At the beginning of every year, DAILY TREND NEWS would be pointing maritime stakeholders to certain areas to watch out for in the course of the year. In this piece written by DAPO OLAWUNI, we tried to beam searchlight on certain agencies, personalities and places in the maritime industry that we expect to make a mark this year for the sector to move forward.
Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA)
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has been in the eyes of the storm since its incumbent president, Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike took over the reins from Prince Olayiwola Shittu in 2018
The protracted crisis in the association was as a result of bad blood caused by the elections that brought in Tony Iju. Some of the chapter chairmen were not ready to accept him as President, some even alleged that he never had a qualified practicing license and also alleged that his election was rigged.
The matter was made worse when the National Executive Committee (NECOM) in December 2018 suspended all the Western Zone Chairmen, except the Muritala Muhammed Airport chapter chairman, who was a loyalist.
However, all these drama is now a thing of the past as Tony Iju in December 2019 recalled back the sacked executives and officials in order to allow peace rein. It is pertinent to note that while the ANLCA crisis lasted, her members suffered greatly in the hands of government agencies, especially Nigeria Customs Service.
Policies that ordinarily they would have kicked against were forced down their throats because they could not speak in one voice.
ANLCA is one of the bodies to look out for in year 2020 because, since the recall of all the sacked executives, nothing meaningful has happened in the association. One expects that by now, the association would have returned back to its usual self as it was in the days of Prince Olayiwola Shittu. The NECOM is silent on the myriads of challenges confronting their members inside the port.
We can only pray that ANLCA gets its bearings back and the gladiators should allow total peace permeate the association, even as all eyes are now fixed on the Tin Can Port Chapter where an election is expected to take place any time soon.
Apart from the expectations of elections at Tin Can Chapter, the tension in ANLCA is also apparent because its Board of Trustees (BOT) elections would also be held in February 2020. Recall that the power tussle in the BOT was one of the major virus that has eaten the association up. The 9-members of the board were tearing at each other’s throats over who should become Chairman of board! Thank God that their tenure have now elapsed and all of them would now be sent packing in order to allow ANLCA enjoy peace and tranquility. The election would be conducted this February by Tony Iju.
Senator Gbemi Saraki
Dr. Gbemi Saraki is Nigeria’s Minister of State for Transportation. Prior to her appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister on 21st August 2019, she had served in several house committees when she was in the house of Representatives, and at various Senate Committees at the Senate. Her most recent was
Chairperson Senate Committee on Marine Transport.
When she was appointed, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had informed stakeholders that Gbemisola Saraki will supervise activities in the Nigerian Maritime Sector in her capacity as the Minister of State Transportation, while Amechi will focus on the railway sector.
While we salute Saraki’s determination to leave indelible footprints on the nation’s maritime industry, one cannot but observe there is still a large disconnect between her and the maritime stakeholders. We expect that by now, she would have visited the ports, organize an interactive session with stakeholders in order to feel their pulse. In this year 2020, we expect more from our beautiful Minister of State for Transportation.
While insisting on the need for stakeholders to ensure she is adequately and rightly informed, she on her part must become more accessible this year and more visible to the maritime stakeholders.
Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN)
The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN)
under the chairmanship of Abubakar Tsanni can well be described as “all motion without movement”
The board was inaugurated by Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi in November 2018 with a two years tenure. By end of this year 2020, the board members should be on their way out.
Fears expressed by maritime stakeholders is that the two years would pass away without them achieving anything order than the Hilux jeeps that were given to various committee chairmen to cruse around town. The CRFFN had announced last year that any freight forwarder without a minimum qualification of Diploma Certificate would no longer be allowed to practice. To what extent it would be implementing this directive is yet to be determined.
The Council is yet to come up with an updated register of freight forwarders, issue identity cards to freight forwarders, even as the collection of the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF) a major source of revenue for the council is yet to commence effectively.
The fact also remains that, the CRFFN board members were not getting enough money to throw around as they had envisaged before going into the Council. Amaechi was alleged to have delayed collection of the POF which many of them have their eyes upon.
CRFFN Chairman, Tsanni Abubakar and his Vice Chairman of the board, Chief Henry Njokwu confirmed last year that the Council was broke and that even the retreat it managed to hold in Dubai was sponsored by a private company.
The board members were also reported to be having tough time dealing with the Registrar of the Council, Barr Samuel Nwakohu. This year 2020 would determine a lot in the life of the CRFFN.
There are also alleged underground moves by the government to amend the CRFFN Act, thereby sweeping it away completely from maritime stakeholders.
Meanwhile, CRFFN was not designed originally to be a government agency. There is still hope for CRFFN on this though, as founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr Boniface Aniebonam has vowed to resist this clandestine move to hijack the Council from freight forwarders.
Aniebonam was one of the brains behind establishment of CRFFN and he has insisted that the Council is not a government agency.
Apapa Ports Access Road Construction
Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Minister, Works and Housing has assured that the ongoing construction of port access roads in Apapa Lagos would be completed by the end of 2020.
Apapa gridlock has over the years become an extortion point for security agencies.
Maritime stakeholders, especially truck drivers who are made to part with huge sum of N150,000 before they are allowed passage into the port.
This disturbing trend has increased the cost of transportation of cargoes from the port by 100%. According to the clearing agents, transporting a 40foot container from the port hitherto was N100,000 but now it is costing N800,000.
