Stakeholders in the maritime Industry have expressed a myriad of expectations for the incoming administration. This is even as policy consistencies, constant stakeholders’ engagement, shipping development amongst others, top the list of the numerous concerns in the industry.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily last week from the perspective of freight forwarders, the National President of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) Alhaji Bala Lawan Daura noted that inconsistency in government policies do not enable effective business planning for manufacturers, importers, customs clearing agents and other stakeholders in the ports.
Alhaji Daura stressed the need for constant stakeholders’ engagement by the government before important decisions and policies are made. He added that such policies might not be successful if stakeholders who bear the blunt from such policies are sidelined by the government in decision-making.
While commending the passage of the new Customs Act, Daura maintained that the Customs should be equipped and educated on their major roles in the economy, avoid being carried away by the pressure of meeting their revenue target at the expense of trade facilitation. He also added that just like other countries, freight forwarders should be well remunerated for contributing to the nation’s revenue generation which according to him will reduce non-compliance amongst freight forwarders.
The AREFFN President however called on the new government to ensure the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) sanitizes the port system, by fully regulating all practitioners of freight forwarding in the country.
He said: “Inconsistency in government policies leading to policy somersault does not enable effective planning for manufacturers, importers, customs agents and other stakeholders. The government must be consistent when they make policies. They should at least give it a tenure of two to four years before they tamper or change it. Before these policies are made, there must be a detailed study and constant stakeholders’ engagement. If the government continues to sideline us in the policy-making decision, there will continue to be problems.
“The 44 items removed from foreign importation are affecting us. By doing so, we are limiting opportunities to many people indirectly creating a monopoly. We would be happy if Nigeria could produce everything but we know it is not possible. Let us have a competitive economy. Monopoly results in high costs.
“The port is a very high revenue generating sector. The Customs should be equipped and educated on their major role which is not just revenue but trade facilitation. The revenue target given to Custom is at the expense of trade facilitation. As they do in other countries, freight forwarders should be remunerated for contributing to the Revenue generation based on the Bill of Laden they handled. This will in turn reduce non-compliance.
Also speaking, the National President of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) Engr Bob Yousuo expressed optimism that the incoming administration will improve the maritime sector.
Engr Yousuo however called on the incoming administration to ensure more Cabotage vessels are operating on our territorial waters. He also stressed the need for these vessels to employ Nigerians adding that it will reduce unemployment amongst Nigerian Seafarers and also improve the shipping industry.
“I have an assurance that the incoming administration will improve the maritime sector. We have more vessels coming in. The most important thing is that when we have more Cabotage vessels operating on our territorial waters, they will employ Nigerians. When they employ Nigerians then their welfare will increase. But if there is no employment, we cannot talk about welfare. I believe the incoming government will keep the industry afloat because many shipping companies went down. We have very high hopes that things will get better in the maritime sector” Yousuo said..
Speaking on behalf of Nigerian Shippers, the immediate past President of the Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), Rev Jonathan Nicole noted that the incoming government should ensure that necessary infrastructure is provided and those on ground effectively utilized for the development of the shipping industry.
Rev. Nicole decried the unnecessary bureaucracies associated with cargo clearance and importation and clearance, while urging the government to ensure a smooth cargo clearing process, which according to him will bring down the cost of goods and services in the country.
“The incoming government has a lot of work to do. We hope that they will consolidate and remove Nigeria from the debt burden. They should also maintain the entire infrastructure on ground and make sure they are adequately utilized. If they seek the opinion of stakeholders, we should be able to support them. The government should be closer to the people than ever before. Without the people there is no government” Nicole said.
Speaking from the Haulage and Logistics sector of the industry, the National President of the Council of Maritime Transport Unions Association of Nigeria (COMTUA), Prince Adeyinka Aroyewun advised the incoming government to ensure compliance by agencies to the Act that established them. According to him, this attracts professionalism devoid of political influence to hijack roles.
Aroyewun also noted that the government should formulate policies in the interest of the nation and not only on revenue collection. He also added that committees with operators should be established and not the kind of “government official” arrangement laced with extortive motives.
On the part of ship owners, a member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Otunba Sola Olatunji stressed that the Cabotage Act should be enforced to encourage ship owners to control the business opportunities within their domain by ensuring the disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to indigenous ship owners.
In his words: “With the emerging opportunities in our maritime domain, it will be too bad to allow foreign ships to take over our terrain again, a situation they can’t accept in their country. In addition, this is the time to move Ship-To-Ship operations from offshore Lome which has been happening for two decades. As a matter of fact, the system bleeds our economy. It’s counterproductive in a way. All Chandellers and Shipping Agencies have been moved to Togo for over two decades. The implication of this is that we are promoting foreign economies with our opportunities” Olatunji said.
Speaking on behalf of operators of Boat and water transportation operators, the National Secretary of Waterfront Boat Owners and Transporters Association of Nigeria (WABOTAN), Comrade Lateef Kaffo stressed the need for Government’s continuity in ensuring the safety of lives and properties on the waterways.
Kaffo noted that the use of the waterways for transportation has been of good help in reducing stress amongst people particularly in Lagos and other cosmopolitan cities in the country surrounded by water. He lamented that the roads in these cities are very bad while calling on the incoming government to encourage and develop other means of transportation.