Monday, 5 December 2016

Egg eaters don’t know how tough it is to lay one

Last year was bad for the operations of shipping lines and port operators but this year has been worse. Whilst the slowdown in the shipping business, as with the oil and gas industry, is an evolving global trend for which many ‘experts’ have failed to offer plausible explanation; the peculiar political and economic turmoil beleaguering Nigeria since 2014 has posed more daunting challenges for operators in both sectors in the country.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Unsung heroes of Nigerian ports

Present leaders of the labour unions in the maritime industry have not been accorded sufficient credit for the patriotic roles they played and are still playing in the success of Nigeria’s port reform programme.

Many of us remember the ports before concession as complex webs too difficult to untangle. The backwardness of the port system was compounded by the brutal antics of the leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) at the time. The President-General of the union until 16 years ago was a petrifying demigod wielding the power of life and death over his 18,000 strong mostly uneducated subjects and imposing an odious form of taxation on shipping lines, shipping agents and the ports authority.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Killing the goose that lays the golden egg

Sometimes I wonder why successive governments treat the maritime industry with disdain. With the exception of the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, every other government, under our present democratic dispensation either lack idea of how to run the affairs of the industry or do not understand the place of shipping in the nation’s economic development.
The rot that defines the state of road infrastructure in the port city of Apapa, Lagos, is a clear manifestation of government’s insensitivity to an industry which contributes at least two trillion annually into the national coffers in addition to creating more than one million jobs for Nigerians.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Help me beg Magun

Pepe: Turaya, good afternoon. Long time. You no even ask for your sister. Na so life be?

Turaya: You are not my sister. You were my subordinate in the corridors of power. If not for the unfortunate incidence, who give you courage to even call me by name.

Pepe: Ah ah. Turaya, let bygone be bygone now. After all, you be former number one, me too I be former one. Anyway, I come beg for your help please. I need your help. (SOBS) Turaya I need your help o.

Monday, 26 September 2016

World Maritime Day 2016 and the imperative of harnessing Nigeria's maritime potentials

Every year, the last week of September is set aside to mark the World Maritime Day. The World Maritime Day is recognized by the United Nations as a day set aside to celebrate the contribution of shipping to the global economy.
Shipping is perhaps the most international of all the world’s great industries. The ownership and management chain surrounding any particular vessel can embrace many different countries. It is not unusual to find that the owners, operators, shippers, charterers, insurers and the classification society, not to mention the officers and crew, are all of different nationalities and that none of these is from the country whose flag flies at the ship’s stern.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Making Nigeria regional hub: Task before NPA

Over the years, there has been the agitation for which country is best suitable for the onerous responsibility of serving as the maritime hub station for the West African sub region. In this questhas been the popular choice of Nigeria, with Cote d’Ivoire, Angola and lately- Ghana trailing in the contest.
Ideally, the choice of Nigeria for this regional role in port operations, both in maritime and Oil &Gas affairs should be considered a foregone conclusion, if only successive government policies had been adequately harnessed and implemented to make this dream a reality.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Buhari's emergency economic bill: We've been here before

It emerged sometimes last week that President Muhammadu Buhari will be presenting an emergency economic stabilisation bill to the National Assembly when it resumes on September 13. The bill has been greeted with apprehension; with many fearing abuse of power by a President that has exhibited little tolerance for opposing views. While an Aso Rock mouthpiece has tried in vain to absolve the President of seeking emergency powers, the policy draft which found its way into the public space last week says otherwise.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Deep seaports everywhere, but which of them will be viable?

It appears some state governors are trying to outdo each other in the establishment of so-called deep seaports in their domains. Lagos State is pushing hard for the Lekki deep seaport and Badagry mega-port while Ondo and Ogun States have been championing the joint development of the Olokola deep seaport for about a decade. Akwa Ibom State joined the fray about four years ago under its erstwhile governor, Godswill Akpabio with the proposed Ibaka (or Ibom) deep seaport, while Ben Ayade of Cross River State, immediately assuming the governorship of his state in 2015, became a strong advocate of the Calabar deep seaport.

One begins to wonder if these governors have done their homework on the viability or otherwise of the proposed deep seaports. Why will any state, in this period of austerity, expend as much as two billion dollars on a facility that might not yield good future returns or add significant value to the economy of the state or better the lives of its citizens? I honestly do not believe that any deep seaport outside Lagos will be viable. There will not be sufficient cargo volumes to support such facilities in the next 50 years. This is clear enough from the current underutilization of existing port facilities in the country, especially those facilities outside Lagos. For instance, while the ports in Lagos have capacity utilization of about 50 – 60% at present, the ones in the South South – Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar – have about 25% capacity utilization. The exception will be Onne Port which is fairly busy. Even the so-called Olokola port; can it honestly compete with the ports in Lagos or the ports of fellow West African countries such as the Autonomous Port of Cotonou or the Port of Lome for cargo?

Monday, 15 August 2016

NLNG's evil treatment of Nigerian seafarers

Elsewhere, seafarers are highly respected; enjoy good remuneration and good living standards. But not in Nigeria. Many of our seafarers are jobless. Those of them who have jobs are underemployed and owed several months in salary arrears. A few oil majors and the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) were the only beacon of hope for these hapless seafarers.

Incorporated as a limited liability company on 17 May 1989 to produce LNG and natural gas liquid for export, NLNG enjoyed pioneer status and a 10-year tax holiday. Even after its tax holiday, it refused to willingly pay statutory charges to some agencies of government like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Monday, 1 August 2016

The future of print newspaper

The debate is still raging as to what the future holds for the print newspaper industry as it struggle for survival in this digital age. Not only are newspapers witnessing serious erosion of their fortunes in the face of declining circulation and advertisement revenues, they are also facing tough times competing for online revenue. A survey by Ipsos Group S.A. reveals that only 11% of those who read newspapers online said they would prefer to pay a one-off fee for a mobile application, while 3% of those surveyed said they would opt for a monthly online subscription. Paying for online access per day and per article were the least popular digital options, both recording 1% of all surveyed. 31% said they would not pay for news while it is available elsewhere online for free. An overwhelming 77% said they had no interest whatsoever in paying for news content online. For the 83% that said they had accessed news online in the month before the survey was conducted, the sites of the traditional national newspapers didn’t make the top five.
The top five visited news websites for these users were, in order: BBC News (34%), Google News (17%), Sky News (6%), Yahoo! (5%) and MSN (5%). The majority of those surveyed by YouGov were also reluctant to pay for online content, with 83% saying they would refuse to pay. Only 2% were prepared to shell out for online content in the current format, while a further 4% would pay on the grounds that the content was not available anywhere else.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Dealing with the misguided avengers

