Dr. Boniface Aniebonam (Founder, NAGAFF)
Our population is a large market for foreign trade; therefore shipping services and customs administration have played vital roles in our economy in the past 49 years of our independence.
It is most unfortunate that we did not take advantage of becoming a maritime nation, export carriage from Nigeria is based on Free On Board value, while our import is based on Cost Insurance and Freight value. This is too bad for any economic argument at 49 years. But, with good leadership, fear of God, hard work, human capacity development, finances and respect for expertise in shipping and customs administration, we can compete with other maritime nations in the near future. The desire for balance of trade in shipping services can then be realized shortly, but in every honesty, corruption as a societal ill has taken its toll on shipping in Nigeria at 49years. May God in his wisdom help us to overcome.
Olu Olasore (Freight forwarder)
To some extent, I would say that the maritime industry has been fair, the only problem we are still having however is that of leadership and the problem of corruption in the system, but at least for now the maritime sector is a bit better compared to what we have in the 70’s and in the 80’s, the only thing we need to curtail is the corruption which is in all sectors of the economy but only more pronounced in the maritime sector. You can hardly do business in the ports without somebody asking for bribe in one way or the order.
Just like I said, we have tried, but there is still need for improvements, for example some of the concessionaires have been trying their best, but they still need some re-organization.
In the area of the Nigerian Customs Service, the government should decide if they want to use the RAR or simply allow the customs to do their job, if the scanning procedure is well organized and carried out properly, I think it is the best but today you will find out that most people are running away from it because there is no organization in the process, we should be able to decide if we want to be doing 100 per cent examination or we want to continue using the scanning process.
All these cumbersome processes which results into delays at the ports has made the cost of production to be so high to the extent that the local manufacturer finds it difficult to survive, the government should try and bring it down.
Abdulakeem Akanji (Mikkol maritime services ltd.)
Actually we can still regard Nigeria to be a maritime country, reasons being that we are parts and parcel of the IMO and we have a very vital role we are playing there, if we hadn’t been relevant we will not be allowed to be in that body. In Africa as a whole Nigeria is still regarded as the hub of maritime activities vis-à-vis imports and exports, however our export rate is not enough and still needs to be worked on.
What the government needs to do in order to further improve the sector is first of all give individuals financial support, loan facilities, incentives, etc so also they should empower the local farmers financially as well so that our export will be balanced, they should disburse the Cabotage vessel financing fund to the indigenous ship operators to support them. It is very insulting that we do not have our own national carrier as a maritime nation after the demise of the NNSL, foreign vessels have taken over the trade, it is a big venture that needs government’s intervention and I believe that with the government support for the indigenous players the sky is the limit.
Cosmas Ndimkora (Vice chair. NAGAFF, PTML)
In the general context, we can say yes Nigeria is a maritime nation but we have not fulfilled our potentials in the sector. First of all we have not been able to engage ourselves in adequate training and re-training; the Cabotage is in shamble and is not being implemented, also in the freight forwarding sub sector, we have not been able move forward because the Nigeria Customs Service has not been able to put the necessary stakeholders, that is, the banks, the shipping companies, and the concessionaires together in order to make the 48 hours cargo clearance achievable. The whole port operation system is like a cycle that needs to be connected and made to work together.
Apart from all these, I think we have done fairly well despite the diversity, there is strength in diversity and there are also problems in diversity, but the major problem we have in Nigeria is corruption. In the maritime sector, I think we have moved a little in trying to meet world standards, but there is still a need for fine tuning.
Babatunde Samuel (Registrar, POTMAN)
First of all, I congratulate Nigeria on the 49th year of independence, we are a maritime country, considering the large coastal waters surrounding us and volume of cargo traffic that we handle, and this has also led to the establishment of various agencies like the Shippers Council, NIMASA and so on.
However, in reviewing the industry so far, I will say that we have presently not achieved what is expected of us as a maritime nation in terms of registered trade, most of our trades are not registered.
Secondly, we have to be prepared for where we ought to be in different facets, in ports and terminal management, cargo handling, shipping development and so on.
John Ofobike (Chairman, ANLCA, Apapa Port)
As far as I am concerned, we have not measured up as a maritime nation, we have been doing so little just like a nation without a future goal.
The different leaders have not done anything to improve the sector instead they are passing power to one another as if it is their birthright.
In the IMO, we still have not measured up anywhere, NIMASA is supposed to be the one creating support for the ship owners and implementing the Cabotage law, but so far they have not achieved anything. The concessionaires and the shipping companies have not been obeying set rules and these affects the performance of the industry.
Nigerians are tired of recycled leaders, they want to enjoy the dividend of democracy, we want answers to how the money we pay as duties and the revenues being generated by the customs every year are being spent, what are the conditions of living for the wives and children of these officers who have been helping in collecting these revenues.