The newly appointed Chairman, Trade Facilitation Committee of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Fred Ajuzie has urged the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola to justify the confidence reposed on him by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by taking some drastic measures to reposition the maritime sector.
Ajuzie who made this call in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos at the weekend maintained that President Tinubu has shown capacity and his interest in the maritime sector by creating the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy to take care of the industry, insisting that it’s now left for the Minister and his lieutenants to prove that the President did not make any mistake by creating an independent ministry for the maritime sector.
His words,”The President has shown that this sector needs to be harnessed hence he carved it out of the Federal Ministry of Transportation as a stand alone Ministry and empowered it with a Minister. It is now left for the Minister to show capacity, that he can do the job. By creating the Ministry, the President has shown capacity, it is now left for the Minister to prove to the President and indeed, Nigerians that he (the President) did not make mistake in creating the Ministry.
“The Minister should take a critical look at the sector in order to have a full grasp of the job cut out for him to do. A critical look at the sector will reveal that there are people who are in the maritime sector who are making a lot of wealth there. It is for the Minister to identify the loopholes and improve on them and if you are to fire people that you know are not contributing to the growth of the sector, you do that.”
Noting that the Minister should not compromise his office, Ajuzie who is a former Chairman of the Apapa chapter of NAGAFF observed that there are lots of people making money at the expense of the government in the sector yet the government was unaware of how much such individuals and establishments were making in the sector.
“Establishments like the shipping companies and terminal operators, they are milking the economy of this country without giving back to it. If they ask people like us who have been in the industry for the past forty years, we can expose them because I felt that the people who are supposed to be regulating them have been compromised. You can’t tell me that as a freight forwarder, that I don’t know that the terminal operators through demurrage make between N20 billion to forty billion a month when the government doesn’t even generate one quarter of the amount.
“Government may be aware that they are collecting handling charges but does the government know that they are collecting storage charges? They are indirectly ripping off people. They are the ones that created it as an avenue to make money. We know that an operator can decide that instead of you to pay two days demurrage, you will now pay one week demurrage multiplied by one thousand persons in a month. The government doesn’t know about this thing.
“Are they paying taxes as they should to the government? Are they returning what they should to the government? The same with the shipping companies. When you go to the shipping companies, having paid all that is required of you, and it is now for them to send your DO to the terminal, if it happens that you are not able to take your container, they will withdraw the DO with the cooperation of the terminal. They will now rate you two weeks back and insist that you pay it as demurrage. On one container for which they are supposed to collect N100,000, they will now collect N2,000,000. Does the government know anything about this? No!
“The Minister should know all these, that in these two areas, government can make a lot of input. Shipping Companies don’t invest in Nigeria, they operate from rented houses and they don’t even have enough manpower in Nigeria. How can you explain that a shipping company is operating in Nigeria yet their management is resident in India? There’s a lot more to talk about”, he said.
While pointing out that the Minister should focus more attention to trade facilitation as according to him, trade was not being facilitated, the NAGAFF Chieftain said, “Let him focus more on trade facilitation. Trade is delayed and trade is money. I don’t want to talk about the excesses of NIMASA, NPA and the rest. We know what they are doing, these agencies are where money is and these agencies are under the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry.
“Tinubu, for me, knows what he is doing but the question is, did he employ those as passionate as him to develop the sector and the economy?”
On scanners, Dr. Ajuzie who noted that scanners were supposed to fasten cargo clearance, however, regrets that scanners now delay cargo clearance at the port even as he accused the handlers as using the scanners to lie which he identified as a problem.
According to him, “We are supposed to have about four to five scanners in Apapa port alone because of the volume of consignments coming there. But we have only one small scanner that can only scan about one hundred containers in a day while we have more than one thousand containers to be scanned. And people are capturing jobs, paying demurrage to terminal operators. Is it not a kind of plan to rip off the traders?
“Why would you have only one scanner at Apapa port which happens to be the busiest port in Nigeria? If you want to make things move, deploy four to five scanners so that as the vessels are dropping their containers, they pass through the scanners and the images are captured immediately and sent the Controller or whoever is in charge about what the container is carrying. When it gets to the destination, it will be opened and examined before it leaves. But it has gone out from the zone to create space for more containers to come in.
“It is practicable but they don’t want to practice it because they are feeding fat from the system. We are not enjoying the gains of having scanners because the scanner is to improve cargo clearing.”
He, therefore, urged the Minister to come down from the top to the grassroots and pay close attention to details so as to identify the loopholes and take measures to address them in the overall interest of the nation and its economy.
Photo: Dr. Fred Ajuzie, Chairman, Trade Facilitation Committee, NAGAFF.
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