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The imparative of localising international maritime laws in Nigeria

Written by Maritime First

Prof Badejo’s Interview continues today

There was deliberate attempt some years ago to convert available cargoes in the country to maritime development with the enactment of the cabotage policy, which NIMASA ought to have implemented effectively for this purpose. Are we not supposed to advance in this all important maritime advancement in this country with that?

I asked a question earlier in the course of this discussion that where is the clearing house. If you look as NIMASA’s enabling Act, it has a mandate. If you also look at the Act of NIWA, it has a mandate, but all these mandates, some of them are overlapping. So one will claim it has its own role to play, another says it has its own role too to play, but on the same pattern. The question now is how do we come together, analyze this matter and see how the two of us can work together in order to make that pattern better. If you look at the cabotage, in fairness, those who drafted it did it in a hurry and in an attempt to draft it in a hurry, a lot of incompatible things were brought into it. What I am trying to say is that if we all have a common goal, we should be able to overcome whatever that is making it difficult for us to move forward. If the problem is who takes the honour, who takes the credit, we will never make progress in the maritime industry. We must be able to sacrifice and downsize our personal interest and see the development of this sector as a common call. We should all be united with one accord to move forward.

You rightly observed that Nigeria don’t have the platforms to lift available cargoes in the country. The question now is that as NIMASA’s core mandate is to develop indigenous platforms needed to access these cargoes, and the agency has over N39 billion idle fund in its coffer, it collected over $150 million accumulated freight charges from NLNG early this year and this money is also lying idle and has not been accounted for, there are also other funds lying idle within NIMASA, are these funds not enough to advance the nations shipping capacity to an extent and for the purpose of this all important maritime development we have been talking about?

If I am NIMASA, if that fund is idle for the next 10 years, I have to be very careful. You were around during the ship acquisition and ship building fund.

Those who benefited from that fund, where are their ships today? What ship did they acquired? What cargo have they handled? They saw it as Tiwan tiwa (our own share). I even credit NIMASA for having that kind of financial prudence and discipline. You know why I am saying this? It is also borrowing from past experience. You were in this same system during the period of cargo sharing and allocation. Who benefited from cargo sharing? People that benefited from cargo sharing were people carrying portfolio and complementary cards. What about the ship acquisition and ship building fund? Where are the people that benefited from it? How many of them acquire vessels and if even they acquired vessels, where are the vessel? Where are evidences of repayment? So once beaten is twice shy. It has to be very, very sure that this time around, those that are going to benefit from this fund are actually going to invest on what that fund is meant for. So it has to be meticulous.

It is one thing to give money out, it is another thing to have the capacity to monitor. You give someone, let’s say $20 million to acquire a vessel. The N20 million you have given that person is just the cost of procurement. The very day that vessel is procured, the following day, it has become second hand. You cannot sell it back at the same amount again. It has already incurred demurrage. So when you now acquire the vessel, what about the operating cost? You are going to fuel it. Is the fueling part of the $20 million initial start off? He is going to recruit staff that will be operating the vessel. Is that $20 million part of the money? So you really need to do your calculations very well. So if you give me $20 million based on an invoice and you now pay for that invoice, how do you expect me to have my own money to put that vessel into operations? I will need another $5 to $6 million to effectively take charge and say yes I am now a ship owner. So you need the capacity both in-house and outside to do those little but important things so that you don’t end up destroying a laudable plan.

Meanwhile, immediately I procure that vessel, I am not going to get cargo immediately. How about insurance? You call it operative cost, where does he get initial operative cost? When you have given him that allocation from CVFF, the banks which I called shylocks are already waiting. Which bank will give you a long time loan in Nigeria? A country with 155 banks in 2003 now left with only 16 banks in 2014 and we are told that by 2015, about 6 of them will disappear again, so what kind of banking system are we running that will support the Maritime? Our banking system is just the ‘jeun jeun’ (chop and chop) banking.

So the industry you are talking about go beyond what we are seeing. Those that are coming to borrow that money, what is their pedigree in the shipping industry? What is their experience? Have they managed a vessel before? Have they operated a vessel before? Can they tell you anything about global shipping? If you are coming because you have access to the fund and you have the contact to access that fund, you should know that from the beginning, that fund will not perform, that allocation will not perform because if you go and look at the record of those who benefited in the past, they are friends of power brokers and they were never practitioners of the industry. So the prudence, the patience and the scrutiny that NIMASA is trying to undergo now, I don’t blame them because once beaten, twice shy.

