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The choking grip of foreign Shipping Companies on Nigeria’s Maritime Industry

John Johnson

Due to gross maladministration, policy somersault, pettiness, pecuniary considerations, official corruption and ineptitude, Nigeria has inadvertedly ceded the control of her vast shipping fortunes to the rapacious foreign shipping companies.

Despite her huge coastal attributes and opportunities that it is naturally endowed with, Nigeria has no control over her shipping industry which is being gleefully exploited and feasted on by the domineering foreigners.

All efforts by successive Governments to take firm control of the country’s thriving shipping industry through vibrant indigenous fleet expansion that would take control of her large import and export trade have come to naught as the foreign shipping lines have continued and consistently maintained their vice grip on the sector.

Nigeria is a naturally endowed coastal nation with a coastline of more than 800km and an exclusive economic zone of more than 200 nautical miles.

It’s predominantly import- dependent economy is supported by six active ports and six petroleum exportation terminals which stimulate its thriving commercial shipping activities.

With its huge but largely unproductive population that has insatiable appetite for foreign goods, Nigeria shipping industry therefore has a natural pull for foreign shipping lines which filled the void created by the   indigenous fleet to take control in the absence of strong and effective regulatory environment.

Engineer Abiodun Ilori, a Master Mariner, said Nigeria should not be carried away by its natural coastal attributes without proper utilization of the inherent opportunities.

“Our industry is not where it should be yet. You can imagine a small country like Norway that has less than five million people has 27,000 ships in the world. For every five ships that ply the waters of the world, one is a Norwegian flagged ship. Those are maritime nations we need to learn from. How did they get there? One Norwegian company has 650 ships.

‘’ I don’t like unnecessary speculations and just talking to make ourselves feel good by saying we have 840 nautical miles adjoining our coast, 10,000 miles of inland waterways. When we gather, that is what we talk about all the time. No one remembers that Norwegian waters are frozen eight months in a year because of the weather. It has never been an excuse for them not to develop their shipping industry’’

*Nigeria’s aborted dream to control her shipping fortunes*

Nigeria made a bold attempt at harnessing her maritime potentials and take control of her immense cargo throughput when in 1957, it floated an indigenous shipping line called Nigerian National Shipping Line(NNSL) which started operations in 1959 with three vessels which steadily grew to 16 vessels by 1964.

Government, through deliberate policies, sought to strengthen and empower the National shipping line and other private indigenous shipping companies to dominate the Nigeria shipping space.

By 1988, the NNSL fleet has grown to 24 vessels. The government, through the then National Maritime Authority(NMA), the forerunner to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA),granted six indigenous  shipping Companies a ‘national carrier’ status, including state-owned NNSL.

The then NMA planned to extend this privileged status to more indigenous shipping companies in order to reduce the control of trade by foreign shipping companies.

The Shipping Policy Decree of 1987 which established the then NMA gave approval for 50-50 share between the foreign and indigenous shipping lines for non-conference cargo.

Despite these deliberate efforts by government to empower indigenous shipping lines and the state-owned NNSL to take firm control of the nation’s shipping space, unfortunately the 24 vessels of Nigerian national carriers including the NNSL could only take 11 per cent of the cargoes at the Nigerian ports.

The NNSL and the private companies with national carrier status subsequently suffered from financial problems and lacked the facilities needed to attract cargoes.

In the 1990s, several of the NNSL vessels were seized in different parts of the world for alleged breach of contracts and unpaid bills, leading to its eventual liquidation in September 1995.
Its assets were assumed by its successor, National Unity Line (NUL).

The NUL, fully owned by the then Nigeria Maritime Authority, began commercial operations in July 1996 as Nigeria’s national flag carrier with only one vessel called MV Abuja.

In August 2005 the government put the NUL up for sale with no vessel but had shipping license.

With no one to buy the moribund NUL, a fresh bid to re-launch the National Carrier in 2011 hit the rock.

Subsequent efforts to revamp the dead national carrier, including the current efforts of a hybrid government committee headed by Barrister Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, have not yielded any result.

*The foreign Shipping lines bare their fangs*

With the several efforts of government to boost and empower indigenous shipping companies becoming futile and unsuccessful, the foreign shipping lines which have been waiting in the wings eventually swooped on the Nigerian shipping space, taking absolute control of the operations in the sector without competition from the non-existent local fleet.

