Following from the controversial arrest and subsequent remand in Kirikiri prison custody, questions have been asked as to why such a ‘punishment’ could be meted out to someone like Mr Lucky Amiwero who is seen as the encyclopaedia and conscience of the maritime industry. Some have accused him of arrogance, while others have narrowed – down his travails to his sitting – tight on the stool as the national president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, yet some insisted that if he had not dragged the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria to court, he would still be as popular and well respected as he once was. This week (and quite unlike us but in deference to the various opinions that have been expressed about him), we represent Mr Lucky Eyis Amiwero’s views on some of these controersial issues. They are excerpts from previous interviews that I have had with him. We present Lucky Amiwero’s WORDS ON ‘MARBLE’.
Why was it that the three groups that organised the recent strike did not carry the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria along?
Who is the Council, which Council? We are in court.
You are in court, why?
Why are we in court?, The Council was not properly constituted, secondly, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding is not for associations, it’s not for image projection, it’s for standards and training, they should go and look at the law and see how they can comply with the law. The council is not owned by the government and it’s not under the ministry of transport, the transport minister can give the direction, that doesn’t mean it’s under the ministry of transport. The council is just like any other council, but when you take the thing to government and you start to look at it like government agency, then why is the council constituted. Is it a government baby, where do you have this kind of council in the world? Look at members of the council; they are talking for the government, is that why the council was created? Is it to talk for the government? I think they should look at the law and know what to do. I think the problem of the council is: knowing what they call regulation and control, they should go to the dictionary, it is for you to be able to set up a standard, if there is no standard that has been set up, then you can not query anybody, you’ve not been able to set up a standard, you don’t have a register, you don’t have anything, you have not even constituted the council properly and you start to go up and down. What they are doing now is not the function of the council. We did not need to consult the council on the action because they have a lot of jobs that the council should do. If they don’t understand very well, maybe they should go and study the law and put it in the right perspective.
Do you still nurse the ambition to be in the executive of the Council?
No. My idea of going to court is not because I want to be in the council. It is to put a lot of things straight for our children yet unborn. If you look at my drive since I started this advocacy in 1986, you know my passion, I have a passion for this country to grow, I believe that I have been instrumental to the change of almost 87 government policies and I have served in almost 87 government committees. I didn’t serve on those committees on the basis of just serving on them, I served on them to influence government policies for the betterment of the industry and the country in general and that is the good point of it. I am not trying to be the chairman of the council or to be in the council, it is not my flare to hassle for power or because I want to be the head, but all I want us to do is to do the right thing, conduct elections properly, so that we will have a credible council that will regulate the industry and set up an institute for training. The people who are in the council must be trained themselves, people who are in the council who are not trained do not understand freight forwarding can not give it; you can not give out what you don’t have; so that is the truth about it. You must get people who understand the law; we midwife the law and package it. The council is not for projection and protection of freight forwarders; which the council is doing now. Control and regulation starts from standard and training, you can not start to control when you have not started building your structures on training, you don’t have any training institute and you are just jumping up and down going to the port, you must have to think of : how do we set up training, how do we go about it and how do we compile the content and the composition within the law, there is a structural content in the law, the spirit of the law, what is the spirit? It is not to come and do image protection and projection which is associations matter and not the council’s matter. The council should go there and look at their law and see how they are and I want to correct one impression: the council is not under the minister of transport, the council is on its own; look at the law and the fund is not government fund, it is supposed to be derived from freight forwarders, the truth about it is that there can be government intervention once in a while, but its not a parastatal under government, its supposed to be an independent entity whereby government will have its own people there, minister can come and say bring this and that, it doesn’t mean that it should be a parastatal under the government.
Were you disappointed that you lost your bid to be in the Council?
No. Oshiomole remains the governor of Edo state and we have so many of them like that, Nigeria is a country where you don’t have any credible elections. What happened that day was all fraud, but I will not discuss it much because it’s there and very clear and the case is in court. I am not dragging it because I want to go into the council, I am not interested in the council, I am interested in putting things straight, you might have followed my line of argument, my life style and you know what I stand for. Most of what we enjoy in the industry today is what we fought for and we will continue to fight for them, so it is not whether I win election, it is not about whether Dr Boniface Aniebonam did not win election, it is all about putting the right thing, doing the right thing so that the right thing can take over. If you have put the right people, they will not be going to Abuja and saying that they are under ministry of transport, they know that it is not under ministry of transport, it is a council for the regulation of freight forwarders and if its under ministry of transport, then it is no longer a council, it is no more for the interest of the agents. The purpose of bringing out this thing is to regulate and set up standard, if you look at 90 percent of the component of that bill, it’s on training, getting a registrar and so on. It is not about going to the port and talking about trade, strike, or withdrawal of service, that is not the function of the council, they should look at their function and outline them.
……..On Destination Inspection
It does appear that you are arguing that destination inspection has failed?
