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Politics of Hadiza’ s Removal as NPA MD

On May 6th, 2021, the tenure of Hadiza Bala Usman, the  Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), was abruptly disrupted by President Mohammadu Buhari.

In a terse Twitter message by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, President Buhari approved the recommendations of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, that the financial activities of the NPA from 2016 to 2020, which have been a subject of controversy, be investigated while Hadiza, should step aside.

Since that announcement, there has been a flurry of reactions that are heavily steeped in mere insinuations, speculations, conjectures, assumptions, truth, half-truth and outlandish claims from stakeholders, depending on their interests and emotions.

But one thing stands out from the whirlwind of emotions that greeted Hadiza’s travails, and that is, the accounts of the NPA were not tidy.

The public, ever since the announcement of the shakeup in the NPA, has been entertained with unsolicited official disclosure of secret memos which both the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi and the beleaguered Hadiza pushed to the public domain to justify their respective positions and possibly court positive emotions of the aghast public.

The official memos, which are marked “secret” in the civil service bureaucratic parlance, and which the two sides would have kept close to their chests, have become a common sight on social media.

But that was not the grouse of this platform nor the subject of its intervention on the matter.

We find the way and manner Hadiza’s suspension was couched and executed as curious, untidy and hasty which easily lends itself to wild speculations of a witch hunt.
Before we are accused of undue bias and sympathetic to Hadiza, let’s us state here that we are neither her friends nor foes.

After careful study of the whole drama, we discovered that there are more questions left unanswered.

Let us quickly state here that we are not absolving Hadiza of any complicity or making any attempt to portray her as a saint in this matter.

As a matter of fact, we wholeheartedly welcome the audit exercise of the NPA accounts and any other public accounts of government agencies, for that matter.

We also support the probe and sanction of any public holder who may have betrayed the public trust bequeathed to them.

However,  what this platform frowns at is if the suspension order was done with malice and intention to settle political scores.

If this is so, such exercise would have lost credibility and moral values, no matter its good intentions.

We are puzzled by the issues surrounding Hadiza’s sack.

From the analysis of the event, it was the audit report from the Budget office of the Federation (BOF)  that prompted Ameachi’s memo to the President for a full-scale investigation into the NPA’s finances.

We welcome this development as it tends to promote accountability.

But what we found discomforting is the prayer of the Minister, which the President curiously granted, that the Managing Director of NPA should step aside before the probe is conducted.

We are at a loss if such a probe could not have been done without the suspension of Hadiza.

To us, suspending Hadiza before the probe was prejudicial which would prejudice the outcome of the probe.

It also presupposes that the accused have already been found guilty before the actual probe begins.

Curiously, apart from the Chairman and the Secretary of the probe panel, other members are yet to be appointed before Hadiza’s sack.

Also, in as much as the buck stops on her table as the Managing Director, Hadiza alone does not constitute the management of NPA which accounts are under scrutiny.

Curiously, Mohammed Koko, the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, who is the  Chief accountant of the NPA and under whose purview these spurious transactions are supposed to be made, was not only spared the searchlight but asked to step in as an Acting Managing Director.

To us, this arrangement stands logic on its head.

As the Head of Finance in the NPA, one would have thought all these controversial expenditures over which dust is now being raised, should have passed through his table.

Unless, of course, if they have been done without his approval and protest of which the yet to be constituted panel has not heard.

We are not trying to shield Hadiza from being investigated not justifying any sleazy activities in NPA, but our stand is that such investigation should be carried out within the ambit of the law and in deference to the civil service extant laws which govern such procedures.

Accordingly, the accused should have been given a fair hearing before any action is taken.

If found guilty, then she could be removed and probably prosecuted to serve as a deterrent.

But now that she was first removed before the panel, which was supposed to investigate her was even constituted, is tantamount to having found her guilty before she is heard.

What happens if, after the investigation, Hadiza is found not guilty of this alleged monumental fraud?

Of course, there is no way we can search the anus of an old woman and not finding feces

Would she be recalled if not found guilty?