When in 2011 the administration of then President Goodluck Jonathan awarded a maritime security contract to Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL), a company controlled by an ex-militant, Government Ekpemukpolo a.k.a Tompolo, many of us raised eyebrows to the danger of such arrangement.
My argument at the time was that it was insane to have conceded our waterways security to a former warlord.
We all remember how Tompolo and his cohorts under the auspices of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) held this country to ransom for several years before a truce was reached with the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua. Granted that by embracing Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme in 2007/2008, the militants got blanket pardon for bearing arms against the Nigerian nation, it was nonetheless foolhardy to hand over the nation’s security system to any of them but that was exactly what Jonathan did when he became President.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Tracking APC's campaign promise on imported vehicles

While addressing a town hall meeting of political stakeholders in Ondo State shortly before the 2015 general election, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, then Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), assured Nigerians that General Muhammadu Buhari’s government – if voted into office – would slash tariffs on imported vehicles.
Osinbajo made the promise in the face of a 350% hike by the PDP government in the Customs duties payable by Nigerians on imported new and fairly used vehicles.
“We do not agree that there should be high tariffs on imported cars whether new or old ones because Nigeria is not producing cars for now.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Citizen Emmanuel Chidi Namdi

In case you missed the story last week, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was a Nigerian killed during a row that broke out in a small Italian town called Fermo.
Fermo, a town of about 37,000 people, is located on a hill at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a natural destination for many African migrants who manage to survive the perils of travelling through the Mediterranean Sea.
Emmanuel’s killing in the Italian west coast town is believed to be racially motivated; more of a hate crime.
The deceased reportedly fled Nigeria with his partner named Chinyery, 24, after their families came under attack from Boko Haram terrorists. The couple’s only child died as they made their way across the Mediterranean Sea late 2015.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Ojo Maduekwe: Exit of a military apologist

In my days as an active reporter, Ojo Maduekwe was one of those I always loved to interview. He spoke good English, was a newsmaker and he regularly courted controversy. One could be sure to always get a good quote from him.
Maduekwe was Obasanjo’s second Minister of Transport. He was first appointed Minister of Culture in 1999 while Kema Chikwe got the Transport portfolio but when the President reshuffled his cabinet in 2001, he moved Chikwe to Aviation and Maduekwe to Transport. He was dubbed Minister of Ports because he frequently visited the ports, especially the ones in Lagos. Those were the days when Nigerian Ports Authority was responsible for cargo handling operations. The port was a mess. Vessel queues, congestion, theft, strikes and the rest were regular features of our ports.

Monday, 27 June 2016

How much land does a man need?

Business school launches you into a new realm. It opens you up to fresh ideas and new thinking. So it was that I gained a lot through the various facilitators during my MBA study at the prestigious Lagos Business School. By the way, LBS is among the top business schools in the world. It is certainly one of the best in Africa.
I particularly enjoyed a course titled Business Law facilitated by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Fabian Ajogwu. In 2002 when I attended an entrepreneurship training programme at Fate Foundation, I had been privileged to learn under Ajogwu. Meeting him again a few years after at LBS was a double blessing.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Taming the monster created by Jonathan

When in 2011 the administration of then President Goodluck Jonathan awarded a maritime security contract to Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL), a company controlled by an ex-militant, Government Ekpemukpolo a.k.a Tompolo, many of us raised eyebrows to the danger of such arrangement.
My argument at the time was that it was insane to have conceded our waterways security to a former warlord.
We all remember how Tompolo and his cohorts under the auspices of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) held this country to ransom for several years before a truce was reached with the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua. Granted that by embracing Yar’Adua’s amnesty programme in 2007/2008, the militants got blanket pardon for bearing arms against the Nigerian nation, it was nonetheless foolhardy to hand over the nation’s security system to any of them but that was exactly what Jonathan did when he became President.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Raymond Temisan Omatseye: Saint, villain or victim?

Shortly before we got down to our tennis doubles friendly match at the Club last week, some folk started the discussion on the conviction of Raymond Temisan Omatseye by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Except one, all of us were maritime industry stakeholders with deep knowledge of the issues at stake. I tried as much as possible to minimize my contribution to the debate because I became a bit close to Omatseye after he left NIMASA. All I felt for Temi after his conviction was pity.

Monday, 6 June 2016

The difference between Amaechi and Idris Umar

Since his assumption of office as Transportation Minister about eight months ago, Rotimi Amaechi has attended up to 10 maritime industry events, mostly seminars and conferences. I had the opportunity of being at some of those events with the most recent being the two-day stakeholders conference on repositioning the maritime industry for sustainable growth organized by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Lagos.

One thing stands Amaechi out at every one of the events – he always arrived on time. Indeed ahead of time!

Monday, 9 May 2016

When the insane are normal, the normal are insane

The wave of media cheerleading for Senate President Bukola Saraki, PDP mouthpiece Olisah Metuh, AIT boss Raymond Dokpesi and others facing trials for alleged corrupt practices is one of those moments that has a lot of us of looking around and wondering if the whole country has gone insane.

After more than 30 people died in a Lekki Gardens building in Lagos and the social media buzzed with #LekkiGardensBuildNotDestroy in solidarity with the promoters of a company accused of using substandard materials and flouting regulatory approval limits, I came to he conclusion that our morality crusade is not only pathetic and wrongheaded but maddening.

