified for the job. That Adeniyi, Abati and Adesina excelled as media men is no guarantee they would do well as public relations managers. In fact, history shows the reverse will always be the case, except for those who deliberately acquire PR skills.
Having started my career in journalism, I know all too well the love-hate relationship PR professionals and journalists have with one another. And I know that journalists don’t always make the best PR professionals.
PR looks like a promising career for someone with great contacts and the ability to tell compelling stories. A PR trainer recently said she feels journalists come to PR with a “communication culture of false urgency,” and a lack of appreciation for the “depth and reach of what reputation management really entails.” This sentiment resonates with a lot of us. I know many journalists who enter PR with stellar contacts, superb storytelling skills and a well-honed, experienced knowledge of the media business. They know how to sell a story – in the newsroom. Yet how many know how to pitch new business to a client? Or perform market research to develop a strategic communications plan that improves awareness of a product or service? Or even know that public relations has an industry code of ethics?
I believe both journalism and PR share a common interest of communicating clearly with the public. Both require a curiosity for news and an ability to tell story in a most compelling way.
To be sure, many PR professionals (like yours sincerely) got their start in journalism, or were educated in journalism schools. They know and respect the realities and challenges reporters face daily. Journalism experience can provide important entry-level training for a PR manager but most journalists fare poorly in public relations because they fail to realize that media relations is just one of many areas of communications and public relations.
Good journalists have the news judgment to know what stories to pitch, they write clear, compelling and accurate press releases, they have an appreciation for deadlines and their media connections are impeccable. All of which are terrific assets … if you’re planning to spend your entire day pitching stories. But that isn’t the reality of modern public relations. Not by a long shot. It takes a lot more than contacts to be a successful communicator.
If PR is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics, then at the heart of public relations is a detailed understanding of who those publics are, how they think, and what they consider important.
We live in interesting times, with economic technological and political developments all combining to form a perfect storm. Nigerians are on edge and the Presidential spokesman must not only appreciate this, but be properly schooled in the art of communicating with the President’s public – not as a journalist now – to stave off the kind of attacks, odium and ridicule we’ve seen buffeting Femi Adesina of late.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Where are Aganga's Made-In-Nigeria cars?

Former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga will be remembered as the man who destroyed the operations of RORO ports in Nigeria and championed the diversion of Nigeria-bound vehicle imports to the ports of neighbouring countries.
Aganga also helped fuel smuggling and facilitated the sack of several hundreds of Nigerians at the ports through his selfish and ill-conceived National Automotive Policy.
Several well-meaning Nigerians raised their voices of wisdom advising against the implementation of the controversial policy but was self-opinionated and strong headed.
When the auto policy was introduced by him mid-2013, he deceived Nigerians into believing that within six months, Stallion Motors, Nissan and others would begin to assemble cars in Nigeria. That did not happen.
On May 29 2014, Aganga and his gang presented so-called assembled in Nigeria SUVs to President Goodluck Jonathan as ‘Democracy Day’ gifts.
The three vehicles presented to the President said to have been produced at the Stallion Nissan Motors Plant located on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway included a Nissan Patrol SUV, Nissan Almera (Sunny) saloon car and a Nissan NP 300 Pick-Up.
The company claimed that it was ready to roll out 45,000 units of vehicles annually but apart from those three; no Nigerian can claim to have seen any such car on the road. There are doubts if those were actually ‘made’ here. This is so as the Nigeria Customs Service has accused several so-called auto assembly plants of less than noble conducts. They import fully built units of vehicles under the guise of SKDs or CKDs to take advantage of loopholes in the ill-conceived policy.
I was in London on June 23 last year at a seminar on “Business in Nigeria” organised by the Financial Times and the Nigeria Customs Service, where Aganga tried desperately to sell the policy to the international community. He again claimed that the policy has attracted 14 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to the country who were ready to “roll out before the end of the year”. It is more than one year yet nothing.
The case has been said of a company which imported over 200 units of fully built vehicles, without tyres, and declared them as semi-knocked down units in order to benefit from the huge tax rebate put in place by the federal government as part of the automotive policy to encourage local assemblage of vehicles.
There are two degrees of SKD, known as SKD1 and SKD2. Most local vehicle assembling plants in Nigeria at the moment are using SKD2, with very little local content, but they pay shortchange Nigerians.
SKDs attract 10% tariff while fully built units attract 70%. So they remove the tyres only and claim SKD. They then import the tyres separately. This is Aganga’s auto policy.
Car dealers and mass transit companies now import their vehicles using this trick. They all lay claims to being auto assembly plants. It is fraud at its highest level. So the big guys pay 10% while the small time importers pay 70%. Those that do not want to pay 70% diver their vehicular cargoes to Cotonou Port and smuggle into Nigeria.
The prices of vehicles shot up more than 40% since Aganga’s infamous policy. For example, a new KIA Piccanto car that sold for about N1.6million before the introduction of the loathsome policy now sells for N2.2million while a Hyundai Elantra which cost N3.3million now sells for N4.9million.
The Aganga gang even went as far as deceiving Nigerians that very soon, local production won’t only meet local demand but will be sufficient enough for export.
