“We are not a political party we don’t run election, we do appointments for whoever qualifies to be in a position”
Prince Adeniyi Oluseyi Ajayi is the Vice President of a faction of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA). In this interview with Anozie Egole, he spoke about the election into the governing council for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria. He also spoke about his association, the challenges in the ports and other issues.
“NCMDLCA is not like other associations that are picking bills in the ports, raising charges”
“People that impersonated our association have gone to jail”
How would you assess the Nigerian maritime industry in this first half of this year?
We have been facing a lot of challenges in the sector as far as cargoes are concerned. We say that the number of containers coming in since this year is decreasing. From January till this year, though I can’t give the exact figure right now, but I know it has drastically reduced. And there is nothing attached to this aside the ports environment and the gridlock around the ports and all that. The attitude of the customs officers and other agencies at the ports has made some of our containers to be diverted to other neighbouring ports and that is what is affecting us most. With my own experience in the field, I think the number of cargoes coming into the country since this year has decreased. I am saying this from a personal experience because the number of cargoes my clients bring has reduced, I can’t speak for any other person. But I know it is due to the nature of the ports environment.
What do you have to say about the state of the ports access roads, between Mile 2 to Tin-Can and down to Apapa?
My association has been at the forefront when it comes to ports facility maintenance around the port environment, we have written several letters as regards the ports access roads. We have written to the federal government and all the respective ministries telling them how to go about it. But you know as government, they have their own way of doing things. Even before it got to this level we, have been writing and shouting but you know the whole thing is being publicized; if not this nation’s ports are the vital places to attend to when it comes to maintenance of facilities and all that.
What do you think is the reason government seems not to be taking all these associations in the ports seriously?
It is because the government knows how to use each and every association when they want to use it. At National Council, we are the pressure group, we are not partisan and we are not a political association, we deal basically on all what it takes to be in the sector according to the law and that is what we have been fighting for.
What has your association done or intend to do to get the attention of the government?
I can even show you documents on the removal of unclear and overtime cargoes because they are part of the problems in the ports. When you have those cargoes that liter in the terminal and they have government warehouses that they are supposed to take those cargoes to so that they can have spaces to stack the new cargoes. So when all these are there they will constitute problem, we have written to the federal government, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Ports Authority. These are some of things we have been doing and we will continue to do. My president has been in Abuja for the past four months now putting up a write up for ports reforming committee to be set up so that they can look at the sector holistically and formulate policy on how to go about it. But up till now the thing is still pending in the Presidency, I think the President has signed it and pushed it back to the ministry but we are still waiting for it.
How long have you been here as the Vice President of NCMDLCA?
I have been in this position now for two years. Talking about experiences so far, I would say it has been hectic because when you are giving a selfless service in an association like this, because the NCMDLCA is not like other associations that are picking bills in the ports, raising charges and all that. Rather I am putting my resources into the association for it to function well for the coming generation. We are not fighting for our generation we are fighting for generation yet unborn.
How comfortable are you being the VP of an association that is factionalized?
We are one; the other people that impersonated the association have gone to jail and I have the documents here. I am coming from the Federal High Court now because of the same case; we want to fight it to a logical conclusion because we still have some elements parading themselves as one of the factions that you mentioned. So we want to bring it to an end because they are not our members; we have the register that we have submitted to the court and what our constitution says. The case has been adjourned till 15th of October. We took them to court because when you form an association, it will not be easy for you to say stop unless you do that through the court. So that is what we are doing, we are law-abiding and we don’t want to take laws into our hands.
We have issues of proliferation of associations in the maritime sector
The constitution of this country said there is freedom of association, so they can be thousands or more; in as much as the constitution permits it, they can form associations.
People have been complaining about the new Customs application NICIS2, what is your own experience about the platform?
My own experience is that when you newly start a programme, you are definitely going to face some challenges so I believe with time everything will be in order. The essence of NICIS2 is for genuine declaration, having paid correct duty for what you are carrying because the ASYCUDA does not go into details the way NICIS2 is being formulated now. So if you look at it critically you will see that when you punch your documents into the system, it will give you the direct officer that will handle it, the name will come out automatically and you will print out the copy. Unlike before when you can access anywhere and go and meet any officer that can manipulate and do things for you. So all those are in the past now, if the officer is not on seat, then the service will now find a solution to that. The whole world is moving on a high speed now and Nigeria cannot be left out, so we have to join the move. When a system selects, it doesn’t look at faces before doing what it is supposed to do.
Are you satisfied with the preparations so far for the election into CRFFN?
We are under Customs and Excise Management Act, we are licensed customs agents we are not freight forwarders. We have been in court with them and we are still going to court. Even we have just filed a new case against CRFFN now challenging their rights to deal with licensed customs agents. Because licensed customs agents is directly under the ministry of finance and the only government agency that controls them is the Nigeria Customs Service. And their law is CEMA, if you go there you will see all these, they are in full control of licensed customs agents as a regulatory body. So why would another body from nowhere come, we are not freight forwarders, freight forwarders are just truckers who move cargoes from point A to B. We are licensed customs agents, we are to diversify, treat and evaluate, these are the functions of a customs licensed agent. I cannot agree with you that freight forwarders encompass all the logistics chain; it is just an integral part of the clearing process. In a well-organized sector, I am to own my truck, I am not supposed to go and be looking for a trucker. In that process when a licensed customs agent processes your document, having paid your duty and goods released, after that the truckers come in to load and deliver to the final destination. So we are not part of the sharing formula and the coming election.
When are you planning for your association’s election?
You know in our constitution, we are not a political party we don’t run election, we do appointments for whoever qualifies to be in a position; that is what we do, we don’t run election.