With a parasitic coterie of misguided youths promoting #BringBackCorruption trending for days on Twitter, I became convinced we have kissed sanity goodnight.
The Nigerian political elite has made a laughing-stock of the concept of leadership and service, making corruption the "new normal" for the country. Most young Nigerians want to hold political office to grab their own share of the treasury.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Nigeria and the Chinese Trojan Horse

China is investing billions of dollars in Africa but Beijing has been accused of exploiting the continent’s vast mineral and energy resources at the expense of local people.
China has been Africa’s biggest trade partner since 2009. Bilateral trade stood at just under $11 billion in 2000, by 2006 this figure had jumped to nearly $60 billion and last year bilateral trade had soared to $210 billion.
Sino-Nigeria trade volume in the last one year hit $14.94 billion, while China’s non-financial direct investment to Nigeria stood at $1.55 billion by the end 2015.
The trade volume is always in favour of China. Nigeria remains the largest market for Chinese contracted projects, the second largest market for Chinese exports and the third largest trading partner in Africa.
Chinese investment in African countries has also risen some thirty fold in the past ten years. Foreign direct investment went from $500 million in 2003 to almost $15 billion by 2012. And last year, China pledged $20 billion in loans for infrastructure development.
Across our vast continent, there is rising prosperity and terrible poverty, responsible governments and total lawlessness, lush fields and forests and drought-stricken states.
Chinese companies, many of them state-owned, responding to their own immense domestic demand for natural resources, are buying up concessions for African mines and forests.
Since 2005, China’s direct investment across Africa has increased thirty fold, and by 2009, China had replaced the United States of America as Africa’s largest trading partner.
In all of these, a pattern developed: Chinese companies would enter a market and sign lucrative contracts to extract resources and ship them back to Asia. In return they built eye-catching infrastructure projects like soccer stadiums and superhighways. They even built a massive new headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
There was no doubt that these projects have been welcomed by many African leaders and that the Chinese are helping modernize infrastructure in a continent where just 30 percent of the roads are paved. But the Chinese brought their own labourers rather than hire local workers who needed jobs and sustainable incomes, and they paid little attention to the health and development challenges Western nations and international organizations worried about.
I think rather than jubilate over the propose $2b loan from China and the so called Yuan trading deal with Nigeria, Nigerians should because suspicious and read the fine details.
China wants to lend us two billion dollars, but they want to give us in Yuan and not the dollar itself. They are not handling us cash, but service exchange; meaning whatever we want to buy, we buy from Chinese company and they pay the company on our behalf.
If we want to new airport or roads, they will construct them for us and take the money out of the “loan”. In essence, we would have signed off all our capital spendings to China, without the opportunity opening such projects to competitive biddings. Chinese construction workers will then flood Nigeria, as they have always done. They dictate the price and pay the bills on our behalf. At the end of the tenor, they probably would execute projects worth half the price and bill us two billion dollars with rising interests.
Many Nigerians don’t know that even Chinese company don’t want Yuan. The renminbi is an artificial currency that does not carry its real value at anytime, so nobody wants it. Chinese foreign reserve is in dollars with China being the largest holder of US bond.
Nigeria must by all means be careful the kind of loan deal it signs with China so as not to mortgage the future of its unborn generations. African leaders must also review Chinese investment on the continent. Over the long run, investments in Africa should be sustainable and for the benefit of the African people.
Sino-Africa relationship is anything but a win-win. It is heavily skewed in favour of the Chinese and one hopes it won’t be too late before African leaders wake up to this reality.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Sorrows, tears and fuel

But for the bravery of a petrol tanker driver and a conductor, the nation’s number one airport, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, would have turned into a disaster zone at the height of the petrol crisis about two weeks ago.
The driver of a fully-laden petroleum tanker put his life on the line by driving his contraption far away from the midst of others awaiting loading at a petroleum jetty around the airport after discovering that it had caught fire.
Had he not acted in good time, the fire would have spread to other tankers and a major tragedy would have befallen the nation. Even at that, the fire razed three other tankers and a stationary saloon car. But the airport was spared and no live was lost.
But a father and his two daughters were not as lucky as they lost their lives in an inferno – another aftermath of the fuel crisis – on April 6 in Lagos. Indeed that fateful Wednesday witnessed a harvest of tragedies across the Lagos metropolis as five persons were killed in separate fire incidents in Shomolu Oja and Ikotun areas of the state.
Alhaji Kamorudeen Ajibade, 65 years old; his daughters, Wuraola, 19 years old, and Shakirat, 15-year-old, were consumed in an explosion at about 10pm at Shomolu Oja while the man was trying to refuel his generating set to provide electricity for the family since national supply is practically non-existent.
The children died trying to rescue their father who got trapped after the explosion as he tried to refuel the family generator. Luckily his wife, Rachael Ajibade, was able to escape the inferno with the last child of the family.
The deceased’s younger brother, Oriade Ajibade, captured the reasons for the unnecessary deaths declaring that, “If there was no fuel scarcity, this could have been averted. It was the fuel scarcity that caused the incident.”
No fuel, no light. Welcome to 21st century Nigeria.
I remember a very good friend and former Principal Manager, Legal, Western Ports of Nigerian Ports Authority, Mrs. Lucy Damachi-Itam lost her life in the same manner last year. A very jovial and unassuming woman, Lucy was one of the driving forces behind the Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) and the now-scrapped Port Industry Anticorruption Standing Committee (PIACSC). She departed in a most tragic manner, leaving behind an only son, whose father died few years earlier. If she didn’t have to be her own electricity firm, Lucy would still be alive and kicking.
The same day Alhaji Ajibade and his daughters died, a bed-ridden man seeking spiritual cure at the Synagogue Church of All Nation was also burnt to death in a hotel in Ikotun area.
Because there was no light and the hotel did not have fuel to run their generator, the man, identified as Felix Ifeanyi, reportedly lit a candle. After going to bed, the burning candle reportedly fell on the furniture resulting in an inferno that claimed his life.
Same Wednesday in Festac Town, in Amuwo Odofin area of Lagos State, some operatives of the Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), opened fire on some youths hawking fuel, killing one of them in cold blood.
The question as to why these reckless officers would use firearms on unarmed youths is still begging for answer. Yet none of these officials have been arrested for the heinous crime.
A day before the harvest of deaths of Lagos, an Army personnel narrowly escaped death on the Oshodi – Apapa expressway after his Toyota Camry saloon car – with a keg full of petrol in the boot – exploded. He was lucky to jump out of the car before the explosion.
On Friday of the same week, seven people also lost their lives in Akwa Ibom State as a result of a fire incident caused by poor storage of fuel. The inferno, which occurred at about 2am in Uyo, claimed the lives of a woman, her three children and three grandchildren of the landlady of the compound where they lived.
The landlady, Monica Effiong, and a tenant, Emmanuel, were fortunate to have been rescued alive.
In one week therefore, fuel scarcity in Nigeria claimed at least twelve lives with many other homes thrown into grieves.
Nigerians are groaning in pains. No light. No fuel. No money.
Without reliable and steady power supply, ours has become a generator-driven economy, so without adequate fuel supply, the real sector goes into a slumber. Little wonder youth unemployment is high. And with high youth unemployment, security of lives and property becomes a huge challenge.
Aside those who lost their lives under these tragic circumstances, many more have died economically while the country’s fuel and electricity crises persist.
It is good President Buhari says he is aware of the pains of Nigerians. But this is not enough. Nigerians want an end to their miseries.
The Boston Consulting Group recently ranked Nigeria 142 out of 149 countries in its ability to convert wealth into well being for the citizens. This highlights the urgency to address challenges for the country to prosper over the long term. Nigeria is badly in need of policy actions that can put the country back on the path of sustainable growth. Economic magicians are needed urgently.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