We doubt that possibility because there was no such precedence of a sacked CEO of a government parastatal who was recalled.

The only of such scenario was Habib Abdullahi whose recall as MD of NPA during Jonathan administration was terminated by Buhari who incidentally appointment Hadiza in his stead.

If that is the case, it would have amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

The frenzy of activities that eventually culminated into the suspension of Hadiza gives little room for thoroughness on the part of the Minister, a hasty action which could easily be constructed to mean that Hadiza may have been a victim of political vendetta.

The Minister, based on the audit report from the budget office of the Federation(BOF),  raised a memo to the President on March 4th, 2021.

He got the Presidential approval on March 17th, 2021.

Hadiza,  apparently having got wind of the memo and the  Presidential approval, put up her defence in a four-page memo to the President through his Chief of Staff on May 5th, 2021.

In the memo, which was personally signed by Hadiza, she tried to controvert the N165.3 billion which the Budget Office said was the shortfall in the amounts which the NPA was supposed to remit to the federation account between 2016 to 2020, on the basis which Minister got the presidential approval to suspend and probe Hadiza.

“We wish to state that the Authority’s basis for arriving at the Operating Surplus on which basis the amount due for remittance to the CFR is guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 as amended and further based on the statutory mandate
Part 1, S.3(1) (b) &(d) whereby the Fiscal Responsibility Commission issued a
template for the computation of Operating Surplus for the purpose of  calculating the amount due for remittance to the CRF ( attached herewith as annex 2 is the template as conveyed to the Authority).

“Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the Operating Surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the  shortfall are derived from submission of budgetary provision, not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the Authorities financial statements.”

The next day, on May 6th, 2021, Hadiza was suspended.

The whole drama smacks of high wire political deft moves by both sides.

From the two memos, we find out, and sadly too, that there was no love lost between Hadiza and Ameachi.

Ameachi, having secured the Presidential approval to hit Hadiza with a sledgehammer, probably held back possibly to strike at the least provocation.

Hadiza provided the opportunity when rather than addressing her defence of the allegations to the Minister as her immediate boss, chose to go straight to the President through his Chief of staff.

This, we believe, may have prompted Amaechi to activate the lethal weapon he has secured from the President.

Because the second day she addressed the memo to the President through his CSO and which we are not even sure had gotten to the CSO, she was suspended before the letter could get to Mr. President, thus effectively foreclosing any shift in the President’s approval.

This scenario, unfortunately, showed an arrogant act of insubordination on the part of Hadiza who side-tracked her boss and chose to go straight to the President, an action which we unequivocally condemn.

It has become a subject of gossip in the industry how Hadiza has routinely disregarded official protocols by going straight to Mr. President in matters she should have referred to the Minister, her immediate boss.

Her memo to the CSO of the President at least gives legitimacy to this ‘gossip’.

To us, it was this flagrant disrespect to the office of the Minister that Ameachi wanted to punish which led to this avoidable crisis.

To us, this has established that the roforofo fight at NPA was between Ameachi and Hadiza which we believe was personal and an attempt to settle political scores.

Being that as it may, we also find it strange and curious that Hadiza, whose tenure was renewed six clear months before it expires, could suddenly fall out of favour.

In an unprecedented move, Hadiza, appointed in July 2016, had her tenure renewed in January 2021, six whole months before she completes her first tenure, and was gifted with another five-year tenure, which would have made her the longest-serving Managing Director in the history of the NPA, if she has been allowed to go the whole hog of her tenure.

Was the presidency not aware of the Budget office report before Hadiza was gifted another five-year tenure?

We however believe that the true complexion of the drama at NPA will emerge in the days, weeks, or months ahead as the macabre events unfold.

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Customs

Editorial! The incursion of Chinese into Nigeria’s revenue vault. 

Chinese company, Huawei Technologies

The ubiquitous Chinese is gradually getting a foothold in the nation’s economy.

