How has the maritime sector fared during these 20 years of democratic rule?

  Inua Mohammed (Chairman, Dry Cargo Section, NARTO)

Actually, the maritime industry is still struggling, it is only in this present situation that we are trying to create hope for the sector for the future, a lot of projects have commenced, for example the rail project, the rehabilitation of the roads, we have suffered these amenities for several years. If the railway is fixed, it would reduce the influx of the trucks, and our members’ trucks would also leave for other parts of the country because the railway cannot get to the final destination, it is still the trucks they would make use of. We have benefited from democratic rule, but we need to change our attitudes as a people, we are the problem of ourselves in this country. 

Dr Obiora Madu (CEO Multimix Academy)

The Nigerian maritime industry is a goldmine, which we have not really tapped into. This oil and gas we are talking about cannot happen without the maritime industry, for that reason everybody is focusing on oil and nobody is talking about the maritime industry. So, what is going to happen is that we need to turn around and make the maximum use of the industry to be able to reap from it. Take ports for example, some nations are leaving on the revenue from the ports. We are strategically located as a nation to be a logistics hub which of course empowered by the maritime industry and we are not. The draft of the port is very low, so we are incurring extra expenses because ships have to berth on the high sea. Someone might be saying that it is creating jobs for people who have ships but the truth is that it is creating expenses. It is cost on the business, we need to be very strategic about the maritime industry, develop it before we can reap it. It is not something that will happen overnight. We are earning money from there but we should earn more, so we need to invest.  

Violet Olaitan Williams (Chief Executive, VOW Ventures)

We are trying, but we are not there yet, go to Ghana and see the international best practices they are trying to proffer to their maritime sector, when you compare what Ghana is doing now to what we are doing in Nigeria, we are not there. Before now, we were the bride in maritime, but by the time we got to Tema Port, we saw the shipyard, meanwhile in Nigeria, the Nigerian factor is always in every sector, not only in maritime, but it is unfortunate that the maritime sector which is supposed to be the bedrock of economic reserve of Nigeria is being politicized.We have got it wrong through much non continuity in policies, if you spend your four years as a minister today, only your own ideas that you sustain, this is why we must have structures and infrastructures that nobody would be able to tamper with.

When you know that we have the rail lines and multi modalism in place, any government that comes after that would queue into the project, it must not die. But in Nigeria, it dies with the system and this is where we got it wrong.

Joseph Atoloye (Chief Executive, Waltolye Ltd) 

There have been changes in the port system because in the past when NPA was still in charge of the port, we usually spend two to three weeks before clearing our cargoes, but now, the situation has changed; now you can access your container even from the comfort of your office, you do not need to go into the port to locate your container, unlike what is obtained in the past where we would have to come to the port to track down our containers by ourselves. Today, after you make your payments and bookings, the terminal operators would position your container down for you. Also, the issue of documentation in the clearance process has reduced.  

 Engr Matthew Alalade (President, Merchant Navy)

The government has tried, at least to have been able to sustain democracy for this number of years is not easy, but their activities in the last few years have been a very big dent on the image of the country. They should improve on policies in the maritime sector.

Remi Ogungbemi (Chairman, AMARTO)

I will say that truckers are the sacrificial lamb for the dividends of democracy. For your information do you know that our trucks that are carrying container both imports and exports are being seized by customs? And for your information they have started auctioning some of these trucks; which is not our making. They should have held the importer or exporter responsible, how come our trucks are being impounded and auctioned? So, we are not happy about this and it is not the best for democracy and then, if you look at the roads from Apapa to Tin-Can and even to Mile 2, you will see how terrible the road has been, it is impassable when it is supposed to be the best in Nigeria. So, presently the maritime industry is not being given the right position in democracy in Nigeria. This is a place where almost all the customs commands are making a lot of money and the infrastructures are bad.

Rev Nicodemus Odollo (Trustee, SALS) 

Well, in terms of making money, more money has been made within the period under review, but in terms of infrastructure, there is infrastructural deficiency. Also in terms of money making, we will say that the government was able to make 1/3 of what it is supposed to make from the maritime industry, because of this infrastructural decay. So, there was loss of business more than it was before the democracy. Loss in businesses in Nigeria was more now compared to what it was before democracy. So, the government has made only 1/3 of the money they are supposed to make in maritime, had it been that the infrastructure was put in place they would have made three time what they are making now. So, it is as a result of the infrastructural deficiency that you are seeing the type of traffic situation in Apapa, no good maintenance and all that.

Mr. Frank Ogunojemite (Freight Forwarder) 

Well, my assessment is that things are stable in the maritime sector, even though not really improved. What I meant by things being stable is because dollar determines the price of a lot of things in many countries especially Nigeria, the dollar here have been steady for about two years now and people are able to plan their businesses. But looking at other sectors, people don’t have purchasing power, things are very expensive and one of the things that add to the price of goods here is the Apapa gridlock and unnecessary checks by customs and all that. Because, as a business man I have to add all my expenses before I can determine the cost of my consignment.