From the early year 2000 when government has failed in its attempts to encourage indigenous carriers to take a dominant position in the shipping activities in the country, the foreign lines have had a vice hold on the sector, subjecting Nigerian importers to untold hardship through multiple and arbitrary charges.

They have been carrying out their operations with impunity and in flagrant disregard and disobedience to the regulatory authority.

The shipping lines have treated and still treating the directives from the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), the landlord and technical regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council(NSC), the commercial regulator and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) with scorns and ignominy.

With weak regulatory environment and timid regulators, the foreign shipping lines have continually played gods, imposing arbitrary and multiple charges on their hapless customers who are helpless and harassed.

The atrocities of these shipping companies are being complemented with the equally oppressive regime of charges by the terminal operators who are working hand in gloves to further subject Nigerian importer to modern economic slavery.

Incidentally, some of these shipping companies and the terminals are of the same ownership.
For instance, Mersklines is said to be of the same parentage with the APM Terminal, the owners of the Apapa terminal reputed to be the biggest.

In the same vein, Grimaldi shipping is said to be from the same stable with PTML, the owners of RORO terminal in Tin Can port.

So, with the total control of the most vital supply chain, shipping and terminal operations, the foreign operators are able to build a complete hedge of economic subjugation around the hapless Nigerian importers.

*Shipping Charges as weapons of economic oppression*

Nigerian ports are reputed to be the most expensive to transact business partly due to the arbitrary and multiple charges by the foreign shipping companies and their collaborating terminal operators.

Some of the contentious charges include but not limited to terminal handling charges, container demurrage, Value Added Tax on Cost, Insurance and Freight, Container Deposit and Value Added Tax on container deposits.

Apart from these charges, which the Nigerian Shippers Council in 2010 put conservatively at 40 in numbers, there are other numerous surcharges which the shipping companies willfully impose on Nigerian-bound cargo for flimsy excuses.

According to a study on Impact of Unfair Surcharges and High Local Shipping Charges on National Economies of West and Central African States, Nigeria as a case study, on the Europe-Nigeria trade route, the number of multiple surcharges on Nigeria-bound cargo and the estimated loss to the Nigerian economy due to additional ‘Local Shipping Charges’ on imports exceeded N150 billion in a year.

These surcharges are Bunker Adjustment Factor, Currency Adjustment Factor, War Risk Surcharge, Congestion Surcharge, Peak Season Surcharge.

Others are Extra Risk Insurance Surcharge, Freight Rates Surcharge, Port Operations Recovery Surcharge among others.

In 2010, the Nigerian Shippers Council published a list of some 40 unapproved port charges. These include terminal handling charges, container deposit, container clearing, shipping company charges, demurrage charges, cost-on-turnover, transfer documentation charges, transfer charges, rent charges, equipment charges, manifest amendment charges and tally clerk charges. The discovery prompted the then Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, to issue an order for the cancellation of about 12 of the unofficial charges.

*Industry regulators as toothless bull dogs*

Stakeholders have lambasted the industry regulators, especially the Nigerian Shippers Council which is the economic regulator who is supposed to curb the operational excesses of the service providers and the Nigerian Ports Authority which is the technical regulator of the providers as toothless bulldogs capable of barking but lack the will powers to bite.
This timidity, they said, has emboldened the service providers in their exploitative operations.

Mrs Jean Chiazor-Anishere, a maritime lawyer, observed that lack of political will on the part of the regulators to enforce the existing laws, regulations and guidelines has encouraged the shipping companies to behave with impunity.

‘The lack of political will to strictly enforce the existing regulations in the sector has in no small measure emboldened these foreign companies in their act of impunity’’, she declared.

The Nigeria Shippers Council under Chief Adebayo Sarumi as its Executive Secretary was so incapacitated and castrated that it could neither bark nor bite.

Like a whimpering child, the Council, who was supposed to enforce the operational guidelines for the shipping companies, looked on helplessly as they carried on their operations with impunity

However, the Council gave a faith hope that it has recovered from its inertia when the incumbent Chief Executive of the Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, assumed office.

There was a spark of life in its activities which was aided by the commercial regulator status granted it by the federal government.

The Shipping companies and terminal operators under the aegis of Association of Shipping Line Agencies(ASLA) and Seaport Terminal Operators’ Association of Nigeria( STOAN) opposed the emergence of the shippers council as a commercial regulator  as well as its pronouncement of some of their charges as illegal in a bitter litigation war that took them to the Appeal court, which they eventually lost  at the Appeal court.