Apart, from giving a huge financial lifeline in form of loans to Nigeria, the Chinese are the ones building the country’s railways, among several other critical infrastructural projects they are involved in across the country.
The latest catch of the Asian country is the Nigeria Customs Service, the cash cow of the Federal Government.

On May 30th, 2022,  the controversial concession of the Nigeria Customs Service was consummated at the national headquarters of the service in Abuja.

Despite the outcry of stakeholders against the concession of the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Federal Government signed a tripartite concession agreement with a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, and their Nigerian counterparts, Trade Modernisation Project Limited with Africa Finance Corporation as the lead financiers.

The agreement was facilitated and midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission(ICRC).

The concessionaires, under the agreement, will drive the modernisation project for 20 years.

The concessionaires are expected to invest the sum of $3.2 billion dollars with an estimated income of $176 billion generated for the Federal Government in 20 years.

Last Monday’s  consummation of the concession agreement was preceded by the approval granted by the Federal Government in September 2020 to concede the operations of the customs to concessionaires

The concession agreement, which spans a period of 20 years, will involve the modernisation of the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service, including its revenue generation which the concessionaires will take over through which they are to recoup their $3.2 billion investments.

Expectedly, the decision of the Federal government, which was clinically executed in the mould of a coup d’é tat, caught many industry stakeholders pants down.

It also generated animated discussion as the approval and eventual concession was granted in defiance to the popular wish of the operators.

Since 2019, when the industry got wind of this concession deal before the 2020 approval, there has been concerted opposition mounted by the aghast operators who felt the move was an attempt to give away our common patrimony to the foreign interests.

Then,   Hon. Jerry Alagbaso, a former Customs chief and erstwhile member of the House of Representatives, rallied the National Assembly against the move.

But to the chagrin of everyone, the Federal government pulled a fast one on all the antagonists of the project.

We are less disconcerted over this concession deal which we believe was willing away the nation’s cash cow for 20 years to the foreign imperialists and their local collaborators.

We are at a loss on which powerful forces could have forced the hands of the Federal government to enter into this type of deal against the popular counsel of knowledgeable stakeholders.

Modernisation of Customs, they said.

What is there to modernise in the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service?

At the risk of being controverted, we dare say the Nigeria Customs has the most advanced form of automation process among the government agencies in the industry and one of the most automated in Africa.

The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),  Wamkele Mene said as much when he visited Apapa Customs command last week.

Mr. Mene said Nigeria Customs has the most advanced and comprehensive automation programme among its peers in Africa.

The only challenge which the service has is human.

Some of the men and officers of the service are clearly aversed to full automation due to their selfish and pecuniary interests.

The automation process will eliminate human contacts which is the avenue for extortion and exploitation.

Since 2003, Nigeria Customs has gone through a series of automation processes that have made its processes and procedures seamless.

The Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) and its advanced form of ASYCUDA+, ASYCUDA++, the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS1 &11), and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) are some of the automation platforms created by the customs management over the years to make customs operations seamless.

Even, in 2013,  the Service developed a web-based application to provide information and guidelines for international trade business processors, export and transit trade which is called Nigeria trade Portal which is interactive.

To our mind, what the service needs is to upgrade these automated platforms, and integrate them with other players in the cargo documentation and clearance chains under the neglected single window project.

With adequate capital outlay, we believe Nigeria Customs can achieve full automation status without the involvement of foreign economic imperialists, aided and abetted by their avaricious local collaborators.

The anti- automation officers, who are averred to technology due to their selfish interests, could be reformed.

If they are adamant, they could be shipped out.

Cargo scanning could be emphasised while physical examination of cargoes could be sparingly used.

With these and all other automation platforms well integrated into the single-window under the supervision of a willing Customs administration, the Nigeria Customs will be a world-class agency.

We are however least surprised at the tenacity of these economic vultures in their quest to lay hands on the Nigeria Customs Service, which is gradually emerging as the cash cow of the nation.

Apart from oil, maritime is the second-highest revenue earner for the country and Nigeria Customs plays a key role in this regard.