As Nigeria descends into darkness again

Nigerians have been through very tough times these past six months. Last week’s Easter was observed with little or no activities by many families across the country largely due to economic hardship. It was Easter in darkness – no light, no money to buy food and no fuel to power generators. Many spent their Easter holiday on fuel queues at the petrol station. To compound their woes they paid more than twice the official rate to acquire much-needed premium motor spirit for vehicles and generators. The fuel scarcity was exacerbated by the careless and reckless comments credited to Minister of State for Petroleum, IbeKachikwu, who declared that fuel scarcity would persist for another two months.
Confronted by a battalion of reporters to tell them when he hopes the nation would get out of the latest cycle of fuel crisis, the minister, who doubles as the helmsman of the national oil corporation blurted out: “One of the training I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away”. Amazing, isn’t it? He has since recanted though but the situation is not any better.
Worse still, Nigerians – thanks to Minister BabatundeFashola – are compelled to pay 45% more for the electricity they hardly get to use.
Few weeks into his Presidency, every sector of the economy sprang back to life. The naira firmed up to the dollar and other major currencies. Fuel queues disappeared, even without payment of the contentious fuel subsidy by the federal government. The nation’s major refineries located in Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt all sprang back to life collectively churning out over 10 million litres of petrol daily, representing a third of local consumption needs.
Shouts of “Sai Baba”, “SaiBuhari” rented the air as Nigerians hailed their choice of new president.
Electricity became stable in many parts of the country with power generation hitting 4,500 megawatts – an unprecedented high from an abysmal low of 750MW inherited from his predecessor.
Piracy, oil theft and other criminal activities on our waterways plummeted. Zero attack was recorded on the nation’s waterways during this period. The story is now different. Pirates are back in their full element. Oil theft is no longer worth the risk so they hijack ships and hold crewmembers for ransom. No fewer than four ships have been attacked this year with sailors taken hostage. They target all vessel types including containerships, tugs and oil tankers.
The naira has suffered the worst attack in its history, exchanging at 320 to the dollar. What is more, there is dollar scarcity, no thanks to a steep drop in foreign exchange earnings. Trade is suffering due to inability of importers and exporters to access foreign exchange. Volumes across our ports have dropped by more than 35% with attendant job losses across the spectrum. In the aviation sector, local airlines are groaning while the foreign ones have doubled their charges. The manufacturing sector is in a state of coma as several manufacturers have closed shop. They simply cannot cope with the multiple challenges of lack of access to foreign exchange, lack of electricity, lack of fuel and stifling government policies. No fewer than five million jobs are at stake.
Our stock market has sank to the bottom of global ranking, emerging one of the worst in the world with a daily loss of billions of naira as foreign investors pull out their funds.
Civil servants and public officers are not left out of the hardship, as at least 27 of our 36 states struggle to pay salaries to their workers.
At 11.38%, inflation is now at a five-year high. The purchasing power of Nigerians has been dreadfully impaired.
At USD27.88billion, there are concerns over the rapid depletion of the nation’s external reserves, from which the Central Bank of Nigeria pulls funds to defend the national currency.
On the security front, Nigerians are still to experience much-needed change. While major successes have been recorded against insurgents of the Boko Haram stock, kidnappings and killings of several innocent Nigerians remain sore points for the administration. High level of youth unemployment, incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and their host communities and suicide bombings in parts of the Northeast require new creative thinking by the present administration.
The situation of the country at present reminds Nigerians of the dark days of the Jonathan administration. It is hard to forget Jonathan’s last Monday in office. 25th May 2015 was the day Nigeria was practically brought to its knees by the skullduggery and ineptitude of that administration. It was a black day that would be permanently etched on the psyche of many Nigerians. That day was a fitting description of everything Jonathan’s five-and-a-half year regime typified – total darkness. We all remember how banks had to shut down their operations, no light, no fuel, no money.
Nigerians yearn for complete departure from that past.