They had then challenged the powers of the Shippers Council to regulate their activities, declare some of their arbitrary charges as illegal and demand for refunds of some of their excessive charges at the Federal High court in 2015 where they lost.

They took the battle to the Appeal court when the upper court affirmed the position of the Council in 2018.

However, the Council has failed to leverage on this court affirmation to force the hands of the shipping companies and their collaborators in terminal operations to obey the rules of the land.

The Council under Hassan Bello has engaged more in advocacy for cheaper and legal shipping charges in a conciliatory manner rather than strict enforcement of regulations guiding the operations of the service providers.

Angry stakeholders have accused Barrister Bello of engaging more in oration and rhetoric on the impunity of the shipping companies than whipping them to line.
Early in the year ,Bello promised the harassed users of shipping services that  shipping charges would be reduced by 35 per cent by the second quarter of 2020(April-June) as the agency is concluding negotiations with shipping companies.

“After that, NSC will negotiate with terminal operators and government agencies ,that would be in the third quarter and it would further reduce cost,” he said.

Importers and their agents who spoke to this magazine confirmed that no such reduction in charges has occurred even at the commencement of the third quarter of the year.

Instead, the shipping companies and the terminal operators are become daring every day in their impunity and exploitative behavior

The angry stakeholders said the Council, in its recent engagement with the service providers, has been full of “sound and fury that signifies nothing”

They readily made reference to the scorn and flagrant disobedience of the service providers to the order made by both the Shippers Council and NPA over demurrage waivers that should be granted during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in April, had directed that all terminal operators should suspend all applicable terminal storage fees (demurrage) on consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23. It also extended the demurrage-free period by another 14 days from April 13.

In another memo issued on April 8, NPA said it would “grant credit notes commensurate to the rental reliefs granted by the terminal operators to importers within the 21-day free storage period.”

Similarly, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), directed all shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges on cargoes during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown effective March 30th.

Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello, added that demurrage charges during this period should be refunded to the consignee or his authorised agent.

But all these directives by the two leading port regulators were partially obeyed by the service providers with no consequence.

In 2018, at the height of gridlock on the Lagos port access road, the NPA ordered the shipping companies to establish holding bays to keep their empty containers which were found to be the cause of the gridlock, with the warning to sanction erring companies.

However, four shipping companies Maerskline, Cosco Shipping, APS and Lansal, all foreign companies, were given 10-day suspension by the NPA for violating the directive.

Shockingly, the four erring companies, without fully complying with the directive, were hastily left off the hook by the NPA before the expiration of the period of their suspension.

Such was the timidity of the regulators which the stakeholders blamed for the impunity of the shipping companies.

The NPA has always displayed high level of timidity towards curbing the excesses of the service providers whose operations it is meant to regulate as technical regulator.

A source in the agency said regulating shipping rates is out of the NPA purview.

‘’Freight is not under our control as it is a relationship between shipping lines and consignees.

“It should equally be noted that NPA has very limited control over shipping regulations possibly due to reporting patterns of agencies operating in the maritime sector to diverse supervisory ministries.

“Not until the activities of various players in the industry are integrated to operate a single window (one-stop-shop) that we could see reduction in the cost of shipment into Nigeria’’, the source declared in an apparent attempt to justify lack of will power of NPA to call the shipping companies to order.

*What makes the Shipping companies thick?*

Stakeholders agreed that it was not for lack of regulations but the will powers by the relevant authorities to enforce them has been what has continued to embolden the service providers in their oppressive acts.

Also, the absence of competition from the indigenous operators who are less motivated has given undue advantage to the foreign operators.

Chief Issac Jolapamo, the Founding President of Nigerian Indigenous Ship Owners Association(NISA), gave a chilling insight into the politics behind the continued subjugation of Nigerian Shipping industry to the control of the foreigners.

According to him, the foreigners had willing collaborators among some powerful Nigerians who are working hands in gloves to perpetuate the control of the foreigners for their selfish interests.

It warned vthat the country shippind business will be under the vice control of the foreigners as long as the government fails to break the yoke through conscious and deliberate efforts spear headed by a bold and nationalistic leader that will call the bluff of the foreigners.

He declared that the only Nigerian leader who could have done this was former President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he said tried but failed because he did not listen to the right advice.

The respected ship owners lamented that the few indigenious operators who were bold and could posed a threat to the conspiracy agaist the development of the shipping sector have been silenced through economic castration.

