“Absence of policy is militating against the development of the transportation sector in Nigeria”

Mr. Paul Ndibe;  The Acting National Executive Director of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

“All the ICDs should be connected to a rail line. And that rail line connection must get to the ports”...Mr. Paul Ndibe

Mr. Paul Ndibe is the Acting National Executive Director of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). In this interview with Anozie Egole, he talked about the challenges being faced by the Nigerian logistics and transport sector, and the way forward.      Where would you place Nigeria in the Logistics sub-sector?Over the years, Nigeria as a country has not focused on developing her maritime sector. It is becoming something critical and that is why you are seeing (even at the state level that we are now beginning to see) some interest and they are developments in that direction. And looking at the population of Nigeria and its geographical location, Nigeria would have been far ahead in maritime operations. But looking at the fact that it is capital-intensive in terms of ship ownership and staffing because, you need to train the people that will man the vessels. There was a point in this country when we had the Nigerian National Shipping Line; we also had at some point continued investing in the maritime and developing capacity for that. But we lost out at the time when we had issue with the Nigerian National Shipping Line and that was the beginning of the decline of interest in the maritime operations in Nigeria. But it is never too late, if today we awake to such responsibilities and just like we are seeing now the private investors coming into maritime, I think we can develop further and meet our match in the maritime would.


Before now the transport and logistics sub-sector had been very popular and vibrant, all of a sudden there was a decline. What would you say was the cause?I don’t share that sentiment because there has never been a time when they integrated transport and logistics operations together in Nigeria. What I mean is this; there has never been any integrated policy in terms of aviation, maritime roads, and rail in Nigeria. So each sector had been developed according to the vision, interests and priorities of government in power at different times. That was why you have seen the Nigerian airways at a point, the Nigerian National Shipping Line at a point, the Nigerian Railway Corporation at  point; all attaining their various peaks at various times. But there had not been a coordinated policy or action under a policy that will integrate these people. So I would say that the absence of policy militated against the development of the transportation sector in Nigeria. 


What is the relationship between CILT and other maritime sector groups like?It depends on the perspective you want to look at it from. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) is specially a members-organizations of professionals and practitioners of logistics and transport. We train and we also certify our members in terms of their knowledge based on the industry’s different needs. For instance, freight forwarders are dedicated to freight forwarding and aspects relating to that. If you look at the of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping for example and other aspects each of these bodies have a specific interest they are pursuing,  but not all of them key into training and manpower development of both practitioners and professionals in the sector. But in CILT, you find both practitioners and professionals in the sector. We train and we also certify, it is a lifelong training of both practitioners and professionals in the industry. So that makes a difference between the CILT and other organizations in the transport industry.


What do you have to say about this National Seafarers Development Programme being spearheaded by NIMASA?It is also part of the human capital development. We can’t think of Nigeria being a shipping hub when you do not have large number of vessels originating from Nigeria, or owned by Nigerians or registered by Nigeria and flying Nigerian flag. So having those seafarers is also trying to build capacity in that sector. If you have ships and they are manned by foreigners, where then do you say you are dominating? The maritime sector is very huge, so Nigeria should look at the entire landscape and see where they have comparative advantage. If it is population and little manpower, Nigeria can dominate that side by training people that will take up such roles so that, we will be able to satisfy the local needs and also satisfy similar needs on international scale. Why the Asians and the Indians are dominating in that aspect is because they have the population. Maybe that cadre of manpower may not require very serious specialization, but it may also require that NIMASA looked at that and saw that it was what they can key into and they did. Look at the Chinese, Nigeria can also look at the landscape and see where they have comparative advantage that requires minimum resources to produce. There is no particular quantum of labourers that will satisfy the need in the maritime industry. 


How would you assess CRFFN in the past 10 years?     Beautiful, in the sense that before the last five years of the CRFFN Act, there were some elements of regulation, training and professional service. They now look at it from the professional service and you know one thing with the transport sector is that you can not offer a bad professional service twice. So if you are a licensed freight forwarder in that sector and you know what you are doing you can not afford to offer a bad professional service as we had it before the enactment of the CRFFN Act.