Monday, 21 March 2016

NIMASA: 10 DGs in 16 years

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is at the heart of the growth and development of the nation’s maritime industry. NIMASA is responsible for not only regulating shipping activities and docklabour but also for developing Nigerian tonnage. Unfortunately, the agency has consistently failed to deliver on its mandate since inception. The failure of NIMASA is the failure of the maritime industry and a disservice to the Nigerian economy.
Two factors stand out strongly for the failure of NIMASA over the years. One is leadership instability while the other is the undue politicization of appointments into the board and top management positions of the agency. The offices of the Director-General and those of the Executive Directors have been most hit by politics. Before the appointment of Patrick Akpobolokemi as head of the agency in December 2010, there had been too frequent changes in the leadership of NIMASA, with an average tenure of 1.57 years for each Director-General. From May 1999, when the nation returned to democratic governance to date, NIMASA has had 10 Directors-General with an average tenure of one year seven months each.
In the history of the nation’s apex maritime regulatory body – former known as the National Maritime Authority (NMA) but now known as NIMASA consequent upon the fusion of the NMA with the defunct Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) on 1st August 2006 – only two people have been appointed from within the organisation as substantive CEOs. The first was John Egesi. Unfortunately, Egesi spent barely three months in office before he was thrown out in 1999 as a result of series of political intrigues. The second was Dr. Ade Dosunmu who served as DG/CEO from May 2007 to July 2009. In between Egesi and Dosunmu’s, Enugu-born politicians had a field day as they contended with each other for headship of the agency with George Eneh taking over from Egesi. He was in office for less than a year before his replacement by Ferdinand Agu. Agu had the fortune of heading the agency for over four years. The Cabotage Act was passed during his tenure but after he allegedly fell out with then Governor of his state, ChimarokeNnamani, he was replaced by Festus Ugwu of blessed memory. After Ugwu came the creation of NIMASA and the appointment of MfonUsoro – the first female DG – on 1st August 2016. Usoro’s tenure lasted for barely nine months before the appointment of Dr. Dosumu in May 2007. By July 2009, another political power group had emerged paving the way for Dosumu’s replacement by TemiOmatseye. 18 months into Omatseye’s four-year tenure and with the demise of President UmaruYar’Adua in 2010, yet another power block emerged. Omatseye was kicked out, paving the way for Patrick Akpobolokemi who had the fortunate of completing his first four-year term and of a reappointment by his fellow Ijaw kinsman, President Goodluck Jonathan. With Jonathan losing the presidential election in 2015 to MuhammaduBuhari, it was clear that Akpobolokemi’s days in office were numbered. By August 2015, his second four-year term came to an inglorious end, eight months after.
The leadership instability at NIMASA – a function of the brazen pursuit of powerful individuals to seize control of the agency in order to control its enormous resources – has led to underdevelopment of the maritime industry.
NIMASA is struggling because there has been undue over-politicization of appointments into its Board and Executive Management at the expense of professionals and to the detriment of proper policy formulation, growth and development of the shipping sector.
The politicians have no respect for the law setting up the agency. Appointments of the agency heads were done in clear contravention of the NIMASA Act of 2007. The intrigues and power play that characterized appointments and removals of NIMASA chief executives in the past followed the same pattern and until this trend is halted, meaningful progress may yet be far from the maritime sector.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Friendship turbulence and selective mutism

Those who live amidst the excitements of the capital have no idea of the many experiences familiar to the inhabitants of the villages and small towns.
Transport Minister Rotimi Ameachi is eager to make a mark in the maritime industry but I think he is going about it the wrong way.
Amaechi has become a frequent visitor to maritime events in Lagos where he lashes out at the staff of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) every time he grabs the microphone.
I understand Amaechi’s disdain for the agency but I think his disagreement with former President Jonathan and everything the former administration stood for should not becloud his sense of judgment and capacity to make sound decisions.
We all know that NIMASA, at the twilight of the general election that produced President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, overstepped its bound. The former head of the agency dabbled into the murky waters of politics. Akpobolokemi was alleged to have also financed some of the political campaigns of his erstwhile principal. But Akpobolokemi has since been thrown out of NIMASA and is currently facing trials for the series of allegations against him. The point I’m trying to make here is that Amaechi needs to separate the leadership of NIMASA under the past regime from the core of hardworking and loyal public officers and professionals in that agency.
By constantly lambasting NIMASA, Amaechi demoralises these diligent public officers who were in fact the whistle blowers that brought the atrocities of the past leadership of the agency to the attention of Nigerians. They wrote petitions, they pushed out documents and campaigned vigorously for change. They campaigned for APC. NIMASA staff turned against the former regime and they worked very hard to bring about change. It was jubilation galore at the Maritime House when Buhari was declared winner of the presidential election, with shouts of Sai Baba and Sai Buhari renting the air.
Perhaps the Minister is not aware that NIMASA staff loathe the contract awarded to Tompolo’s company for the provision of maritime security under the past regime. While Amaechi and other broom carriers busied themselves trying to sweep umbrellas away from the seat of power, NIMASA staff vigorously fought against the maritime security contract and the establishment of a NIMASA school, NIMASA shipyard and Maritime University all in one local government area of Delta State.
NIMASA staff and Amaechi are on the same page as far as repositioning the agency is concerned. They have a common adversary which has been successfully swept out of power and the least Amaechi can do is work with these patriotic Nigerians to reposition the agency. They feel hurt that the government they helped enthrone is turning against them.
Amaechi has also spoken frequently about his “group of friends”. He alluded to this group as if it were a magic wand descending from outer space with some mystical formula to solve the maritime industry’s problems. I think that is a completely wrong approach by Minister Amaechi. No one knows the challenges – and I daresay solutions – of the industry better than the practitioners. He who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. Amaechi should forget about his hangers on. They have nothing to offer this industry. There are tons of resources he can rely on at NIMASA and within the industry to achieve desired outcomes. He doesn’t even need any committee to reinvent the wheel. There are abundant recommendations on how to enhance port efficiency, reforms, boost indigenous participation in the carriage of Nigeria’s inbound and outbound cargoes, increase use of the inland waterways for public transportation, effectively implement the Cabotage Law and generally boost the development of the maritime industry. All the recommendations are there.
Among such recommendations is the one by a Presidential Committee set up by Jonathan after a two-day long presidential retreat at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in July 2012.
The retreat with the theme “Harnessing the Potentials of Nigeria’s Maritime Sector for Sustainable Economic Development” was well attended by industry stakeholders and economic experts. It extensively discussed ways the maritime industry could be repositioned to play greater role in the economic well being of the country. After the retreat, the former President set up a committee to create a road map for the development of the maritime industry. The committee concluded its assignment within six months and made robust recommendations to government. But that was the last we heard of it.
The maritime industry is where it is today not for lack of developmental ideas but because government has not deemed it fit to implement far-reaching recommendations painstakingly put together by experts and stakeholders.
Amaechi can hit the ground running by calling for the report and implementing the recommendations. And he should look inwards in repositioning the maritime industry. That was my recommendation to the APC Transition Committee last year. We don’t need the minister’s “friends” to come compound our problems. We have highly respected experts at the various agencies including NIMASA and within the wider maritime sector with capacity to do the needful.
On Dakuku Peterside? No comment.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Amaechi's quest for a new national carrier