He gave a further explanation to what happened.

‘’Most of the shipping companies in Nigeria are foreign controlled and that is why the indigenous ones have no headway.

“It is when Nigeria is ready to break away from their control that is when we can break away from it.

“It is when we are ready.

“We need will- powered government to break away Nigeria from their control.

“Nigerians are their chairmen and board of directors. It is a very tricky  situation.

“These people are powerful who have direct access to government.

‘It is when we are ready to do it our own way that is when we can break from their control.

It was due to the selfish interests of our leaders that we have not been able to break the stranglehold.

‘For instance, a tanker shipping company to be owned by the NNPC that was conceived over 40 years ago was not allowed to take off due to the pecuniary and selfish interests of some powerful Nigerians who muzzled the project from conception. They rather wanted foreign tankers to be lifting our oil because of what they could make out of such foreign domination.

“So , the foreign domination in Nigeria is not something one can break easily because they are so entrenched .

“It needs a leader who has guts and is nationalistic with strong political power who can deliver Nigeria from this foreign domination..

“That was what happened in China and other Asian countries which control their own freight markets today.

“The only Nigerian leader who could have broken the foreign domination in Nigerian shipping industry was former President Obasanjo who really tried but failed because he didn’t listen to the right advice.

“These people crippled Cabotage regime before it even started.  They knew the effects of a successful Cabotage on their operations so they crippled our refineries and resorted to importation of refined petroleum products.

“They went to CBN and queried the bank why it was paying for imported fuel discharged at Lagos ports and asked that they move the point of discharge to Benin Republic and Ghana.

“Do these countries produce oil?

“They also crippled few of the outspoken indigenous ships owners so they could have their ways.

“It was a deliberate and complicated web of conspiracy between the foreigners and the powerful cabal in Nigeria to allow the Nigeria shipping industry to be subjugated for their selfish interests.

“This has made our regulatory agencies to be toothless bulldog.

“Some of us have struggled to ensure we break this yoke but we have been frustrated and incapacitated, businesswise.

“Now there is nobody to bell the cat, to lead the campaign for the emancipation of Nigerian shipping industry.

“Except the leadership commences a  programme that will break the jinx.

“Their agents within the government have effectively frustrated the efforts of some of the indigenous operators whom they consider as threats to their illicit practices.

“The experience is so frustrating.

“That is the same reason they weakened the Nigeria Indigenous Ship Owners Association(NISA) which had been given them a serious challenge.

Mrs Anishere also gave an insight into why the foreign shipping lines are audacious.

“Acts of impunity in this context would refer to the arbitrary hike in the cost paid on freight amongst other monopolistic tendencies, “she said.

She explained that majority of shipping companies in Nigeria unfortunately are owned by foreigners.

According to her; “there are no competitive indigenous ship owners, which is one of the major reasons foreign shipping companies are so powerful and unchallenged”.

“Overtime, our shipping laws and regulations have aided and abetted the unruly behaviours of these foreign shipping companies, thereby making it near impossible for freight forwarders and dockworkers to engage in a level playing ground”.

Chiazor-Anishere also noted that lack of political will to enforce the existing regulations is making the shipping companies behave the way they are doing.

“The lack of political will to strictly enforce the existing regulations in the sector has in no small measure emboldened these foreign companies in their acts of impunity, “Chiazor-Anishere said.

She observed further that inconsistency in policies and issuance of ambiguous policies are a contributory factor to the problem of foreign domination in the Nigerian maritime sector.

She also maintained that another challenge faced by indigenous shipping companies is the availability of capital.

She said: “World over, shipping is known to be a very capital intensive enterprise.

Ultimately, the indigenous shipping companies do not have the capacity to compete with the foreign companies, hence the monopoly of market”

Mr Francis Uchechukwu Aniezechukwu, a legal consultant and Director -General of Sea Empowerment Initiative(SEI) declared that the regulators that are supposed to regulate the shipping companies are not working.

“They are not doing the oversight function as they should. There is no law that empowered shipping companies to collect container deposit in Nigeria.

“I have written to NSC to show me the law and the statutes but what they are telling me is that there was a contractual agreement and such agreement is a product of a statutes

Aniezechukwu  maintained  that one of the reasons they  cited in terms of container deposits is that it is only a guarantee that they collect to show that the containers must come back.