It is one thing to give money out, it is another thing to have the capacity to monitor. You give someone, let’s say $20 million to acquire a vessel. The N20 million you have given that person is just the cost of procurement

I can see you have treated these questions and matters dispassionately if you know so much, if you enjoy the vantage position, you are enjoying now, coming from the Ivory Tower, they know whatever you say is based on objectivity, why did you keep so quiet?

I think that is very, very personal. You see a Yoruba proverb says if a small boy falls, he will look at his front, but if an elderly falls, he will look at his back. We are in a country that depend so much on foreign consultant and we also believe on those foreign people. Those foreigners that they are romancing with are the same foreign people that will come to us to seek information and use some of those information to provide you with whatever you want. Today, I am a Nigerian and I am proud to be a Nigerian. If I go to IMO, you think I will sit at IMO watching a policy that will be counterproductive to Nigeria? I will never, because my ancestral home is in Nigeria. So when you now invite a foreigner to come and help you to develop your country, and you want him to give you something that will make you to override his own country, you are wasting your time. It is a highway to nowhere. So they will use your wristwatch, look at it and tell you the time. Until our attitude towards foreign dominance is resolved, we will continue and continue to keep quiet because when they see you from antagonist point of view, it speaks volume. Today, I keep on describing our maritime sector as one step forward, five steps backward. So I remember during the concession period, the staff strength of NPA was about 12,000 or a little more and they wanted to downsize up to nine thousand. The question was 75 per cent retrench? Forget about the money to pay, do you know the number of families and dependents which that concession affected? I am not saying we should not do concession but I always say act locally and think globally. Eventually, I think they retrenched 3,600 or so. Today, they have not recovered. This is when the issue of capacity development comes in. I keep on saying those that have participated in the maritime sector, how many of them have developed capacity? How many of them are around to guide. The level of professionalism in the industry is very, very appalling. I am not saying lawyers should not be there. I am not saying accountant should not be there, I am not saying geographers should not be there, I am not saying pharmacists or medical doctors should not be there, but what is their knowledge in all these academic curricular they have gone through, where is maritime or shipping component in it? What is the population of Tanzania? What is the population of Ethiopia? What is their economy? They have a na-tional carrier. Where is our National Carrier? About two weeks ago, the government of Tanzania signed a shipping development arrangement with China to come and develop their shipping. Are they not going to use their people? Are they not going to do it? But what do we do in Nigeria? We carry Agbada, our coats and briefcases and go to China to go and meet them. If our orientation does not change, we will continue to have these problems.

You talked about capacity building which is one of the mandate of NIMASA. People are being brought to fill key position in the sector without consideration for professionalism. You said NIMASA has to be cautious in its attempt to disburse CVFF fund, the peoples’ money. Are they going to be cautious till eternity at the detriment of capacity building?
I use myself as a very good example. I did Geog-raphy and I did Town Planning. But my interest in maritime made me to specialize in transportation. I did everything possible to make sure that I develop myself along that line. If they are putting you in a place, the first question I ask myself is am I competent? But today, do we even think of competence? People are not thinking of competence, people are just thinking and were able to make a lot of progress. It takes a professional to do that, but some people will say no, why should NIMASA get someone from NPA? Why should NIMASA get someone from NIWA? Go and call me Badejo from Cabotage department, let him go and do the job. Meanwhile, Badejo that you have called is not competent, is not knowledgeable. But, you don’t want another person who is competent and knowledgeable to do it for you because he is not in the or-ganization. I used Lagos as a good example.

When we were able to start the water ways, we brought in someone who has operated a vessels for a long time and who has relevant experience about the coastal water. He was with us as a pioneer consultant, he was the MD and immediately he left we brought in other people.

The moment you know where you are weak, look for those with strength, you can then easily ask them to come and push you up. But in Nigeria, everybody is a possessor of knowledge and as long as we don’t change our attitude, we will continues to run into this kind of question.

So, the issue of capacity is everywhere. That is why if you go to Lagos Inland Revenue when they recruit, irrespective of where you come from, you will be subjected to three months training and another saying this is my time. The history of capacity in this country is as old as the history of this country. Are we not alive when a veterinary doctor was made Managing Director of Nigerian Airways? But if a professional tell him this is the way forward, what will happen? Are we not in this same country when a Minister called in a foreign airline and said that foreign airline is our national carrier, and that if that plane has 300 seating capacity, 33 per cent of that seat is for Nigeria? The company ran away because the 33 per cent that is ear-marked for us, they will give it to people free of charge The man withdrew. It is not the airfare or a travel fare that matters. There are lots of appendages that are attached to that air ticket. Insurance is there, commissions is there, and so the question is if you have given you seat free of charge, here you paid insurance, have