With the yearly earnings in the excess of a conservative estimate of trillions of naira and the capacity to do more, as well as the dwindling earnings from oil due to the global crisis in the oil market, the maritime industry nay Nigeria Customs is understandably the preferred bride for these economic speculators.

Various attempts have been made in the past to dip their hands in the Customs’ till without success.

The proposed invitation of Crown agents of London to take over the revenue generation of the customs as was muted by the then Minister of Finance but now the Director-General of World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr  Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, under Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, was promptly shot down.

In 2011, the illegal concession of Customs key functions between the ministry of finance and a company called Single Window System and Technologies was shot down.

In 2017, another move for Customs modernisation was made by the technical committee on the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme(CISS) which was pretentiously acting on behalf of the Federal government, with a  technical partner called Adani system Nigeria limited.

The attempt, which sought to concession the Customs then for 25 years,  was frustrated.

However, in a blatant disregard for popular opinion, the Federal government, after several failed attempts,   eventually forced down the throat of the unwilling stakeholders, the concession of the agency.

However, the deeds have been done.

Any further lamentation by the stakeholders on the issue is crying over spilled milk.

Now that the government has had its way, we can only hope that its aspirations for the concession will be realised.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the government stands to realise $176 billion from the project without spending a Kobo.

The question is how much will the concessionaires realise within the 20- year period of the deal beyond the $3.2billion investments they are expected to sink into the project?

What would be the fate of the customs officers whose jobs will be affected by the take-over of the revenue functions of the agency?
Even though the Comptroller General of the service, Col. Hameed Ali, has allayed the fear of job loss, the redundancy of some categories of officers could not be totally ruled out.

It is instructive to note that one of the two core functions of the customs, which is revenue generation, has now been concessioned under the guise of this new modernisation project, leaving them with the anti-smuggling function.

We hope rather than render some crop of officers reductant which may lead to possible right-sizing of staff, they could be redeployed to beef up the anti-smuggling function of the service.

We are worried about the involvement of the Chinese in the project as represented by Huawei which serves as a technical partner.

The ubiquitous Chinese have gradually become a leech on Nigeria, sucking on the economy of the nation.

We can only hope that the modernisation project will leave the Nigeria Customs service better than it met it.

We equally hope the project will not be sabotaged by disgruntled insiders whose means of livelihood is being threatened.

The misadventure of the  Professional Import Duty Administrators (PIDA) between 1996 and 2000 in the Nigeria Customs Service is still poignant in the memory of those who were in the know.

At that period, a firm of an accounting/consultant was engaged as professional Import Duty Administrators to complement the Nigeria Customs Service in the task of revenue generation.

They left the service worst off than they met it.

We appeal to the Federal government to ensure that this project transforms the service into a technologically-driven agency whose operations are seamless and paperless.