“I say it ought not to be because the freight forwarders they are dealing with are not touts but freight forwarders that are licensed by the federal republic of Nigeria.

“So, if you think containers will not be returned, take an insurance for containers because the making of container deposits in doing business in Nigeria is enormous.

“N200,000 per a container deposit for a ship that has as much as 10,000 containers. Do you know how much that is translated to?
“Nigerian shipping companies are reaping close to N80 billion yearly on container deposits alone, “he said.

He, however, noted that when these containers are returned, the deposits are never refunded. According to him; “they come up with the idea that it was delayed and deposit time paid has been exhausted and there is nothing you can do about it because the regulators are not regulating.

“If I have my way, I will take a regulator that will regulate the regulators”.

Aniezechukwu also said that shipping companies collect demurrages at will because they are not being regulated.

“We have so many petitions written to NSC but NSC never asked us. I don’t know the reason why they are not doing what they are supposed to do but I think they don’t have the capacity to do what they are supposed to do.

“Government is an institution itself and Government made them regulators. There is a court decision that the regulators have right and rule. The Federal High Court said that they are statutory regulators of the shipping companies and if they refused to do what they are supposed to do, it’s as a result of their negligence or complacency, “he said.

Emeka Akabogu, a maritime lawyer queried the multiple charges imposed on importers/shippers and said that what constitutes some of the charges are unnecessary if things are done in accordance with global best  practices.

Eugene Nweke, a maritime expert observed that the concession of the seaports has not curbed high charges.

He said that shipping companies and concessionaires capitalise on the timidity of industry regulators, weak and compromised regulatory environment  to fleece importers/exporters of millions of naira.

“It is every unfortunate that importers have nobody to protect their interest. Apart from increasing terminal and other shipping charges, shipping companies and concessionaires compel importers to pay for demurrage at the ports even when it is the terminal operators that caused the delay”, he lamented.

Nweke also blamed the high propensity for revenue without commensurate provision of enabling environment as an incentive for the shipping companies to impose arbitrary charges on the hapless users of their services.

“There are some questions you ask they will be staring at you. Ideally, shipping companies are supposed to be regulated by the economic regulators. The economic regulator is assumed to be independent but must also project the policies of the government.

“Now where some government agencies that are in contractual agreement with some of these people have not provided enabling ground for them to thrive and want to come back to regulate them, what do you do?

‘The Nigerian Shippers’ Council finds itself in a big quagmire and NPA needs to put in place regarding the contractual agreement between them and the terminal operators.

“How do you reconcile the fact that a carrier berths in your water and it takes two weeks to berth and when it berths, it takes another week to discharge, where is the turnaround time? How do they recoup?

‘Is the government firm? Nigerian Shippers’ Council is out to regulate the entire maritime industry and part of what they are to do is to get the shipping companies to get consistent pricing system.

“But have we as a nation put in place a sustainable pricing or costing system. There are fluctuations here and there, so what do you want Shippers’ Council to do?

“Do you think that the government is not aware that the cost of doing business in Nigeria is higher than other African countries? Government is out to drive revenue generation, they rate their performance based on revenue generation and not based on efficiency of services.

“Government should give directives and stand by it. The government has the responsibility of calling any shipping company that thinks it has any backing to order to show that the country is larger than any individual.

All attempts to get the reactions of the foreign shipping companies were roundly rebuffed as they build almost impregnable wall of secrecy around their operations.

But we were able to go round the cocoon of secrecy the weaved round their operation to get their thought.

A source close to some of these foreign companies whispered to our correspondents that the business environment in the country is politically unstable, stifling and unfriendly.

‘’The environment in Nigeria is not business- friendly. Government regulatory environment is concernment more to impose a lot of levies and charges on the operators without providing an enabling environment for your business to thrieve.

“So the only way to survive and break even and also recoup our vast investments is by passing these plethora of charges from NPA, NIMASA and other regulators to the final consumers, hence what you guys regard as arbitrary charges on our customers are inadvertently caused by the stifling regulatory environment”, the source, who denied any collaboration with some powerful Nigerians, declared.

Kayode Farinto, a member of the governing board of the Council for the regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN) seemed to concurred with the argument of the shipping companies.

“I am one of the people that believe that the shipping companies are the major problem in the country. I am shifting grounds in view of what I have seen. The blame doesn’t go to them alone, chunk of it goes to government agencies as well.