you paid the commission? Is it not when you have paid that I can say let me take my own share? That is what I am saying. Knowledge is power. Those that are looking for NIMASA, everybody want to work in NIMASA because of huge pay. It is NIMASA that must raise its bench and say if you want to come, you must have this and that in addition to whatever you have. For example, if you want to study engineering at the university, they will tell you that you must have physics, chemistry, mathematics, they are not asking you for Biology. The entry requirement is stated. So, if you don’t have the entry requirement, you don’t need to go there. People with Arabic studies are in the maritime industry and I keep on saying, I am not against whoever is there, but the bottom line is that for you to be there, in addition to whatever qualification you have, you must have this. So they have also helped NIMASA to reduce its burden by compelling them to go and learn the ABC of the industry they are coming into.

Perhaps, you would agree with me, that it is the Federal Government itself that should be blamed, going by the way it has erred in the appointments of those expected to lead these agencies.

I would not say that. It is like saying that the Presi-dent of the country must be a lawyer, or probably a political scientist to use that word. So, it doesn’t matter, it is the day to day administration that works with him. He needs to be guided, he needs to be informed.

For every argument you make, you need to support it with facts and figures. But over here, because we lack capacity, they cannot even advise him well and because they cannot advise him well, he is to take responsibility for any decision taken. I hope you are following the argument.

The Head is to be professionally guided. That is why you have directors around him. That is the job of the rank and file; from the directors to officer zero, as the file is going down; and when the file is also coming back, it comes through that same process to the top.

If decision starts and stops on his table, it is not what you are saying that comes to bear. But, if truly he has all the people to do the job, he must respect those people’s judgment because they have all sworn the oath of office. But many of us are living by the day and hoping for tomorrow.

It is not only peculiar to NIMASA, I want to take that from you. It is everywhere, not only NIMASA.

Let me give you an example, when I was with Lagos State government, we introduced a policy in the Ministry of Transportation. We call it Traffic Impact Analysis.

Traffic impact analysis is about when you build a house… If it is commercial, then more vehicles will be expectedly, coming there; if it is institutional structures like hospitals and schools, more vehicles will also come there; if it is a bank, they are likely to have many more vehicles. But, if it is a residential home, they are not likely to have such heavy vehicular traffic. So what we now discover after study was that most of the areas we have congestion on the roads in Lagos today are mostly areas where there are commercial activities going on.

In addition, our people had also kept on coming to change their buildings to commercial purposes, by adding shops and so on. What we now did was that, since in the Ministry of Transportation we don’t have the capacity to undertake traffic impact analysis, because none of the personnel had sufficient awareness,. So what we did was to go to the Ministry of physical planning.

Physical planning are the ones approving building plans and for them to approve a building, they must have conducted a traffic impact. Because that would determine the space that you will keep in designing your building.

So, they seconded about eight of their town plan-ners to the Ministry who started doing our job and we three weeks …of thorough exposure to the real operation. They will first debrief you of wherever you are coming from. It is like if you worked with First Bank and change to Union Bank, Union bank will debrief you of First Bank. All the people that have been recruited, how many of them were debriefed of where they are coming from?

So many of them are professionals and have developed the interest of professionalism. That is the issue.

The Federal Government through NIMASA has plans to establish a national carrier for the shipping sector. What advise do you have for them in this regard?

You see, I am not in practice. At times I talk from theory and I talk from research. But you know it’s a different ball game when it comes to implementation. But be that as it may, the first question we need to ask ourselves is: what are we losing for not having a na-tional carrier? Are we actually losing anything? There is what you call cost benefit. For not having a national carrier, what are we losing? And what are we going to benefit? Yoruba says: “ejo la ko ko. Ka to ko ija”

meaning “you plan well your case first, before embarking on the fight”.

If you don’t know what you are losing and what we stand to gain, then we are pursuing a highway…

So, the first is when the President gives a directive, you call yourselves to decide whether or not it is going to be implemented.

NIMASA has a number one task of advising; to advice the government on policy directives. Probably the President woke up on one side of the bed; or probably he went out on an occasion and someone told him, ‘you still don’t have a national carrier?’

But you may not know whether this same person that told the president is the same person hustling you at NIMASA level. You now sit, call others and ask, ‘let’s look at what we can gain for having a national carrier and what we not gain for not having a national carrier. And what are the component parts of a national carrier. What was the past experience of our national carrier? Where did we make mistakes and where, given another opportunity, we won’t make those mistakes?

There are many questions that need answers and I keep on saying it, don’t blame NIMASA.

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Maritime First