However, concerned stakeholders have threatened to embark on a strike in this January 2020 to protest the many extortions by security agencies.
Terminal operators and shipping companies are equally benefitting from the traffic gridlock, they have been smiling to the bank with huge returns collected as demurrages from importers on account of the gridlock. A lot is expected to happen this year on account of the gridlock.
We hope that by the end of 2020, businesses and even residents that had left the port city because of infrastructure challenges would come back.
The failure of NPA to come up with a working call up system for the trucks calling at the port is a major drawback that must also be addressed this year.
Nigerian Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi in December 2019 has announced to maritime stakeholders that the much awaited disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) would be disbursed this year 2020, we say Amen to that.
The CVFF is a 2% contribution made by Nigerian shipowners. The fund is domiciled under the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and has accrued billions of Naira. Shipowners cannot wait to get their hands on this money to turn around their fortunes.
However, stakeholders have advised Amaechi to workout strong modalities before disbursement, some even advised that the good minister should use the CVFF proceeds to acquire a crude oil tanker that would be managed jointly by government and the private sector.
On his return as the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi also vowed that he would be focusing on maritime security and the Single Window project.
According to him, by the end of 2020, the Single Window project would be actualized at Nigerian ports.
Engineer Sarat Braimah
Eng Sarat Braimah is the Lagos Area Manager of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)
No doubts, the beautiful Engineer is well experienced, having worked several years with the former Area Manager, Eng Muazu Sambo.
Since her appointment, she has shown competence, she conducted on-the-spot assessment of her area of operation to determine the true situation of things, she even addressed a stakeholders meeting where she had read the riot act to stakeholders including sand dredgers, community heads, boat operators and badge operators on the need to abide by the rules of engagement.
Eng. Sarat appears fearless, and we suspect that just like her contemporaries like Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman, she is a no nonsense lady, ready to achieve her goals, not minding whose horse is gored. She is a personality to look out for in this year 2020.
Part of the riot act she read out last year was that by January 2020, sand dredgers who do not have NIWA permit will not be allowed to dredge.
The NIWA boss said that henceforth, the survey and registration of tug boats, barges must be strictly from the NIWA Lagos office, saying that NIWA would not give certificate to a barge that is not surveyed by her.
Secure Anchorage Contract
Even though the Senate Joint Committee on Navy, Marine Transport and Finance that investigated the alleged illegal contract for the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) had given approval for the contract to continue despite serious concerns by maritime stakeholders and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) it however appears that the last have not been heard of this controversial contract.
The NPA had announced the termination of the controversial security contract which OMSL had with the navy, claiming that it was illegal and done to allegedly extort vessel owners.
Under the security arrangement, ship owners are expected to cough out $2,500 daily if they don’t want their vessel to be attacked by pirates.
Stakeholders have kicked against the contract, the latest opposition was from the National Association of Master Mariners (NAMM)
The body raised concerns that the contract was making Nigeria a laughing stock in international maritime politics.
The question that keeps bugging the mind however was that; what was NPA and other concerned stakeholders looking at when the OMSL was kick started in year 2007?
The company even claimed that the NPA was informed at the time the contract started and the NPA had issued a Marine Notice to all ships calling at Lagos ports. Chairman of OMSL, Capt Hosa Okunbo said the company kick started the security contract in 2007 at the height of militancy where this country would have been producing less than 300 barrels per day.
Why should NPA and maritime stakeholders wait for 13 years before raising an alarm? This is the highest height of docility.
However, despite the stand of the Senate, the last have not been heard on this controversial contract.
Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA)
The Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) in November 2019 announced an end to its four years old internal crisis. This peace move is coming very late because already, the crisis in the association had led to establishment of another faction, and the setting up of another parallel association; Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN)
NISA said last year that it has set up a steering committee, made up of Paul Jegede, Tunji Brown and Capt.Taiwo Akinpelumi, and tasked them with the responsibility of stabilising the association and conducting a general election in the first quarter of 2020.
The association said it has sacked its two factional presidents, Niyi Labinjo and Aminu Umar.
The fact remains that NISA may not get its groove back, reason is that when she was engulfed in internal crisis after its maiden election held on October 24, 2014, she has lost a lot of prominent members to SOAN.
However, 2020 is here, all eyes are on NISA, not forgetting that its embattled former president, Capt Niyi Labinjo has been released last December after one year incarceration by the Nigerian Navy in an alleged underground facility. Since his release, Capt Labinjo is yet to male any statement on this peace move that was made in his absence.
National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) can be described as the most problematic government agency in the maritime sector.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Mr. George Muoghalu this year 2020 should take adequate measures to address the recurring accidents on the waterways. In other climes, inland waterways is the way to go, but in Nigeria, inland transportation is still a mirage. The many accidents on the waterways has caused Nigerians to lose confidence in moving by boat.
In this year 2020, even movement of containers from the Lagos seaports in now being done by barges in order to ease congestion on the roads, the NIWA needs to be proactive in restoring confidence of the stakeholders, measures such as installation of navigational aids and dredging of inland waterways channels to rid them of the deadly underwater wrecks should be embarked on. However, one major problem of NIWA is that it is understaffed, the MD also confirmed last year that they need to be trained.
Muoghlu has promised to work with the marine police and the Navy in tackling waterways security. While marshaling out his plans for NIWA last year, Muoghalu also talked about lack of funding in NIWA, notwithstanding, he plans to make the Bark Port, Oguta Port and Onitsha Port viable this year 2020.