Dele Badejo is a professor of Geography and regional Planning at the Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye. His love for transportation made him to specialize in transport stories and he has since then made an impact in the country’s transport sector, particularly the maritime sub-sector. The Lagos State government discovered his prowess and expertise in this area during the first tenure of Governor Babatunde Fashola, who consequently appointed him the state’s commissioner for Transport. In this vintage position he contributed immensely to the development of the state’s inland waterways, and road transport. He left behind in the state an indelible mark for future generation to see and emulate. In this interview with Dele Aderibigbe, he emphasized the need for professionalism in the nation’s maritime sector, besides the recommendation for a deliberate policy that will make leaders and maritime policy makers to act locally while thinking globally for the all-important development of the country’s maritime sector.
How would you evaluate the maritime industry, looking at it from the past, the present and the future?
One thing we just have to look is in the area of policy dynamics. It is the constant changes in policy that in most cases determine what we see in our maritime industry. If you look at the past, the maritime industry is approximately a 120 years old in terms of real administration in this country. From the inception, the maritime was under the railways until 1954, when the Nigerian Ports Authority was created and you will discovered that since 1954 to date, this Nigerian ports authority or the Nigeria Maritime sector, in terms of administrative response and management, it has been decomposed into so many agencies and I always say one thing that too many cooks will always spoil the prod. Today, we have the Nigerian Ports Authority which has a responsibility to perform in the maritime sector, we have the Nigerian Maritime Ad-ministration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which also has a duty to perform in the maritime sector, so also the Nigerian Shippers council, just as we have the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). More importantly, we also have the parent body, which is the Federal Ministry of Transport. So the basic argument is that, where is the meeting point for these agencies? Where is the clear-ing house of this agencies? As long as the clearing house is not clearly determined, we are likely to be witnessing some element of policy somersault, because what is priority to an agency may not be priority to the other agency and since each of these agencies has their own autonomy, they have a mandate to pursue and in the pro-cess of pursuing their mandate, there will be a lot of conflicts along the line. How they manage to survive is something that baffles me all the time. The maritime industry is full of many stakeholders and operators. We have the clearing agents, they have a role to play, we also have the Customs which belong entirely to the Ministry of Finance, and we also have all other stakeholders in the industry. Now, equipment and cargoes are paramount to the survival of this industry. Without cargo, there is no maritime. So where are these cargoes? Do we have cargoes in our country? If this cargoes are in our country, do we have access to the cargoes? More importantly, I want to say that we have cargoes. But have we been able to lift those cargoes within any context of maritime development? The cargoes we see are being handled as mere businesses and alloca-tion. There is no deliberate linkage between those cargoes and active maritime business.
For example, who are the shippers? Who are the ship owners? Where are they from? Where do they go? So if you look at our crude oil, who are those lifting our crude oil that are being handled predominantly offshore? So in an attempt to turn it around for the purpose of maritime development in Nigeria, it is not very visible. In another dimension, how much have we developed our agricultural sector? Because up to the beginning of the civil war, agriculture was the dominant economy of Nigeria. Where are the groundnut pyramids of Nigeria? Where are the cocoa, where are the cotton, where are the palm produce? All these were cargoes that really has to boost the economy of this country. Now I also men-tioned that we are in a dynamic society. The impact of crude oil in our economy up to the 60s was not visible and as a result, if you look at our maritime sector, there was no facilities or infrastructure provided for lifting all storage of crude oil, it was purely general cargoes and the general cargoes were picked up by human beings. But technology changed to containerization. The liability of loading and unloading cargoes was completely demystified. It was replaced by heavy equipment, like Fork lift, and others. The question now is there is need for you to be provided to respond to the new stacking and loading method of cargoes at ports. So what I am trying to say is that it is very difficult to judge the maritime in the past from what it is today, because they both don’t belong to the same equation. So we have to take every situation as it starts. The turnaround time of vessels today is faster than what it was in the past. The crisscrossing the sea from one port to another today is faster and it is safer. The other thing is that stacking of goods, tracking of goods is quicker because of computerization. So, if we have to compare in terms of technological advancement, one will say things are better. What is the volume of cargo handled during that period and the volume of cargo handled today? Today, we have one 100 million metric tons of cargoes that are being handled at the ports as compared to something very, very less than that in the past. So if the volume of cargoes that are being handled are on the increase and are still being able to achieve appreciable ships turnaround time and also dwell time for cargoes, obviously, i will say things are improv-ing. But since 2006, when the policy of port concession was implemented, it came with the believe that government alone can no longer fund the maritime industry, in terms of providing the infrastructure, in terms of providing material handling and even in terms of day-to-day administration and they also saw it along the global changes, that in the whole world, people are now looking for foreign direct investment in their country. So why Nigeria should be left behind? So we now looked at how we can also be a player in the global maritime business. In the other words, Nigeria also bought the idea of port concession, meaning that private sector, investors should come in to invest in this sector, do business as real businessmen and at the end they can recoup whatever investment they have put into the reverberating the sector. But now whether the landlord situation of the concession arrangement is working is another thing entirely. We have no cause to look and see whether this port concession is actually working or not because I can say that access to information and data, from my own personal experience, has not been forth coming unlike when it was public sector driven, the annual reports, annual performances were distributed to institutions unlike today. The landlord relation-ship is still young. It will be too early to say it is working or not. But more importantly, the dynamics we have now is because of this changes in policy dynamics.