“I took my time to do my research and I notice that NIMASA charge lots of money on a vessel, there is what we called gross tonnage of a vessel, which means that the bigger your vessel, the higher the money you pay to NIMASA and they have been collecting this in dollars and with the MD of NPA concerning these charges against Shipping companies.

“For example, NIMASA is charging for Maritime Environmental and Management Protection Levy, NPA is charging Pollution charges and they are the same charges collected from a Shipping line.

“And because Nigeria is a market where every vessel would like to come due to our burgeoning population so, to survive these shipping companies tend to slam charges on whoever has consignment over a vessel.

“You can’t be charging for Environmental Protection Levy and NPA at the same time charging for Pollution charges”

Speaking further, the Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) said that when a vessel calls on the Nation’s water-way, NIMASA charges 3 three percent Freight on each container, stating that NIMASA collects about $100 for 1 by 20ft container and $200 dollars for 1 by 40ft container.

While other stakeholders believed that failure to pass the Port and Habour bill as well as National Transport Commission bill was part of the reasons the foreign service operators are difficult to tame, others like Yinka Bakare, the President of National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators who is also a member of the governing council of CRFFN, alleged that most of these foreign companies are backed by powerful Nigerians and government officials who are giving them the much needed latitude to exploit the Nigerian shippers and importers.

Comrade Adewale Adeyanju , the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria shared the same sentiment when he said that most of these shipping companies always put Nigerian politicians as their Chairmen or members of the board who will give them cover to perpetrate their impunity.
‘They took unfair advantage of their godfathers in government and business world to further perpetuate their unfair trade practices in the country’’, the angry stakeholders said.

As Chief Jolapamo warns, the end to this domination by the foreign shipping companies may still not be in view as long as there are no deliberate efforts by a bold and willing Nigerian leader to break the stranglehold.

Just like George Floyd said to his white murderers in the United States of America, the Nigeria shippers/Importers who are groaning under the choking grip of their foreign exploiters, are gasping for breath, saying, ‘’we can’t breathe’

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Headlines

I was never in charge of maritime industry —Saraki

Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation in a hearty discussion with Amaechi when the going was good

 

Eyewitness reporter

For three years after she was named the Minister of State for Transportation in 2019, Senator Gbemisola Saraki said she was never in charge of the maritime sector.
Her assertion contradicted the gentleman’s agreement between her and Rotimi Amaechi, who until his resignation from Mohammed Buhari’s cabinet to pursue his failed presidential ambition, was the Minister of transportation.
Amaechi,  as the then supervising Minister, in 2019, had delineated the duties of the two heads of the ministry to avoid any possible clash of interests.
At one of the public functions held in Lagos in 2019 at the beginning of his second term in office as the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi publicly declared that while he would focus his attention on railways due to the enormity of the project and its importance to the national economy, Saraki will be in charge of the maritime industry with his occasional supervision, especially as it concerns maritime security.
Ameachi had then acknowledged that he had abandoned the maritime industry for the rail sector when he first served as transportation minister from 2015 to 2019 but said his minister of state, Senator Gbemisola Saraki,  will fill the gap during his second term in office.
“In my first term as minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the heads of agencies.
“This time around, that won’t be happening again as I have instructed that the Hon. Minister of Transportation for State should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening” Ameachi had declared.
However, Senator Saraki subtly debunked the claim three years after when she said that she was never in charge of the sector.
The minister was reacting to an inquiry from the curious journalists last week Friday why it took her one year to the end of her four-year tenure to come on a familiarisation tour of the sector she was supposed to be superintending.
“I was never in charge of the maritime sector. I was asked to supervise road transport”  the Kwara State-born politician declared.
Her revelation confirmed the widely held belief among the stakeholders that there was a repressed and smouldering animosity between the two Ministers.
Though Saraki tried to downplay the cat and mouse relationship with her former boss, stakeholders however believed that the two Ministers never got along well with each other.
Sources pointed to instances when the two Ministers were tactically avoiding joint attendance at maritime events.
Impeccable sources whispered to our reporter that the festering feud became noticeable when Saraki began to boycott events in the industry with her former boss.
It was further learnt that the boycott of events in the industry by the Minister of state may be a subtle protest against the apparent arrogation by Amaechi of official duties of the junior Minister which has led to the redundancy of Saraki.
It was gathered that throughout 2019 and the better part of 2021, Amaechi allowed Saraki to take charge of events in the maritime industry.
Sources claimed that towards the end of last year and since the beginning of 2022 up till his resignation as the Minister, Amaechi may have reneged on the gentleman’s agreement between him and his minister of state.
“During this period, the Minister took over the functions hitherto reserved for the Minister of state.
”This development seems to have irked Saraki who felt the Minister was trying to make her reductant.
“That was when she started to boycott functions at the maritime industry where she and her principal were likely to meet” a source who was in the know confided in our reporter.The absence of the minister of State at major maritime events became noticeable during landmark events such as  NIMASA’s unveiling of wreck removal in 2021,  the World Maritime Day, 2021,  and the inspection of the Lekki deep seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It could also be recalled that Amaechi had made a couple of visits to the Lekki deep seaport, even on a Sunday, before the presidential visit, none of which Saraki attended.

