Chief Lawrence Chukwubunna Uba is one of the five contenders for the National Secretary position of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA in the coming National Executive Committee, NECOM election scheduled to hold on the 5th July, 2023. In this interview with our correspondent in Lagos on Tuesday, he speaks on what stands him out among other contenders, what he intends to do differently from the past National Secretaries of ANLCA and so much more. Excerpts;
What makes you believe that you are the best among all those seeking to be elected the National Secretary of ANLCA?
Looking at other contestants, in as much as in an election, you don’t underrate anybody, I believe I am still the best and with God on my side, I will come out victorious. National Secretary of ANLCA is not where you come to learn,it is where you come to exhibit experience and experience, you don’t buy it in the market, you don’t have experience by the amount of money you have or by being a fine boy. You have experience over the years and I must tell you that over the years, I have garnered experience because I started outside the committees that I served in ANLCA. I started as an Assistant Secretary, which means that when I came in, I started learning under somebody what it means to man a Secretariat in ANLCA and how it functions.
After the first tenure, I learnt it, I went in to become the Secretary of ANLCA and I served in that capacity twice. I did not stop there, I moved up again to become the Vice Chairman and from there to Chairman, all at chapter level. At the national level, I have equally been Secretary of Committees. Like when we talk of POSCO, that is Prince Olayiwola Shittu Campaign Organization, I was the Secretary of that Campaign team and we successfully executed that Mandate. And I have equally been in other committees in ANLCA and luckily for me, all the Committees I have served in: Ethics and Discipline, Reconciliation Committee and others, I was the Secretary.
So, based on that, I believe I have acquired the necessary experience to take off. But looking at all these others that are coming out to contest, I have not seen any of them that have gotten that type of experience to back up what he wants to do because like I said, that office should not be a learning field for somebody that has not served in any capacity in his chapter coming out to say he wants to be the National Secretary which is the engine room of ANLCA. I believe that if members really consider this my background, by the grace of God, I will come out victorious.
What do you think you want to do differently from all those who have served in that capacity in the past if elected?
For me, I am not coming in to bring anything different, but I am coming in to improve on what has been achieved so far. From all indications, you will discover that from the time Iju (Tony Nwabunike) as Secretary of ANLCA till now, there has been continuous improvement, building upon a foundation that has been laid and that is what I am going to do. Like the ICT (Information and Communication Technology), I have been opportuned to go for trainings which is called filling the gap between the ICT in freight forwarding, train the trainees. I have been trained to train others in ICT. In fact, it was after that training under Shittu that ANLCA Secretariat got computerized.
And with Mukaila on the saddle now, everybody can see the improvement he made in the use of ICT to advance the cause of ANLCA. So, given the opportunity, I will improve on that. He started well, he created a functional website for ANLCA. We also have a functional email and database such that if you want to know who is ANLCA member now, just go to ANLCA website, Mukaila did all these things and I say kudos to him. So, all these things that he did, we need to sustain them as we move on and improve on them.
ANLCA Biometrics ID Card project was not conclusively pursued to achieve it objective. If elected, what can you do differently to ensure the project is concluded and serve the purpose (s) it was created to achieve?
I was one of the people that conceived the idea of biometrics, in fact, we initiated it as a committee because it was one of the projects we had that time under POSCO. So, before it started and when it started, I was part and parcel of it. The project started and was running until the tenure of Prince Olayiwola Shittu came to an end and Iju came and you know the crisis that characterized that administration which is what we are trying to come out from. The crisis was one of the reasons why it seems like the biometrics is not moving as it ought to be.
By the grace of God, as one of the initiators of the project, because one of the things this biometrics was set out to do is that it supposed to serve as Automated Teller Machine, ATM Card because all the biometrics we have in ANLCA has bank accounts connected to it with all your details but it’s not being utilized now in terms of that and so many other things it was supposed to do. Let me inform you, when we set out with this project, it was designed in such a way that when we are through with it, any member of ANLCA will not have need of going for passport or entry permit to any port because with this biometrics, any port you get to, you will be able to have access because it was designed in such a way that shipping companies, terminal operators, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NIMASA, Customs will be connected to ANLCA to know who is a member of ANLCA and who has a license.
It was conceived in such a way that anywhere you get to with your ID Card, you will access the premises and carry out your duty as a licensed customs agent and with it, nobody will have any doubt of having any business deal with you because he knows that everything is documented and that your identity cannot be falsified with this type of biometrics ID Card. and that is why I said that my coming in is to improve, I know about this project, and I can see where it stopped, that it has not ended.
If I emerge the National Secretary by the grace of God, it is one of the things I am going to drive and possibly bring it to conclusion which is linking it up as it was originally designed so that all these people we are dealing with, we will hook up properly with them and then this biometrics ID Card will be an access card to you as a licensed customs agent. It was originally meant for us to use it to pay duty, we use it pay our shipping company and terminal charges because it is an ATM Card, then we will use it as access card to enter the ports. When you have it and you have renewed your license, you don’t need to have port pass again.
Hopefully, if I am given the mandate, I will actualize it because it has been started already, what is remaining now is to finish up.
ANLCA membership is usually a licensed corporate entity not individual but you discovered that there are many individuals not attached to any licensed corporate member of ANLCA calling the shots in the association and that has been identified to be part of the problems of ANLCA. If elected, how are you going to tackle this challenge?
I can tell you that that problem is half solved now because that problem you are referring to is what led to our licenses being hacked by unlicensed agents who are bent in using license to run because you can’t work without license. That was what made the present regime under Honourable Tony Iju to move to Customs, have dealings with them and they started giving us password. Every license now has password and the only way your license can be hacked now is if you have given out your password to a third party. And at the same time, they went further to make it in such a way that you as the CEO of your company can have the master password and then have sub password for your staff which you monitor and oversee with that your master password. So, it’s anybody that misuses his own for now that has such problem. Outside that, it could just be an imperfection in the system because there is no system that is perfect.
Then, if somebody outside this problem is still in the industry and he doesn’t have license and he doesn’t attach himself to any licensed company, I think, it’s ignorance on his or her part and that is where training and retraining comes in and that is where all those courses that I have attended and still attending will come in. if I have this opportunity of being elected the National Secretary, I will now deploy it because it means training our people.
Whoever is in this industry and he or she is not confirming, such a person needs training and knowledge because I don’t think there’s anybody that is doing that now that you will sit down, give him proper education that will continue in that line. This is because some people don’t even know the harms in it, they believe that it is all about having a bill lading, get stamped and you clear it and you are done. No! It goes beyond that, it’s a professional thing and anybody who is not professionalized, by the grace of God, with myself on that seat, we will give them the necessary training. It won’t cost much.
And my principal, Dr. Kayode Farinto has already captured training in his ten points agenda. That he will interface with customs and make sure we are given trainings and retraining because it’s our right, it was part of the reasons they gave us license so that those of lagging behind will be so groomed to be knowledgeable enough to know the system and follow it properly and that will help a lot. It will help the system, help us, help the economy and help the nation.
… To be continued.
Photo: Chief Lawrence Chukwubunna Uba, candidate for National Secretary of ANLCA in the coming NECOM election.
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