You said Nigeria has the cargoes, but how can we use these cargoes for maritime development?
I want to say that if you look at crude oil, what is the lifespan of this crude oil? And given contemporary available technology, are we not saying that we will still be relying on crude oil until let’s say in the next 15 to 100 years? .If the lifespan of our current crude oil in terms of deposit and utilization last let’s say 500 years, therefore, it means that with the current technology, crude is there for 500 years, whoever has a tanker vessel has a cargo to carry in the next 500 years. But let us assume that the technology will change and probably that people will demand for crude oil, what will be our guess for the lifespan of that crude oil? I say let us cut it back from 500 years to 15 years. If I invest money on a tanker vessel and I operate that tanker vessel, there is no way I will not recover my investment over time. Meanwhile, that tanker vessel is a Nigerian tanker vessel, the money that is realized in the process of crisscross-ing the world to supply and to bring crude, the money comes to our coffer. But with what we have now, these cargoes are being lifted by foreign vessels, we allow the money to go to those countries. So my argument is that we should be able to find out how we can de-velop our local shipping capacity in order to make us have access span.
But now whether the landlord situation of the concession arrangement is working is another thing entirely. We have no cause to look and see whether this port concession is actually working or not because I can say that access to information and data, from my own personal experience, has not been forth coming unlike when it was public sector driven, the annual reports, annual performances were distributed to institutions unlike today. The landlord relationship is still young. It will be too early to say it is working or not. But more importantly, the dynamics we have now is because of this changes in policy dynamics
Where are our tanker vessels that can carry gas from one part of the world to another? Those are cargoes from the oil and gas sector. What about solid mineral resources? Remember that for a very long time, Nigeria was one of the highest supplier of coal and you will remember the quality that was accorded our own, in Enugu area and so on, they are still there, there are still demand for coal for example. Look at the number of trucks that are carrying crude which can be handled through the inland waterways system. What we are saying is that if we have a policy and arrangement that is targeted towards developing the sector, obviously, the economy of this country will improve. You know one thing we don’t realize is that nations that have access to maritime have used that as their goal post strategy, where it is an instrument that is being used to spread out development to other sector of the economy. Look in terms of employment, look in terms of revenue, for example, yesterday we were made to understand that in one quarter the Nigerian customs made over N300 billion from the sea ports only. We are not talking of the airports, the borders, from the port system alone, an agency could guarantee that, if we have a multiplier effect, what has NPA generated? What has shippers council generated? What has shippers council generated? What has NIMASA also generated? You will discover that it is an industry that is heavily laden for development. What about the multiplier effect it has on so many other sectors of the economy, the insurance, clearing and forwarding businesses and so on. If that industry is not developed and made to collapse, you can also see the concomitant demand of the negative implication on the overall economy. And our cadets, we have problem of placement. I cannot confirm, i have an unconfirmed information that we sent over 1,000 Nigerians abroad, to institutions, to go and develop their seafaring capacity. I asked myself, if you are sending 1,000 to a place, how many tutors or instructors are going to take them over there? Five or so. But if you bring the five instructions here and give them the resources that they will need to do that job here, have we not reverberated our institutions? But if you have to send 1,000, look at the cost of tuition, boarding, material resources, and i can bet you 70 per cent of them will not come back. So what is it that we are talking about? That is why it is an unconfirmed information. But if it is true that it is like that, I pity who ever took that kind of decision. So what I am just trying to say is that if we mean that we want to develop this sector, our attitude must change, our orientation must also change and we must see it from integrity, from commitment and dedication.—-Business Monitor
TO BE CONTINUED