Concerned maritime stakeholders claimed that the recent action of Ameachi, who is widely regarded as the ”Lion of the Niger Delta” may appear bossy to Gbemisola Saraki, who is also a strong-willed woman.
“The two Ministers are of strong-willed personalities who don’t brood nonsense.
“We all know the political antecedents of Amaechi who has a domineering posture.

” Gbemi is also made of sterner stuff given her role in the “Otoge” political tsunami in Kwara which eventually swept off  Bukola Saraki, her blood brother, from the political dominance in Kwara politics, a role which earned her the present position in the present dispensation.
“So, I don’t see how Amaechi, who has domineering posture could lord it over Gbemi, who is equally a woman of strong character, without skirmishes” a knowledgeable analyst declared.
However, stakeholders were skeptical if Senator Saraki could achieve much of the promises she made during her week-long tours of Lagos ports last week given barely one year she has as a member of the Buhari Administration before it is wound up.
The Minister came on the tour in the company of some Directors in the ministry.

“Today is my fifth week of assuming the leadership of the Ministry of Transportation”, she declared last week Friday in Lagos.

“We came to take stock of the sector. We had taken the stock of the Road sector,” she said.

Giving her summation of her findings at the end of the tour, she declared” Apapa and Tin Can ports are in terrible need of repairs.

“We will go and come back for repairs.

“We have the short, medium, and long-term plans for this. We need to start with rehabilitation here. Another problem here is power”

The  Minister met various groups who are stakeholders in the industry.

Among them are women groups in maritime, terminal operators, stevedores, maritime workers union groups, haulage, and transport operators, maritime lawyers, freight forwarders, and maritime press.

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Headlines

We have political will to ensure CVFF is disbursed—-Saraki

Senator Gbemosola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
—- expresses sadness over unending delay
Eyewitness reporter

The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Rukayyat Gbemisola Saraki has expressed willingness to muster the necessary political will to ensure the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFF) are disbursed before she leaves office.

She expressed sadness over the delay in the disbursement of the interventionist funds, 19 years after it was set up which she said was critical to the empowerment of the struggling indigenous ship owners.
The Minister made this commitment Friday during the interactive media parley she held in Lagos to round up her week-long tours of Lagos ports.
The Minister, who was fielding questions from journalists, declared that her ministry would work with the National Assembly to expedite action of the disbursement process.
She disclosed that she was part of the senators who passed the Cabotage Act in 2003 which gave birth to the CVFF and it was disheartening that 19 years later the funds are yet to be disbursed.
 “It is really very disheartening that the fund has not been disbursed but we will work with the National Assembly to ensure its disbursement.
“Just watch, it has to be disbursed, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In the course of this visit, I have also interacted with so many stakeholders, including the indigenous ship owners.

“I know the number of vessels that Nigerians had 10 years ago and I know how many they have now.
“The funds is very critical for the empowerment of indigenous ship owners and we know many of them have gone under”

“It is really a shame that this fund has not been disbursed, I learnt the value is $350 million now and I am not sure any part of it is missing.

” We will work with the National Assembly to pass the guidelines. It is not really about the Federal Ministry of Finance but I think it is more of the political will to disburse it and I think we have the political will to do so.”
The Minister disclosed that the guidelines for the disbursement of the fund have been formulated and awaiting the approval of the  National Assembly.

She added that the disbursement would follow the approval by the National Assembly after beneficiaries must have been shortlisted.

