Matthew Adele (Maritime Workers Union)
My perception of the achievements in the maritime sector within 19 years of democracy would be divided into two parts, vis-à-vis the era before port concession and the era after port concession. My opinion is that the maritime sector achieved more during the period before concession. Firstly, tariffs and other import duties were very friendly to importers at that time, putting bans on some imported items created low income to the economy, the era before port concession created high level of employment because importation and exportation were high and these require more workers in the port. Also, the port facilities weren't messed up the way it is now. However, the era after port concession has the positive and negative aspect also, the positive part is that many indigenous and foreign concessionaires were introduced into the port.
This period resulted into disengagement of more than 17, 000 workers in the ports, meanwhile, the intention of port concession is to create rooms for the private investors to improve upon the already established structures, but instead, no value have been added to it.
Dr Boniface Aniebonam (Founder, NAGAFF)
For me, I believe there is hope for the maritime sector of the economy looking at 19 years of democracy in Nigeria. There is hope for democracy dividend at the ports because we are discussing challenges, if you say there is no hope, let the police go on strike for just one day, for us to see how the country will be. Looking at the way things are in the ports now, l think we would have been better with Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA). However I still believe there is hope.
Akinwale Badmus (clearing agent)
The maritime sector under democracy has not been impressive at all, it is a fact that things are better organized under the military regime, everything works, but since 1999 that we have had democratic rule, one would have expected that things would change, look at the maritime sector which is the heartbeat of the nation’s economy, it is currently in shambles, there are no good road network to deliver cargoes and billions are being embezzled by politicians. My perception of the sector under democracy is that enough attention is not being paid to our maritime sector. Government needs to do more. The only significant thing that has happened is the port concession, and even that, the gains of the reform have been eroded by arbitrary charges by terminal operators, some of which are owned by politicians.
Frank Nweke Okocha (General Manager, Clarion Bonded Terminal)
It has been a mixture of both the good the bad and the ugly, so many things have happened in the maritime sector under democracy, some of them are good, some are bad, but by and large, the maritime sector in Nigeria is yet to be properly harnessed because government themselves are not sincere with their promises. Look at the way the port access roads have been for many years and government has not been able to put a permanent solution to it, it is like a running battle, in advanced world, such a thing cannot happen, we have just two major roads leading to the port. Again, look at the petroleum tank farms surrounding the ports, over the years we have been calling for their relocation but the will power to do remove them is not there because the owners are ministers and politicians. With all of this, business in the Nigerian ports will continue to be at snail speed and this is why the cost of doing business in Nigeria is very high, the cost of clearing cargoes now is extremely too high because of the bad roads, and the shipping companies are smiling to the bank.
Ugochukwu Nnadi (NAGAFF Member)
The maritime industry is just one step forward and another step backward, there is no improvement and there is no deliberate plan to improve the industry. We are just marking time, whatever we see the next day we take.
Dr Obiora Mmadu (CEO Multimix Academy)
Not much has changed, what are the targets, what are the bench marks and measures? If you have not set a target you cannot say we are doing fine or not. It is a very difficult question to answer whether we have done well or not because I don't even know where we are coming from. We have to develop the culture of numbers and statistics in this country and also the culture of measurement. That is why it is difficult to see any serious action in the public sector because of absolute lack of measurement. Look at the private sector when your boss gives you a target you must get it done. I think it was under Jonathan that we saw a major concern in the sector even though eventually there were no much action but there was a concern. So we must get back to those things to let people know who the chief performers in the sector are and the private sectors are there. If you say you will move into your house there will be no need asking you how far but if you say you will move into your house by December 31st if I see you in January I have the right to ask you how far you have gone with that
Mr Muda Yusuf (DG LCCI)
Well, the sector has degenerated over the years, because we have not seen the kind of investment that we should see. Our ports in particular have become very uncompetitive because of the poor level of investment in the sector and because of some trade policy issues. Over the years we have lost many of our businesses to neighbouring countries, jobs to neighboring countries and the cost of operation in the ports is still one of the highest in the region. Our ports normally by now should have been a hub for the region and for many of the land locked countries in the North Africa but that has not happened. All the transit cargos we have lost them to neighboring countries, so we have not done well at all in the maritime sector.
Mr. Daniel Ezeh (Sec, ATBOWTON, Ikorodu)
I am telling you the truth, things have really improved. Of course the maritime is the gateway of any nation’s economy; it is a big sector that our nation can harness and hope for revenue generation.