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Editorials

Editorial! Chairmanship of CRFFN: Mortgaging the Freight Forwarding industry

Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar, Chairman CRFFN
For the second consecutive terms(2018 and 2022), a non-professional has emerged as the chairman of the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), sitting atop the regulatory body that is statutorily charged with directing and deciding the fate of the teeming freight forwarders in the country.
To put it more succinctly,  Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar, a retired army Colonel who is not a practising freight forwarder, has for two terms, emerged as the number one regulator of an industry he knows little or nothing about.
Ironically,  there are 15 hard-core professional freight forwarders, elected by their constituents in the industry to represent and take care of their interests on the Board and who are also on the same board as Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar.
We could not comprehend this act of absurdity and oddity where a retired soldier will be allowed to be the chief regulator of a freight forwarding industry.
The same oddity and absurdity playing out in the Nigeria Customs Service where another retired army Colonel is the Comptroller General.
While we may excuse the career customs officers for allowing this oddity due to the fact that the retired soldier was appointed and foisted on them, giving them no option but to obey as a paramilitary agency, the same thing cannot be said of the CRFFN where there is an option of voting.
We are puzzled why the 15 full-fledged professionals on the board of CRFFN would keep mute while a non-professional was made the industry’s chief regulator.
What makes it more confusing is that the same Act which the present board of CRFFN is operating and used to produce a retired soldier to govern the industry was the same Act that produced the first two chairmen of the board who are practising freight forwarders.
The first governing board was chaired by Tony Iju Nwabunike, the present National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) while the second governing board was equally chaired by another crack professional freight forwarder, Alhaji Akeem Olanrewaju who was ironically the Vice-Chairman to Nwabunike in the first governing board in 2008.
Those first two boards have the same membership composition as the present board: 17  government-appointed members and 15 elected freight forwarders as members, making 32-  member governing board.
What then has gone wrong?
If the first two boards could produce freight forwarders as their chairmen and deputy despite being in the minority (15  as against 17), why should the freight forwarders in the third and fourth governing boards become so docile and timid as to concede this vital position to an outsider, a retired soldier?
Informed commentators have hazarded a guess.
They said that the elected freight forwarders in the third and fourth governing council were too frightened to stand up against the barefaced impunity of the now – resigned Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who brow-beat them into silence while carrying out this absurdity.
Another set of commentators claimed, though not verified, that the frightened freight forwarders may have been compromised to accept this oddity.
Events that played out in 2018 and 2022 when the principal officers of the council were elected or selected lent credence to these insinuations.
At the 2018 inauguration of the board by Ameachi, he practically imposed Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the Chairman as he didn’t allow an election to take place to the chagrin of the elected freight forwarders.
He brushed aside a muffled protest put up by Increase Uche, who was then the National President of NAGAFF and a member of the third governming board.
He bullied and browbeaten them to silence when he said he already knew the chairman while giving them the opportunity to produce the Vice-Chairman.
That was the only position put to vote that produced Chief Henry Njoku as the Vice-Chairman in 2018.
The same scenario played out in the 2022 inauguration or meeting? of the 32- member governing body with Amaechi in Abuja recently.
Prior to that date, Ameachi was said to have told those who were elected that he has gotten his chairman.
So when he met them, he used the same gimmick which returned Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the chairman without a voting process.
He was said to have sauntered into the meeting and glared at them before he asked them if they wanted the status quo to remain as he has just only one minute to spend with them.
Obviously, he didn’t want to brood any protest or entertain any long process of voting so they all chorused in affirmation.
Which electoral process could be conducted and concluded within a minute,  anyway.
So it was another imposition.
But we are perplexed when some members of the elected freight forwarders, who are supposed to oppose this obnoxious method by the outgone Minister are now justifying and defending the oddity by dressing it as a consensus arrangement.
If there was going to be a consensus arrangement, why not take an elected member of the council, who is a freight forwarder, as a consensus chairman?
How could all the 15 freight forwarders agree to a consensus arrangement that returned a retired soldier as the chief regulator of your industry?
That is why the second postulation by some informed commentators looks credible and tenable to us.
It is even more curious to know that members of  NAGAFF who are in the majority among the elected members ( about eight of them) will look on while this oddity in the name of consensus arrangement was shoved down their throats.
It is sad that they tacitly endorsed this impunity that produced this oddity given the stance of the association’s high command on the absurdity in 2018.
Hear what Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the Founder of NAGAFF said when Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar emerged as the chairman of the CRFFN board in 2018.
On October 31st, 2018, Aniebonam described as a “black day” the day Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar was made the chairman of CRFFN.
 “A black day in freight forwarding profession in Nigeria. A day rule of law and constitutional provisions may have been thrown overboard by Hon. Minister of Transportation”,
“Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the Transport Minister, maybe a man with impunity and gut as he set aside CRFFN Act electoral provisions to appoint the chairman of the Council Board 2018 in mafia circumstances”.
Another  chieftain of NAGAFF, Freight Forwarder, Simeon Nwonu,  declared in 2018 thus:

 “Following Chibuike Amaechi’s imposition of one Alhaji Tsanni as chairman of the governing council, Amaechi’s action, contrary to the legal provisions of the CRFFN Act as regards the position of chairman and vice-chairman, has automatically placed the Council on the precipice.”