Aston Motors, Dana Motors Ltd, Basco Nigeria Ltd, Coscharis Motors Ltd, General Appliances (West Africa) Ltd, Globe Motors, Hyundai Motors Nig. Ltd, Kewalrams-Chanrai, Nigeria-China Auto Manufacturing Coy Ltd, Nigerian Sino Trucks Ltd and Origin Automotive Works all lay claim to being auto assembly plants.
Aganga and his boss took Nigerians for a ride. The auto policy has increased the rate at which cars are smuggled into Nigeria with our ports losing close to 70% of their vehicle cargo traffic to Cotonou Port. And the vehicles landed in Cotonou eventually find their way into the Nigerian market. The implication of this trend on is grave not only on Customs revenue but on the income of the Nigerian Ports Authority, terminal operators, port workers, freight forwarders and haulage firms.
History tells us that this policy will not work. We have gone through this route before and it failed but Jonathan and Aganga would not listen to the voice of reason.
One is wont to wonder whose interests Aganga really tried to protect.
President Muhammadu Buhari should come to the rescue. Nigerians are suffering as a result of this obnoxious policy. It should be suspended while import duty on vehicles revert to 20% flat for everyone. Preferential or differential duty rate must be scrapped immediately
We want to see these ‘auto assembly plants’ begin to truly roll out made in Nigeria vehicles.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Now that Buhari's noisemakers are here

The President called Ministers 'noisemakers' but he is bound by the Constitution to appoint at least 36 of them.
Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution compels the President to appoint Ministers from all 36 states of the federation while Section 148 spells out the functions of the Ministers and makes it clear that he must meet them regularly.
So the President has to live with these 'noise makers' for the life of his administration.
Ministers and civil servants have their jobs clear cut out for them by law. None can take the place of the other, but obviously Mr. President thinks otherwise.
We yearn for change in the maritime industry and Mr. President will make this change a reality by appointing a competent noisemaker as the Minister of Transport.
I think the transport sector has been largely suffered a wretched fate under this democratic dispensation with non-experts given the task by successive governments to pilot the affairs of a highly technical sector.
Obasanjo in 1999 appointed Mrs. Kema Chikwe as his first Transport Minister. Chikwe had no idea how the transport sector runs. She is a radio journalist, editor, publisher and politician. She would have done better in NTA.
Chikwe ended up being dubbed 'Minister of Port' as she concentrated all her attention on the ports, not even the maritime industry.
Then came Ojo Madueke in 2001. Ojo's idea of moving the transport sector forward was to ask Nigerians to ride bicycle to work.
Critics told Madueke that Nigerian roads were unsafe for such venture but he would not listen until a bus pushed him himself into a ditch while he was cycling to work. End of bicycle campaign.
Next came Abiye Sekibo. The Rivers State born medical doctor and politician was appointed in 2003 at the beginning of Obasanjo's second term.
While Sekibo was a novice, a lot of initiatives and reforms took place under him largely because he listened to stakeholders.
In August 2003, Sekibo said the Federal Government was considering a scheme to support local shipping in the oil and gas industry. The 'scheme' turned out to be the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act aka Cabotage Law which made coastal trade the exclusive preserve of ships owned by Nigerians.
He also piloted Obasanjo's port reform programme, which increase private sector involvement in port operation by making reputable private operators responsible for terminal operations.
Diezani Allison-Madueke succeeded Sekibo. She was appointed by Late President Yar'Adua in 2007. She will be remembered as the Transport Minister who wept after being caught in the notorious Apapa gridlock for several hours.
Many will however remember her more as Nigeria's most powerful Petroleum Minister under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
Ibrahim Bio, a pharmacist from Kwara State, succeeded Allison-Madueke.
Bio was appointed Minister of Transportation on 17 December 2008, replacing Allison-Madueke whom Yar'Adua transferred to head the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
When Goodluck Jonathan became Nigeria's Acting President in 2010, he replaced Bio with Yusuf Suleiman – a politician and former civil servant. While he cannot be described as an expert, he worked as a deputy director in the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA).
Suleiman occupied the position from April 6 2010 to July 10, 2011 when he was deployed to the Sports Ministry after an altercation with Patrick Akpobolokemi, then Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Suleiman reportedly recommended in December 2010 that Akpobolokemi and the NIMASA board be sacked, claiming they were guilty of abuse of office. That was his undoing, because the NIMASA DG was Jonathan's boy.
Jonatrhan appointed Senator Idris Umar to replace Suleiman. A Gombe State born lawyer and politician, he knew little about the transport sector but he played the politics and survived for more than four years in the post. But there wasn't any added value recorded.
Seven Transport Ministers in 16 years of our new democratic experiment speaks of some level of instability and possible policy inconsistencies as each Minister – with an average tenure of 2.3 years - came with his/her own agenda. There was no 'master plan' that was being implemented or followed through.
What we want going forward is a Transport noisemaker, sorry Minister that will adopt a holistic approach to Nigeria's transportation challenges.
We need a 25-year master plan for integrated transport infrastructure development. A master plan than will clearly identify current and future mobility needs and create a strategy to address same.
We also want a noisemaker that will understand the place of the shipping sector in economic development.
In the short term, Apapa needs urgent attention. The port city is under threat – threat from ubiquitous petrol tank farms, threat from terrorist attacks and threat from debilitating traffic gridlock.
The next Transport noisemaker must urgently rise up to this. And I hope for once, we'll have a transport professional appointed into that office.