According to her, the approval would soon be secured and the fund disbursed in no distant time.
She regarded the non-disbursement of the CVFF as a national shame and embarrassment.
CVFF is a two percent contribution by indigenous ship owners on every Cabotage contract executed and is meant for fleet expansion and empowerment of the shipping capacity of indigenous ship owners.
Since 2003 when the Cabotage Act was enacted and 2006 when the CVFF guidelines were enacted, no disbursement was made as the funds have become a subject of controversy and subject to serial abuse.
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Jamoh raises hope on removal of war risk insurance  on Nigeria- bound cargo

 

— as Lloyd’s of London meets September with stakeholders
Eyewitness reporter
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has given assurance of early resolution of the vexed issue of war risk issuance slammed by the international shipping cartel on Nigeria- bound cargo.
The surcharge was imposed on Nigeria-bound cargo during the heady days of piracy on Nigerian waters.
But due to the efforts of NIMASA with the collaboration of other sister agencies, pirate incidents were brought down to a minimal level so much so that Nigeria has had zero piracy attacks since the beginning of 2022.
This has led the country to be removed from the red list of pirate nations in March 2022.
However, despite this feat, the international shipping cartel still maintains the war risk insurance on Nigeria- cargo.
This has made NIMASA embark on a campaign to make the shipping cartel drop the surcharge.
However, Dr. Jamoh, while speaking during the tour of NIMASA facilities in Lagos by the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, gave an indication of early removal of the surcharge.
According to him,  the Lloyd’s of London, which are the coordinators of insurance surcharges on Nigeria- bound cargoes, will meet in September to deliberate on Nigeria’s request for review of the surcharge.
” Our hope is that by September this year, the issue of War Risk Insurance will be addressed when the Lloyd’s of London, coordinators of insurance surcharges on Nigerian bound cargoes meet to deliberate on our position paper which highlights the short, medium, and long term plans to sustain the achievements in our war against piracy in Nigeria” NIMASA DG declared.
Meanwhile, Senator Gbemisola Saraki has expressed satisfaction with the management of NIMASA while she was on a tour of the assets and equipment of the agency in Lagos on Wednesday.
 Among the assets inspected included the NIMASA Command, Control and Computer Centre (C4i), the NIMASA Modular Floating Dockyard, the NIMASA E-library and Vessels belonging to the Agency undergoing dry docking at the Naval Dockyard Victoria Island.

The Honorable Minister expressed delight at the equipment and assets of NIMASA, stating that it underscores the importance the Federal Government attaches to combating maritime crimes and ensuring zero tolerance for illegal activities on the nation’s territorial waters.

While commending the synergy and collaboration amongst agencies of Government in the maritime sector, the Honorable Minister expressed delight at the fact that Nigeria has witnessed piracy-free waters since 2022.

Accordingly, she said; “for over 28 years, we have been in the press for the wrong reasons, over the piracy issues at the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

” We were there when Mr. President commissioned the DEEP BLUE PROJECT last year and within that short frame of time, we have broken the jinx, and for the last five months zero attacks, so I think that says it all for my assessment of NIMASA”.

Furthermore, Senator Saraki noted the need to sustain the momentum to ensure Nigeria remains attractive to investors, adding that the Ministry is delighted at the steps NIMASA is taking to address the issue of War Risk Insurance premium on Nigerian Bound Cargoes.

“The most important thing now is that we don’t rest on our oars. The Free Trade Agreement and how it affects Nigeria is our focus.

“We hope to create an enabling environment to be very attractive and highly competitive when compared to neighboring countries and collaboration amongst all maritime agencies of Government in terms of information gathering and sharing is key in achieving this”. she said.

However, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh disclosed that the focus of the agency is sustaining the achievements in recent times, adding that the plans are in three categories of short medium and long term.

“Our focus now is to sustain the tempo

 “We are very optimistic that the clamour for the removal of war risk insurance premium on Nigerian bound cargos will soon yield positive results.
” The international community desires sustainability of Nigeria’s war on piracy and maritime crimes. The good thing is that they are part and parcel of our processes and procedures.
“We have the Nigeria Join Industry Working Group where all stakeholders including the INTERTANKO, the largest owners of tankers in the world, the INTERCARGO, the largest owners of Cargos in the world and the major oil marketing companies meeting regularly discussing developments in the Nigerian Maritime industry.
” We have also strengthened our collaboration with the Nigerian Navy.
” The SHADE Gulf of Guinea is another platform where inter-regional organisations such as the ICC and the European Union foster collaboration to secure the Gulf of Guinea.

“Though Nigeria was removed from the red list of piracy nations on the 3rd of March this year, it is natural that the international community will desire sustainability.

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