The truth about it is that destination inspection has not failed, it is the best thing that can happen to any country, it is only being mismanaged in Nigeria and that is why we have written to the National Assembly that they should review the process. There are three things that are technically defecting, for instance they are talking about RAR, what is RAR? If RAR is not going to work why don’t you scarp it and allow Customs to do their job, you are talking about scanning, if it’s not bringing out the best result, we should look at it and see how we can review the whole thing, we are talking about Web Fontaine, and the DTI has not progressed. These are the short falls, the connectivity is not working, there is systemic collapse, there are many impediments to the system, the concept, the design, the technical structure and foundation have some defects and these are the things that we asked the government to review for the children yet un-born. Under the arrangement, the service providers are expected to transfer them to Customs after seven years and we have spent almost four years, so they have three years to go and are you sure that Customs is ready to take over those things? And what is the plan of Customs, do they have a team that will be able to take over from these people, are they going to be using RAR? These are the things that need planning, but Custom is not planning anything, they are still working with these people and tomorrow those people are going to tell you that they want an extension of seven years.
So what should be done?
Customs should start to work towards knowing the job. They look at us and call us so many names as agents, but I want to tell you that most of the things they are benefiting come from the agents. Agents are the ones that write to the government and make noise and these things are taking place, I think the customs now should be proactive and try to do these things in a proper way.
…….On His Face-Off With IOTA Registrar, Mr. Oparah
Why did you, as the national president of Institute of Transport Administration chose to sack and detain the Registrar?
The registrar was not sacked; we did not employ any registrar, when I came in I noticed that for 27 years IOTA has been existing without any action and for good three years, the committee that was set up by the body of IOTA came to me and was begging me to come and lead them and I told them I can not lead them because I have a different style of administration; my style of administration is that when I go to a place, there must be a change, you can not continue to behave the way others are behaving, you must make a change so that it will be beneficial to everybody, and they forced me and begged. So, after the third year, I said ok, let me accept, I did go for the elections and they elected me and that day I told them that I will match on toes because there must be something disturbing this institute form moving forward, I said those things would have to be removed, if Opara (the registrar) is the person, he will be removed. I never knew he was not the registrar, when I came in, I started restructuring, I noticed that he was handling the money, he was doing everything himself and I told him that he has to stop, because I wanted to know if he was the registrar. I told him “please bring your letter” and I found out he was not appointed as registrar, there was a letter of 1999 which made him a temporary administrative staff, but nobody confirmed him. Among the whole presidents that have been there, nobody confirmed him, so we said okay, “if you have not been confirmed, we have to get a new registrar, we are restructuring, so, gentleman re-apply so that we can go to other issues. What happened was that he locked up the secretariat and left with the keys, we had to call him to go and open the place so that we can paint the place and after much pressure he did not do that, so what we did was go inside, pack up the old things in there and put in new infrastructures, facilities, equipment. At the end of the day, what happened was that the same man came, picked up the secretary and locked him up, saying that we broke into his office, so we got back to the police and they asked who the president is, I said I am and they told him he doesn’t have any right to lock up the place. We changed the keys to the offices and he still went on to lock up the whole offices, we went back to he police and they locked him up and he was there for two or three days before he was bailed, then he went to court.
So when you published that there is crisis in IOTA, I was surprised and I said which crisis. These are the people that came here and said that my friend come and lead us, and if they say there is crisis then I am a little bit worried.
……..On Himself (Lucky Eyis Amiwero)
Some people say that you are a trouble maker.
In Nigeria, they see a principled man as a trouble maker; my trouble has achieved a lot by changing policies. I have been involved in changes in this country; my members; the licensed customs agents of this great country have contributed immensely. We fought Cotecna hands down for the Nigeria Customs Service after the then- President Obasanjo signed the contract; we had to protest and we made sure that the contract was cancelled. I have done so many great things, changed so many bad policies. If you call me a trouble maker, I accept, but since I am making trouble for the good of the country, I want to thank God for that, it’s a good trouble.
……..On A Getting A Successor At The Council Of Managing Directors
When are we expecting a change of leadership in the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents?
It is coming very soon. Eight years ago, I stepped aside and even the other groups were telling me that: “if you leave, there is nobody you are handing over to”.
When was the Council founded?
It was formed in 1998, I was elected into this position, Taye Oyeniyi and even Dr Boniface Aniebonam were members of the Council. The problem is that the council has done so much, it has changed almost 89 government policies and we believe that it is by the grace of God that we have done all these things. We are not talking of change of leadership which have been done in other associations, we are working together now and we believe that we will never divide again; we will work together because we have noticed that in unity, there is strength. NAGAFF, Council of Managing Directors and ANLCA are working together and this will be consolidated so that we can be able to take back our rights that the cankerworms and caterpillars have taken from us. What I am doing now is looking for somebody that will take over from me and in a very short time, I will be leaving the Council presidency for someone else to take over. But the truth about it is that the industry needs somebody that will be focused, have the charisma, the courage, and the fear of God so that you are not influenced by money. I know what I have gone through as Council president. So it’s not a question of change of leadership, it’s a question of getting the right person to continue from were we have stopped.