…As Experts chart Course for Maritime Sector***
The 2019 Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference (4th TAAM Conference) which held last Friday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in Akoka, Lagos was a huge success, not just because it has metamorphosed into a revered annual platform for effectively sustaining the interest of tertiary institutions’ students in the Maritime sector, but also, because, it has unfolded and transformed sui generis, into a festival of gown and town, with UNILAG students inviting other institutions, in healthy competitive spirits, for dreams, capable of taking Dr. Afolabi Taiwo’s vision to the next level.
Fortunately, this year’s Conference went beyond merely solidifying the concrete floor of interest promotion, but also of unearthing the concrete to enable the students understand three basic things:
*there is so much untapped wealth in the Maritime Sector
*until the maritime endowments are adequately tapped, the tertiary graduates would continue to hunt for employments
*the law in Nigeria is deliberately crafted to make indigenous operators or stakeholders fail
In other words, while the maritime sector is capable of absolving as many of them as may want to pursue careers in the sector, they should start early, being mindful of the courses to pursue, and also, evolving the grit, zeal and determination, not to be frightened off, at the appearance of the initial challenges.
One after the other, the three industry gurus, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the immediate past National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA); Otunba Kunle Folarin, Chairman of the Ports Consultative Forum (PCC); and the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, delivered their messages, far more succinctly, than anyone else could do it! The laws have come with loopholes deliberately crafted into it. Nigeria would assert its rightful position of wealth, once the loopholes are removed!
“Our laws are crafted deliberately to fail. The lawyers will tell you they are infallible, but you see, whenever you put political consideration in what you do, it is meant to fail!
“Not the crafters of the law, but because, people must give room for political patriots. I give an example, the Customs and Excise Management Act, crafted since 1954, gave room that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ‘shall import, free from Customs duties and taxes, any item of his choice’. You see why it is very sweet to remain as Commander in Chief!
“But the point is, he doesn’t need anything to be imported for himself. So people capitalize on that and from that time, even though it was meant to help ‘our colonial masters’ to evade taxes themselves, it has been crafted into our laws, giving that waiver clause. Clauses that are meant to satisfy the wills of political office holders!
“Ministry of Transportation today is regarded as an A1 Ministry, because as soon as government changes hand, everybody wants to know who will be the next Minister of Transportation. It is because of the exercise of power.
“The agencies of government in the Ministry of Transportation cannot be duplicated elsewhere in any other ministry, and they are revenue generators. The law of the Federal Republic in the Nigerian Constitution, which is the ground norm, says all revenues of the Federal Government must go to Federation Account.
“But we have a way of creating Internally Generated Revenues (IGR). Those agencies leave the ones that go into federation account and focus on the ones that are internally generated. So when you are made the Managing Director of NPA, for example, some people can start doing thanksgiving, your village will turn to carnival, saying our time has come. This is because there is so much money to control.
But that is not the way to practice; that is why we don’t have enough funds to meet with the responsibility of government. That is why the maritime industry today that could fund 60 percent of all its infrastructural development year in, year out, are neglected like a boy given so much chocolate to play with and no friends to share it with. We have problems! Take the Cabotage Act for instance!
The Cabotage Act says the Minister of Transport shall allow, if satisfied, (when the right things are done, you will be satisfied), so on and so forth in our laws.
“But most countries in the world today, they do not do it that way, why can’t we follow their footsteps. We all see America as a very good country, all our children want to go there; but the Trump administration now demands that the ‘old order’ cannot help them. So, it must now be America first. I have never seen it where someone comes and say Nigeria first!
“When we were born, we saw ‘Oyinbo’ like superior human beings to us; they are meant to be served.
“If anybody tells you foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria will run away if we treat them like that, let them run. The market is ours, they want what we have and therefore we must bend the rules in our favour.
“If the Cabotage law, the same as operated in America, is operated by fiat; you cannot bring in certain things, except you are an American!
“People like Otunba Folarin would have people coming to them to say: ‘We have this vessel, but we cannot operate in your waters, please take, go and operate it on our behalf’; that’s empowerment! That’s creation of jobs; not creating opportunity for just a few people to capitalize on an issue, enrich themselves and smile away.
“What it depicts of us is that we are lazy people. Once you are not the average Nigerian who wants to take for yourself, the verbal attack begins with: “don’t mind him, poor man. You will die a poor man.” Your children will meet themselves, one father is on the high pedestal, the other father is not! They will look at you, like your father is too lazy.
“We need to pray I agree but prayers don’t solve all the problems. You can’t be negative and be praying for positive.
“So we appeal that, younger generations today, should also appeal to the immediate generation to be selfless! What I mean is, if you go to the National Assembly today, you will see we also have young people and older ones; they know what laws there are, meant to accelerate, to help Nigeria. Sadly, the younger ones in the National Assembly may be worse than even the elderly ones!
To be continued!