The promise by the present government to float a new national carrier is nothing new. The past regime promised same but failed to deliver. Former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi announced mid-2014 at a public forum in Lagos that he had been given matching orders by then President Goodluck Jonathan to float a national career within six months. We all expected a new national shipping line by end of 2014 but alas, none came until that government was thrown out and Akpobolokemi booted out of office six months ago.
The plan to float a new national carrier is good but it is important to remind the powers that be of pitfalls to avoid for the survival of the new venture.
Excessive interference by top government officials played an important role in the eventual demise of defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL). Because it was seen as a cash cow, Federal Ministry of Transport officials found every excuse to meddle in its affairs and thus circumvent important decisions.
The management of NNSL was changed as often as Transport Ministry officials liked. Every NNSL Managing Director who was seen as uncooperative by the Ministry officials soon found himself in the labour market. Frequent changes in the management were not for the right reasons and management programmes for turning round the shipping line were not given due consideration. The company and government could not react without delay to situations dictated by market and technological changes or development in the trade.
For instance, it took the Federal Government almost five years to approve the tonnage expansion programme and modernization of NNSL ships in the seventies. Perhaps the post civil war demands contributed to this. By the time the vessels were eventually built and introduced into the market, a measure of obsolesce had set into the original concept. It took another five years to convince the government about the need to phase out the 19 combo vessels with a view to introducing appropriate vessels that were technologically up to date as well as meeting market demands. Other decisions such as rationalization of staff were dictated by government policies rather than sound business judgment.
Another major factor which compounded NNSL’s woes especially in the 1980s and 1990s was that services performed for other arms of the Nigerian government by the company were not paid in time. Such services rendered by NNSL vessels to government were paid for in local currency while the company racked up operational expenses incurred in foreign currency.
NNSL ships played vital role in moving troops and materials into Liberia during the operation of the Nigeria-led Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which was established in 1990 to restore peace to Liberia during its civil war. Not a dime was paid for this service.
Accumulated debts of NNSL to trade creditors originated from government’s failure to pay NNSL for the shipment of government project materials such as Aluminium Smelter Company, Ajaokuta and Alaja Steel projects. Efforts made by the management of the company to diversify into ancillary activities such as terminal operations, clearing and forwarding, oil tanker operation etc were not approved.
Regular changes in the headship of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the company brought inconsistency in its focus and vision.
Former leaders of NNSL that I spoke with agreed that government interference was a major stumbling block for the operation of the company.
Gerald Chidi told me sometimes ago that during his tenure as Managing Director of the NNSL from 1990 to 1993, he worked under four different Ministers of Transport while his successor who served for only two years from 1993 to 1995 also served under four Ministers of Transport.
Certainly, every Minister of Transport came with his own agenda and ideas on how to run the ministry with its parastatals which included NNSL.
“In some cases, changes in the headship of the company were engineered by officials of the Ministry (not necessarily by the Minister) for selfish reasons. It is this type of situation that a one-time Chief Executive of one of the parastatals who happened to be a retired General of the Army had in mind when he once said that the relationship between the supervisory Ministry and its parastatals could be likened to that of a military commander who sent a platoon of soldiers to capture a location and also deliberately sent another platoon of his soldiers to ambush the other platoon to ensure a failure of that assignment. This analogy is very apt,” Chidi said.
As at the time it was drafted into the ECOMOG Liberia mission in 1990, NNSL was already in deep financial mess. Several of the company’s vessels have been seized in different parts of the world for alleged breach of contracts and unpaid bills.
In 1994, late Head of State, General Sanni Abacha approved the direct injection of cash into NNSL to enable it pay its creditors and secure release of some of its ships. The late dictator approved $45 million and another $20 million for NNSL but as a matter of fact, this act pushed the last nail into the company’s coffin. This was so because of avarice of some officials who colluded with outsiders to defraud the company as much as they could.
By early 1995, all of the vessels owned by NNSL had either been sold as scraps or downright shipwrecked without any hope of redemption.
In September 1995, the Minister of Transport, Major General Ibrahim Gumel shut down the operation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL after 36 years. He appointed Captain Cosmos Niagwan as Liquidator of the company.
The NNSL story is a reminder to the decision makers of today that government has no business being in business.
While one applauds the renewed attempt to float a new shipping line, it should purely be a private sector driven venture with government’s role being that of providing an enabling environment.
I strongly recommend the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) model for structure of the new national carrier. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owns 49% of NLNG while Shell, Total and ENI own 25.6%, 15% and 10.4% of the entity respectively. A structure like this has ensured the buy-in and ownership of the NLNG project by critical industry stakeholders.
My suggestion therefore will be that the NNPC, which is the cargo owner that the new national carrier is targeting, should own 25% share, indigenous ship owners should own 49% through their recognised groups while three oil majors – it could be the three mentioned above – should own the remaining 26% share.
The Federal Ministry of Transport or any of its agencies cannot own shares in the new venture. The Ministry’s role in the entire arrangement should be that of a facilitator in line with its mandate of promoting shipping development in the country.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Boni Yayi: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Benin Republic is a parasite, feeding fat on Nigeria. For emphasis, a parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. At the death of the host organism, the parasite creeps out in search of another.
Benin Republic feeds off Nigeria’s nutrition and their uncanny President very much knows this hence his regular trips to Abuja to massage the ego of every sitting Nigerian President.
He visited Goodluck Jonathan every other month while he visited President Buhari for the 5th time in six months on Thursday 14th January. No Nigerian state governor has visited the President this much.
Boni Yayi’s government turns the blind eye while his countrymen wreak havoc on Nigeria’s economy through unbridled smuggling and several other economic crimes.
Benin Republic under Boni Yayi plays the spoiler role for Nigeria, taking advantage of our huge population at the detriment of our economy.
Under Boni Yayi, Cotonou Port became Nigeria’s biggest seaport. Yayi himself has described his country as Nigeria’s 37th state.
Chicken and rice – the most popular pairing in Nigerian cuisine – find their way into this country from Cotonou. More than 80% of these commodities are landed in the Port of Cotonou – a port facility purposely built so close to the Nigerian border at Seme – and smuggled with the active connivance with Benin Republic Customs and other agencies into Nigeria.
When Nigeria was collecting 20% tariff on imported vehicles, Benin Republic dropped its own to as low as 5%. The idea was to lure Nigerian importers to the francophone country to use Cotonou Port. The trick worked. As much as half of the vehicles used in Nigeria were imported through that country but the permutation took a turn for the worse when Nigeria in 2013 raised tariffs on imported vehicles to 70%. Nigeria immediately lost more than 80% of its vehicle cargoes to its unsympathetic neighbour.
The Nigeria Customs Service under its former Comptroller-General, Dikko Abdullahi, tried to stem this tide by entering into agreement with the Beninoise Customs. The agreement stipulated that every vehicle finding its way into Nigeria from Cotonou would be escorted by Benin Customs and handed over at the border post to Nigeria Customs officials. That way, the vehicles would be tracked to avoid being smuggled into the country and Nigeria would be able to charge and collect appropriate import duties on them. But the guys from Benin willingly bungled the agreement. It is not in their interest for such arrangement to work.
Everyday, you see thousands of Beninoise smuggle rice, frozen chicken and turkey into Nigeria. They smuggle these in bits and pieces on their heads, some on bicycles, tricycles and cars. Some daring big time use trucks and drive in late at night. Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh said recently that the kind of rice and other edibles coming into our country through Benin is not fit for consumption by even pigs.
Less than 20% of the chicken Nigerians eat come from Nigeria. The rest come from Cotonou port and sneaks over the border onto our shelves.
Tiny Benin Republic, with a total population that is about half of Lagos State imports as much rice as China and nearly as much frozen chicken as the whole of U.K. Its target is Nigeria with its huge burgeoning population.
Our automotive policy and rice importation policy have failed woefully and Benin is reaping bountifully. The tariff on imported rice was increased to 110 per cent to encourage Nigerians to farm and grow rice but ended up encouraging massive smuggling from neighbouring countries because they immediately crashed theirs to 10 per cent. The obnoxious rice policy is said to be leading to a daily loss of over N1billion to the Nigerian economy. Ditto the automotive policy and others. The policies are a curse to this nation.
Importers of rice and shipping lines no longer come to our ports. Rice was a major commodity at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa but the general cargo terminals have since dried up. The roll-on-roll-off terminals have also dried up. The ships that should come to our ports are all diverted to these neighbouring ports and the commodity is smuggled in bits and pieces into Nigeria while our customs officials look the other way.
As he enters into the twilight of his administration, Boni Yayi has done very well for his people but we must place on record that he is not a friend to Nigeria. He comes to the Villa as a friend but he is actually playing a role inimical to Nigeria’s economic well being. May we therefore never see another like him. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The thief, the rich and the public service rot