What is your take on the delay of the take-off of ICDs in Nigeria?Inland Containers Depots’ take off in Nigeria has so many limitations. One is the states that gave land out still have some measure of interests holding on those lands. Initially when they offer such lands for ICDs, the community will have a part in the development of such ICDs; maybe by receiving parts of the contract to develop. But because many of them are private sector driven, they felt that they were not part of this and that may have affected the delay in the take-off of the ICDs. On the other hand, do the concessionaires for the ICDs have tax holidays, if they invest, do they have a particular time that they will be exempted from tax until they start recouping their investments and then be subject to taxation. What other incentives are they getting, are they sure of getting containers to those locations and by what means. If you are to get it by rail, are the rail lines connected to those ICDs or not, if you are getting by roads, look at the situation of our roads- is it conducive for them to have that easy flow of cargoes to ICDs and then manning effectiveness. So it is a whole lot of thing but the good thing is that the new measure that the Nigeria Shippers’ Council had taken by threatening to withdraw the license would have spurred them into reinvesting. But then, there should be a policy on investment. So the holistic thing is that all the ICDs should be connected to a rail line. And that rail line connection must get to the ports. There should be some physical measurable investments in those ICDs. Look at the fluctuations in the exchange rate, if you’re sourcing for the funding abroad and you have this thing in the exchange rate stability, then it might affect the speed with which such investment should take place. However that does not mean that if they have the whole money to invest and the climate is right they would have invested.  The critical thing now is that the government is refocusing on the ICDs and the concessionaires are returning to those depots to commence work. So the expectation is that on the part of the government what they need to do they should do it fast in other to encourage the private sector to do their own. 

Which agency would you advice to transmute in this Nigeria Transport Commission bill?   I do not know why the emphasis should be on a particular agency to do that. All the agencies in the transport industry are existing. If there would be no need to also establish another one, then we can look at the roles that the Nigerian Transport Commission will play. We can get a picture of some existing agencies that are serving similar roles, then it can be expanded to now incorporate the elements of the Nigerian Transport Commission that can be added to it so that we will not end up creating another agency. It is something that we need to look at; all the Acts of the transport agencies and look at the one that is closest in terms of operations to the one to be provided by the Transport Commission and then the two can be merged. 


In view of the so many challenges being faced in Nigerian ports, would you say that the ports concession was a success? The idea to concession the ports or the terminal areas were beautiful, we have no problem with that; it was a beautiful idea and we are seeing the gains. But the issue is that some of the terminals are specialized. For example, APMT is only for containers, Dangote also has his own cargo that it is handling there except for specialized cargoes that have to go through the rail because it is the only terminal that is connected to the rail. Then ABTL will hardly accommodate private cargo because their terminal is congested too. ABTL is a general cargo too, so looking at these you can see that there are some levels of specializations. If by chance you are trapped while Dangote is off-loading their cargo, he will not give way for another ship to come in because he will pay demurrage. So why will he pay demurrage if the ship will be attended to at his own terminal. But if there is a general terminal that the government owns, the government will now prioritize in terms of arrival or by some scheme on how a ship can be attended to. But you can not tell a terminal operator who has his own ship to keep it idle while attending to another ship for another purpose. What I am saying in effect is that the structure of operations in the ports inhibits that direct control. Because the terminal has been concessioned and you are very unlikely to dictate 100% how the terminal should be run in terms of handling of ships cargos and stuffs relating to that. So we should separate the two. The idea of concessioning the port is perfect, but the terminal operator is what the government should look into it through the NPA.  

The Nigerian ports have been tagged the most expensive in the whole world, how can the transport and logistics sector come in to improve the clearance of cargos?First of all, we you look at the size of our sea ways that will admit the ships, that is number one. The number two is, the volume of ships coming to berth in Nigerian waters especially Lagos, if the scheduling of the ships are heavy in terms of number and have a limited space for them to berth, of course there will be struggling time. As they are idle they incur expenses and those expenses will be transferred to the ultimate shipper and the shipper will also transfer it to the final consumer. So it is one thing that we should be aware of.

Secondly, operations at these terminals maybe improved using equipment, it is also something we need to look into more; whether the terminals have the optimum equipment to work at full capacity, and if they do not have the equipment to enable them work at full capacity, it is where the NPA may intervene to supervise them to acquire the optimum equipment that will make them work at full capacity. Then we also look at the working hours, if the terminals open at 8 o’clock in the morning and close at a particular hour instead of working 24 hours, what will initiate their working for 24 hours, it is something that can be implemented if yes, why can’t they work for 24 hours. Now it will reduce the delays in attending to ships, but if the terminal operators could work for 24 hours what of the customs and other agencies? So it is an arrangement that can be put in place so that these agencies can work for 24 hours in the ports and reduce the delays. It is something that could be worked out.Finally, looking at the Lagos port, look at the size of the ports, there is no room for expansion and if you don’t have room for expansion, it limits the extent to which you can really expand and that is a major constraint. So the most necessary thing to do is to have an arrangement where as you are off-loading from the ship, it is being taken away in other to create space for other goods to be off-loaded or exported. But because of the limited space in the Lagos ports, it is a big constraint that needs to be looked into and be worked out. Lastly, I just want to say that there is future for the transport sector in the country and the beauty of it is that there is beginning to be a greater private sector awareness of the investment opportunities in this sector.