“It is absolute disregard of the rule of law. It’s not even healthy for the political future of Mr. President (Buhari).

“In fact CRFFN, and by extension, the entire freight forwarding family in Nigeria may not survive this second coming of Armageddon if President Buhari fails to redress the matter.”
If the NAGAFF High Command could rail and rake against the emergence of Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar as the chairman of CRFFN in 2018 which they described as an imposition, why then changed the nomenclature and coated as a “consensus arrangement” the same process that returned the retired soldier as the chairman.
We sympathize with the teeming freight forwarders who are daily groaning under the heavy jackboot of industry service providers who have taken the comatose state of the CRFFN to subject them to multiple charges and mindless extortions.
That the same CRFFN headed by Alhaji Tsanni Abubakar in 2018 which the freight forwarders unanimously condemned as inefficient, inactive, and self-serving, is now returned with the same principal officers, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The freight forwarders would do well not to expect a miracle from the fourth governing council of CRFFN as it is a new wine in the old bottle.
We wonder how a non -professional freight forwarder as the chairman could empathize with the freight forwarders and address their welfare issues and other matters that impinge on their professional well-being.
It is only who wears the shoes that knows where it pinches.
If none of the 15 thorough-bred professional and practising freight Forwarders on the board couldn’t find themselves qualified to be the chairman of the body that is statutorily charged with regulating their industry, then the freight forwarders should brace themselves up to accept what comes to them in the next two years of this council since they found it expedient to mortgage the future of the industry and its teeming players by putting its regulation in the hands of a retired soldier.
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Commentaries

The Gradual Decapitation of Shippers’ Council under Jime.

