Govt Can Surmount Forex Challenge, Says Sifax Partner, AES

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  • As Dangote sacks 36 expatriates, 12 Nigerians over recession

The President, Auto Export Shipping (AES), a non-vessel operating common carrier, handling shippers’ exports of vehicles, Mr. Pete Bottino, has enjoined the Federal Government to tactically address the challenge of foreign exchange that has negatively affected businesses in the country, stressing that Government has the wherewithal to do it.

“Right now, because of the foreign exchange problems in Nigeria, the business is down. I believe once the government gets that sorted out, more customers will be bringing in lot more cars, especially trucks and machine equipment. This is what everybody wants, but because of the foreign exchange problems, people don’t buy cars and send to Nigeria anymore, they send them to other countries. Nigeria has to get the foreign exchange problems fixed,” he said.

The AES CEO who trades in equipment and automobiles, including trucks and mobile industrial equipment via roll on/roll off vessel services from U.S. ports to various West Africa ports also acknowledged the lull in business at the neighbouring ports of Cotonou, counseling the authorities to take the advantage, to grow it’s own RoRo operations.

The AES boss made the observation during a courtesy visit to SIFAX Group facilities in Lagos, adding that the Cotonou RoRo vehicle market, which previously was a booming market in the West Coast, has actually suffered a significant decline in patronage, creating a  big opportunity which for Nigeria to grow its earnings.

“As a highly-rated carrier in the United States, we used to export two large vessels to the Cotonou ports on a weekly basis, but I must tell you that this market has crashed now and we only manage to export a small fraction there now. At present, our company would prefer to ship cargoes to Nigerian ports rather than Cotonou ports. This is an opportunity that Nigeria and its government must key into, if they want to grow their earnings.

“For the first time in our business relations in Nigeria, my team and I in the United States can feel and sense that people are trying their best to grow the RoRo vehicle industry in Nigeria and we feel highly confident with these gestures.”

“We have started conversations with the company from 2012 and we simply had no choice than to choose them because the company’s vision of growth, forward movement and becoming a dominant force in the Nigerian shipping industry is in tandem with AES vision. When you have a company whose vision is the same with yours, one has no choice than just to do business with them. I can assure all Nigerians and importers that the AES/SIFAX Group partnership is here to stay”, he stated, lauding the SIFAX Group for the genuine commitment displayed so far in building a solid business relationship with his company as shown in its business acumen, problem-solving skill and excellent customer service shown in the vehicle importation service.

The AES and SIFAX Group, according to Bottino, are jointly revolutionising the RoRo industry in Nigeria with the one-stop shop service that includes port terminal services, stevedoring, ship agency and off-dock services.

 

While responding, Mr. John Jenkins, Group Managing Director of SIFAX Group, thanked the AES boss for the visit, while assuring him and other stakeholders in the business – consignees, agents, among others of the company’s readiness to exceed expectations through provision of excellent service for which the company is noted for.

In the meantime, the current recession rocking the Nigerian economy has hit one of the biggest employers of labour in the country outside of the government as the Dangote Group, belonging to Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has fired 48 members of staff.

Our correspondents gathered that those sacked were made up of 36 expatriate and 12 Nigerian workers from the group’s headquarters and one of the subsidiaries, Dangote Cement Plc.

Though no official of the group was willing to speak on the matter on Sunday, one of our correspondents gathered from highly placed sources that the decision to sack the workers was not unconnected with the current high cost of running business in the country occasioned by the unavailability of foreign exchange and the unprecedented hike in the naira to dollar exchange rate.

It was further gathered that the huge amounts in foreign currencies being paid to the expatriate workers had become a burden on Dangote due to the steady depreciation in the value of the naira and the difficulties of raising enough dollars.

Consequently, the industrialist, according to sources, has decided to replace the expatriates with Nigerians, who have acquired the requisite experience on the job, as paying them in naira will be less problematic.

For the affected Nigerians, it was gathered that most of them had disciplinary issues, which made it easy for the group to do away with their services.

When contacted on Sunday, the Group Head, Corporate Communications, Dangote Group, Tony Chiejina, said he could not speak on the development.

However, in a letter signed by the President/Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, dated Thursday, October 20, 2016,the firm stated that it was constrained to take the “tough” decision as economic factors had affected the cost of production.

The letter, which was titled: ‘Recent Retirement Exercise’, however, appreciated those affected for their contributions to the growth of the group.

The letter read in part, “This year has been a very challenging year for us as a business. The unavailability of foreign exchange coupled with an unprecedented hike in the exchange rate has resulted in increased costs across the organisation.

“This called for a proper review and adjustment of our costs across board to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the deployment of our factors of production in a bid to eliminate redundancies that we know exist, which resulted in some tough decisions, which means losing staff, including some of our colleagues.

“On Friday, October 14, 2016, we began the process of staff cutbacks as it is imperative to review our human capital deployment for the required cutbacks that would ensure efficiency and eliminate redundancies in the allocation of human resources.

“This first phase of this exercise involved the cutback of 36 expatriate staff across the Dangote Cement Plc and Dangote Industries Limited, and 12 local staff members in Dangote Industries Limited.”

As an organisation with international operations, the group promised that it would continue to review and restructure its human capital deployment to ensure “optimal allocation of skill sets and size of the workforce each function requires.”

The group urged the workers to shun lateness, improper dressing and other unsavoury behaviours in the workplace.

Bloomberg had in its latest ‘Billionaire Index’ reported that Dangote had lost $5.4bn of his fortune this year due to the fall in the value of the naira and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to ration dollars to stem huge capital outflows in the wake of Nigeria’s worst economic crisis.

Additional report from Punch