When I think of the downtrodden who labour day in day out to make ends meet, I begin to wonder what goes into the heads of those guys who use their positions to steal and loot public funds. These shallow-minded fake ‘big men’ not only use their positions to amass wealth they’ll never need in their entire lives, they also abuse and oppress the very people they are elected or appointed to serve.
The recent revelations coming out of the trial of former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is mind-boggling. Many NIMASA staff who knew all along that something was amiss while Akpobolokemi reigned supreme at the Maritime House could not, for the life of them, imagine the level of sleaze in that agency. What with a fashion design paid over N500million for doing nothing and without even submitting any request for contract? This happened at a time the agency staff were owed salaries and allowances.
Akpobolokemi came into NIMASA from a very modest background. He came preaching and sermonising. Every one of his public speeches was preceded by a homily of sort. He would talk about patriotism, the need for prudence, accountability, transparency, fear of God et al.
He slashed the DG office imprest by more than half when he assumed office shortly after his appointment in December 2010. He vowed to fight corruption and entrench Nigerian interests in shipping via strict implementation of the Cabotage Law.
I think he failed on both scores.
Until his disengagement in July 2015, Akpobolokemi rose to become one of the most powerful, controversial and divisive public officials Nigeria has seen in recent times.
He was loved by a few, hated by many. Many employees of the apex maritime regulatory body saw him as unapologetically biased toward his Ijaw ethnic group and sought to turn NIMASA into a second Niger Delta Ministry in defiance of the Federal Character principle. Some others saw him as an overbearing, arrogant man who didn’t care to carry people outside his ethnic stock along. He bestrode the maritime industry like an imperial potentate for 55 dramatic months. He enjoyed direct access to former President Goodluck Jonathan and woe betide any Minister that dared to stand in his way. Yusuf Suleiman was fired as Minister of Transport in 2011 over disagreements with Akpobolokemi. Idris Umar, who succeeded Suleiman cleverly avoided any direct confrontations with the man popularly called Akpos by NIMASA staff. Akpos had the world at his feet.
Several speakers and writers have tried to trace the root of the lootocracy that has eaten deep into the fabric of our public service.
Some have blamed the rot on the steps taken by the regime of former military ruler, the late Gen Murtala Mohammed.
According to this school of thought, the civil service reforms initiated by the then Mohammed-led administration should be blamed for the massive corruption in the public service.
“What happened to the civil service is the handiwork of the military. A typical civil servant back then obeyed financial regulations, general order and civil service rules. And they had targets for each ministry. A civil servant wants to work until his retirement age. He builds his house little by little, he is satisfied.
“But what happened? In 1976, this man Murtala came and started that tsunami. He retired and dismissed people at will. He was just sacking people in the name of reforms. So a new orientation came, it was the fear of the unexpected sack or retirement that led to this corruption.
“Today you see permanent secretaries building hotels everywhere and HoS acquiring property in choice areas. The political class too whether military or civilians are worse. They take their own and civil servants follow suit because nobody can take anything out of the treasury without civil servants knowing,” according to a retired former permamanent secretary in Ogun State, Alhaji Oyewole Egbeyemi.
So let us, for the sake of argument accept that this happened 40 years ago? I think forty is a really long time, long enough to correct observed anomalies in a system. Shall we resign ourselves to fate and throw up our hands in despair while a few who are lucky to get into positions loot the nation dry?
The suffering of the masses and the dysfunctional state of public utilities and infrastructure in the country today is a direct consequence of high level corruption.
Now is the time to change the system and make it impermissible for the kind of thievery and impunity we have seen in Nigeria since the return of civil rule in 1999.
I think our government must work on creating work environments that will make it impossible for anyone to steal. Value reorientation should start from elementary school and should be sustained all through key stages of life. Nigeria must instill a sense of responsibility in its people to discourage corruption from all angles. Parents and teachers should educate their children about corruption and its adverse effects on the society.
The anti-corruption units established during the Obasanjo era should be made effective and dynamic. They should be reconstituted and populated with honest officials to check the corruption from the lowest level to the top of every government agency.
A whistle blower protection law is also important not only to reward but also to protect government officials who expose corruption where they work.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Cadet life on the flip side