Arguably, the Nigeria Shippers’ Council is gradually losing its bite.
The council, which was bequeathed to the present Executive Secretary of the agency,  Emmanuel Jime, by the vibrant and energetic Hassan Bello, its immediate past  CEO, is becoming a lame duck, a toothless bulldog that is gradually losing the sting, ferocity, and vibrancy it acquired under the immediate past helmsman.
Unfortunately, Jime, a politician, who took over the mantle of leadership when his predecessor honourably bowed out of service, is presiding over a whimper of a council, which is gradually becoming colourless in character and hollow in value.
The current face-off between the freight forwarders and the shipping companies has exposed the extent to which the council has lost respect, character and bite within the short period that Jime took over, and these are the vital attributes that the retired Bello has built into the agency.
Before Bello took over the council and shortly after it transmuted into the industry economic regulator, Shippers Council was greatly incapacitated with a voice not more than that of a whimpering child: muffled, shaky, devoid of life and confidence.
But immediately Bello, widely regarded as one of the best and finest technocrats to have passed through the industry, took over the whimpering child, he polished the colourless agency into a formidable, respectable and effective regulator whose words were order to which the powerful but arrogant shipping companies have come to defer and hold in reverence.
But after the exit of  Bello, the Shippers’Council she bequeathed is gradually losing its taste and value for which it was known.
The face-off between the shipping companies and customs brokers has brought this unfortunate reality to the fore.
In October this year, angry freight forwarders issued a two-week ultimatum to the predominantly foreign shipping companies in the country over their unbridled and mindless extortion perpetrated through numerous illegal charges.
They listed their grievances which they wanted to be addressed without which they will ground port operations.
Even though the contending matters are within the sphere of influence of the Shippers’Council, it was the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practices in Nigeria(CRFFN) that took the initiative to broker peace between the two feuding parties when it convened a peace meeting.
The Shippers Council, the economic regulator, was only coopted into the peace meeting when it became glaringly clear that it has lost the initiative to be proactive.
Notwithstanding the presence of the Council which is their regulator, the arrogant shipping companies snubbed the peace meeting when they refused to attend.
Undaunted though, the CRFFN, which has clearly seized the initiative from the laid-back and lacklustre Shippers’ Council, reconvened the peace meeting last week Friday with the Council tagging along with other agencies like a lame duck.
Once again, the shipping companies, even though reluctantly sent representatives, didn’t accord much respect to the conveners of the meeting.
With annoying arrogance, the service providers partially conceded to one out of the numerous demands of the aggrieved freight forwarders when they agreed to give them six days period of grace for demurrage instead of the 14 days grace the freight forwarders asked for.
Even, the six days grace period was not clearly defined but dumped on them with you- can- go- to- hell -if- you- don’t want- it – attitude.
Expectedly, neither the Shippers’Council nor the CRFFN could do anything as the meeting was deadlocked.
The outcome of this issue has clearly defined the present state of the Shippers’Council.
It has clearly exposed the council under the present leadership as one which lacks the capacity to protect the interests of shippers it was created for.
It has shown a council that has lost the initiative to act and one which is not proactive.
It has lost the verve, glamour and the springy movement it was known for under the past leadership.
The freight forwarders themselves have expressed their lack of confidence in the ability of the  Council to resolve the lingering issues and stave off the impending strike which the customs brokers have vowed to embark on at the expiration of the new ultimatum, given the deadlocked peace meeting.
Although the shipping companies are not better in character and temperament under the past leadership of the council, Bello was still able to rein them in with his high level of interaction, engagement, consultations and high wire diplomacy that made the  Council achieve a considerable level of compliance and cooperation among the service providers.
Though the battle was tough and long-drawn as the recalcitrant shipping companies resorted to litigation to entrench their operational impunity, they however found the sheer determination, resilience, passion and uncompromising attitude of Barrister Hassan Bello too strong to break.
Does the present ES possess such attributes that helped his predecessor to succeed?
Only time will tell.
But the signal of lethargy, despondency, and lack of direction exhibited by the council so far in handing its core mandate in the early days of the current leadership, gives no reason to cheer and the situation was compounded by the equally visionless public affairs department of the council which is headed by a person of similar professional incompetent genes.
It clearly shows that Jime has inherited an oversized shoe.
The highly exploitative shipping companies may want to take advantage of the lack of will of the present leadership of the council to renew their onslaught on the users of their services.
They may want to exploit lack of experience in the workings of the industry of the present helmsman at the Shippers’ Council to unleash operational terror on the weary freight forwarders.
The present face-off between them and the freight forwarders is a test case.
If the Shippers’Council and the CRFFN fail to broker a truce between the two warring parties and stave off the impending service disruption, then Jime would have failed his first assignment as the Chief Executive officer of an economic regulator which has failed to tame one of its constituents.
Then and unfortunately too, that will signal the beginning of the descent of the council into the pre-Bello era when the agency was a toothless bulldog, which could only bark but shy to bite.
The reason for the sudden dip in the fortune of the council may not be far-fetched if we look at the antecedents of all the agencies of government where top appointments were used as political patronage to rehabilitate politicians, especially those who suffered political setbacks.
Unlike his predecessor, Barrister Hassan Bello, who is an industry man that rose through the ranks in the Shippers Council,  Hon. Emmanuel Jime is a thoroughbred politician and former APC governorship candidate in Benue State whose passion for ruling the state may still have an overring place in his mind.
That has always been the fate of government parastatals which are headed by active politicians as all other assignments will take a back seat in the pursuit of their political goals and ambition.
The same scenario is playing out at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) where an active politician heads the agency whose 2022 budget proposal was recently dismissed by members of the Senate committee who described the presentation of NIWA’s  Chief Executive as incoherent and inconsistent with the figures presented.
Contrast this with the cheering performance and runaway achievements being recorded at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) whose Chief Executive, just like Barrister Bello, is a  ”home boy”, a home-grown, thoroughbred professional.
Or better still juxtapose that with the impressive runs of the helmsman at MAN, Oron who is also not a politician but professional.
You can call them a tale of two cities. One headed by politician and the other by professional.
The success of the present ES in his onerous task of steering the ship of the Council will however depend on the willpower, cooperation and commitment of the Directors he inherited who were part of Bello’s roaring success.
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