‘’There is too much attention of activities in Tin-Can and Apapa, what happens to other ports in Nigeria like Port-Harcourt, Calabar and all that’’
Dr Obiora Madu is one of the accredited trainers for the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, for the purpose of training of freight forwarders. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of Multimix Academy. In this interview with Anozie Egole, he talked about the huge benefits of maritime logistics. He also spoke on the decline in manpower development in the sector and other issues within the maritime industry.
‘’We are supposed to be a hub if you look at Nigeria in the map, it is like in the centre of the world
As one of the accredited CRFFN trainers, how would you assess the level of manpower development in the freight forwarding sector?
Well, the setting up of the CRFFN was a step in the right direction, but a lot still needs to happen; there are still a lot more work to do as far as capacity building is concerned. As far as some people in that industry are concerned, you don’t need any certification or education to clear goods from the ports. But in the USA for example even companies that are into import and export have compliance officers not to talk about freight forwarders, you must be certified. So a lot needs to be done and it requires collaboration between Customs and CRFFN. Because Customs issues the license while CRFFN has a duty of regulation, so they determine who is qualified to be seen in the industry.
It is possible that CRFFN can say that this officer or company is not qualified to practice but that person can still go to the customs and get a license. So synergy is required if such issues will be taken very seriously in the industry. People need to know that if they don’t have this they cannot practice.
What strategies do you think should be put in place in terms of logistics to enhance efficiency at the Kaduna Dry Inland Port?
Infrastructure, that is the key there is nothing else than that, you can commission it and give it a name but the fact is that we need infrastructure like roads, proper warehouses both normal warehouses and temperature controlled warehouses, we also need equipment in form of cranes, folk-lifts; among others. Then we finally need soft infrastructures which are human beings who are trained and who understands what it means to run such a facility; these are the things we need.
You said something about diagnosing the problems of CRFFN, what would you say are the problems of the Council?
It is not my responsibility to do that because the question is, when you set up an agency you have objectives, so the thing now is, are we meeting those objectives? We don’t measure, if you appoint someone or set up and agency you will say this is what my expectations are, after a year you ask for a report and verify and confirm that they are meeting to the expectations. So it is not my place to do that. But my point is that if you want to know if it has worked, ask freight forwarders who are supposed to be the beneficiary, ask industry practitioners. But like I said earlier a lot of work still needs to be done.
What is your assessment of the road logistics of Nigeria as a maritime nation going by her geographical location?
First of all, we need to appreciate our geographical location advantage and then determine to take advantage of it. Singapore is a logistics hub they don’t have natural resources but their income per capital is up. In those days they talk of comparative advantage but today we talk of competitive advantage, because if you have all the comparative advantages in the world and you don’t have competitive advantage you will go nowhere. So naturally we are endowed, we are supposed to be a hub if you look at Nigeria in the map, it is like in the centre of the world. So in dealing with the South and North America, Asia amongst others we are strategically located. The biggest vessels can they berth in your ports, so what type of hub are you when the vessels cannot berth in your ports. I am happy there is an ongoing Lekki Deep sea port, why has it been impossible to do that in Tin-Can Island ports. These are natural ports, I think there drought is about 12metres and big vessels are looking for about 17metres is it impossible to have that done, dredge that port. So the fact is that anybody who understands knows that maritime logistics can give this country a lot more money probably that can match oil. But it is not an area that we have done much about.
What is latest about the Cargo Defence Fund of the Shippers’ Council that you partnered with, because much has not been heard about that?
I don’t know what you meant by much being heard about them, but the fact is that they need to publicize that a lot and I always tell them that. But I am yet to relate with someone who knows about that. It is about producing people who have testimonies to share. To a lot of people if you say it, they will call it a Nigerian thing. So they need a lot more publicity and they need to present people who have benefitted from their services.
What is your take on the idea of NPA closing down Lilypond Terminal to be used as a Truck park?
Well you have to appreciate the fact that NPA is the landlord of all the ports, even the ones that are being managed by concessionaires. And this truck parking thing is a major issue when you go to Apapa you will see it yourself. So if NPA looks at that place and believe that activities there can be diverted to another port without much injury and they want to convert the place to a park, there is no issue with that. You see the fact is that there is too much attention of activities in Tin-Can and Apapa, what happens to other ports in Nigeria like Port-Harcourt, Calabar and all that. We have these things so there is really no need for all these things and that is the reason we have bad roads. Every container hits here and it also increases the cost of doing business for companies. The current situation is a menace; I mean the truck and tanker situation.