The rain stopped as Jude turned into the road that went up through the football field; coming out on to a narrow street.
There was the bungalow, better still the face-me-I-face you house with the faded painting on its wall and zinc roof. 
As Jude entered into the narrow passage, passing by stoves, woods, buckets and all manners of household items, he almost choked from nausea.
Three rooms down to his left, he tapped on the door gently.
“Well, Jude,” Kura said as he opened the door.
“Hey man. How you day?” Jude said, moving into the room.
They shook hands and embraced each other. 
“It’s cold and dry today. Not my kind of weather,” Jude said.
“It’s the harmattan wind. It’ll blow like that for a few days,” Kura said.
“Is your dad in?” Jude asked.
“No. He has gone to his shop. Come on sit.”
Jude sits on a section of the only three-seater in the room. The chair has seen better days.
“Do you have a drink,” he said.
Kurt went out to the kitchen and came back with two glasses and a bottle of local gin popularly called ogogoro.
“Is this alright?” He asked.
“Very good,” Jude said.
Kura placed the drink and glasses on the table standing between the three-seater and the bed, sitting across Jude on the bed. They drank.
Jude stretched out his legs on the centre table.
“Better take your shoes off,” Kura said.
“It’s cold and I’m not wearing any socks.”
“Well, you can’t put your shoes on the table. My parents eat on this table.”
“Can you turn the TV on,” Jude said.
“No light,” Kura said.
“Got anything to read?” he asked.
“Only an old sports newspaper.”  
“I’m not celebrating José Mourinho’s sack. I think it will affect Chelsea’s fortunes,” Jude said.
“The chosen one had to go,” Kura said.
“No one is perfect. He had his flaws but he’s still one of the best in the world,” Jude said.
“His ill-judged and inexcusable attack on the medical team after and opening draw with Swansea offered the first indication that he was losing control,” Kura said.
“I heard he left Stamford Bridge cursing. That’s not good for the team,” Jude said.
“Some said he left weeping. Anyhow, it’s not his first sack. Who knows, he might be back again someday.”
“If Man U does not snatch him.”
“They may have already known that Pep Guardiola was heading for Manchester City but now that football’s worst-kept secret is out, Manchester United have a serious question to answer in terms of their response to their noisy neighbours’ major coup.”
“Now is the time to swallow their pride and hand Jose Mourinho the job he’s been longing for.”
“But how can Man U fans who hated him at Chelsea now so desperately want him to be their next manager?’
Kura reached down the local gin bottle. His big hand went all the way around it. He poured into the glass Nick held out.
“Let’s get drunk.”
“All right,” Jude agreed.
“My old man won’t care,” Kura said.
“Are you sure?” Nick said.
“I know it,” Kura said.
“I’m a little drunk now,” Jude said.
He drained his glass. Got up and stretched like a wild cat. He held out his glass. Kura filled it.
“There’s just one more shot,” he said.
“Got any more?” Jude asked.
“There’s plenty more but dad only likes me to drink what’s open.”
“Sure,” Jude said.
“He says opening bottles is what makes drunkards,” Kura explained.
“That’s right,” said Jude. He was impressed. He had never thought of that before. He had always thought it was solitary drinking that made drunkards.
“How’s your dad?” he asked respectfully.
“He’s all right,” Kura said. He gets a little wild sometimes.”
“He’s a swell guy,” Jude said. He poured the last shot of gin into Kura’s empty glass.
“You bet your life he is,” Kura said.
“My old man’s all right,” Jude said.
“You’re damn right he is,” said Kura.
“He claims he’s never taken a drink in his life,” Jude said, as though announcing a scientific fact.
“Well, he’s a civil servant. A public officer. A court clerk at that. My old man’s a carpenter. That’s different.”
“He’s missed a lot,” Jude said sadly.
“You can’t tell,” Kura said. “Everything’s got its compensations.”
“He says he’s missed a lot himself. He’s spent all his life working for government,” Jude confessed.
“Well, my dad has had a tough time,” Kura said.
“It all evens up,” Jude said.
Kura brought another bottle of whisky. They sat drinking and talking some more.
“I really wish I could go back to school,” Kura said.
“I wish I could too. But we can’t,” Jude said.
“They won’t admit us to complete our training until we acquire seatime experience,” said Kura.
“But how do we acquire seatime experience when there are no ships for training or ships owned by Nigerians?” asked Jude.
“For the past five years since after my ND and that I’ve been at home, I’ve asked the same question everyday,” said Kura.
“You’re lucky. I finished my ND seven years ago. Can’t get a job. Can’t get a ship to do mandatory seatime. Can’t go back to school. Tough luck,” Jude said.
“Our counterparts in other parts of the world are already neck deep into their careers; making a living and supporting their families. We have to make it too. Any how. Any way,” Kura said as he got up slowly. He opened a small cupboard not far from the window. He brought out two locally made pistols neatly concealed in a brown ankara wrapper. He was now quite drunk but his head was clear. He could think clearly.
“How do you feel?” Jude asked, feeling quite drunk himself.
“Swell. I’ve just got a good edge on,” Kura said, buttoning his shirt.
“It’s good to be drunk,” said Jude.
“You can say that again,” Kura said as he downed the last shot from his glass. He handed one of the pistols to Jude who tucked it neatly into the back of his trouser.
“Now we need to go outdoors and make a living,” Jude said.
“Sure sure. Where today?” asked Kura.
“The traffic should be building on Eko Bridge by now,” Jude said.