freight forwarders and licensed customs agents for the plan

Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Executive Secretary, Barr. Hassan Bello, has incurred the wrath of freight forwarders and licensed customs agents for the plan of the Council to limit the number of freighting agencies to what he tagged the “super six”.

Bello was quoted to have made the remark recently while fielding questions with a cross-section of the media on the seeming usurpation of Nigerian freight agencies’ jobs by foreigners resulting in a lopsided competition that is against the citizens’ interest.

 

According to the reports, Bello said, “We should be worried about Nigerians being unable to participate in some of the logistics. The whole thing is about competition, we need Nigerian companies to be structured to be able to compete.

Why do we have one thousand freight forwarders when we can have six major forwarding companies and these six major companies should be able to be non-vessel common carriers; they can transport large volume of goods; that is why they are forwarders, including customs licensed agents”.

In the same vein, the trucking companies, he noted, are not living up to the billing with their activities and that the same treatment advocated for the clearing and forwarding agencies should equally apply to the Nigerian trucking companies.

He maintained that there was the need for a drastic reduction in the number of trucking firms.

Reacting to the development, the Director of Communications, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. RaphAgbogu said the Shippers’ Council lacked such powers.

In his words, “talking about reducing the number of clearing and forwarding agencies and trucking companies in Nigeria, that is where we have to get to the in-depth definition of what we do. Talking about freight forwarding, one is talking about facilitation of trade and for God’s sake, I know someone whose license just came out today (day of chat). Would he now ask Customs not to issue new licenses? That is not his jurisdiction; he is the number one freight forwarder, followed by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority in the transport logistics chain”.

“Well it’s unfortunate, I do not think he can harmonise it because cargo clearing is expanding by the day and I can understand he’s talking about regulation and there ought to be a wide consultation. Remember, an arm of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) is a part of freight forwarding in Nigeria. The Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria is also part of it. So, if carries on with this wild goose chase, there will be problems because there are more simple and proliferated platforms and that’s where he is having his problems.

“With this he has to identify with the little research we made that part of the delay in cargo clearance is that there is not enough clearing agencies or licensed outfits and if the Customs should release certain licenses (over 100) they have been withholding over the years, these will certainly help the cohesive facilitation of trade. I fault his line of argument on this; it was not well thought out”, Agbogu maintained.

 

“Why is he talking about downsizing? Has he not seen the number of people in Apapa alone; is he looking at Tin Can Island Port, KLT (Kirikiri Lighter Terminal)? If he is talking about NARTO, has he gone to see the Onne Port? It can’t work! You see, he is talking about his own immediate domain; let there be a broadspread view into the whole thing. For crying out loud, this is a profession; what is he even talking about? It’s just like asking the Nigerian Bar Association to curtail its people, it’s not done!” he insisted.

 

The spokesman of National Council expressed his utter disappointment on the pronouncement by the NSC boss, saying this had given an eye opener to why foreigners were milking Nigerians dry.

“The shippers’ Council is the number one lead agency and port regulator; they are the people to call the shipping companies to order; in the first place what is a container? A container is a mobile warehouse; these people calling themselves shipping companies are just agents; they report to the terminal operators”, he noted.

 

Agbogu continued, “As for foreigners taking over our jobs, these people are dubious. Whenever you see them in the ports, you see racketeering; tramadol smuggling, they’re the pay masters of those who smuggle and fly containers and do all sorts of illicit trade. So if Hassan shows me his friends, then I will read between the lines”.

The Shippers’ Council boss further justified why the number of truckers should be drastically reduced, citing reasons shipping firms displayed discriminatory attitude in some of their operations.

“You do not need 2,000 trucking companies in Nigeria to do all these business and then you can apply laws to them. But as for these ones (truckers), you would not even know where they are. I am always giving the example of the abolition of container deposits which we want to do but the shipping companies do not collect deposits on certain companies because they are well structured. If we want to abolish certain things we need a well-structured system and that is one of the things to be reformed”, Bello said.

 

The Powerful Pen (TPP) maiden monthly award for August goes to the Public Relations Unit of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) headed by the veteran journalist, Mr. IsicheiOsamgbi. It is puuaahh for this‘great’ department!

The department is being ‘applauded’ for its artful handling of journalists’ documents submitted therein either individually or collectively. Once any document that has to do with the media gets to the unit, whose personnel alone can populate the entire NIMASA sections; it becomes story, story and story!

The scenario plays like this: One submits a proposal or letter soliciting for advert or special project or whatever to the agency’s Registry at the ninth floor; it goes to the Director General’s office. The DG minutes it to the Deputy Director, PR, who ought to work on it and make recommendations to his boss, whether to act or not. But what has been happening over the years is that the letter would automatically die in the department. Of course the agency always has the culture of not replying to correspondences.

After waiting for months and nothing happens, the owner of the letter is forced to check for the outcome of the correspondence. He is made to go back to the Registry where the movement books will confirm that the letter’s last port of call was the PR unit. There, of course, the books will confirm same.

Then come and see pretense! Junior staff would be mobilized to a frenzy search for the letter which records would show its entry into the department and no trace of its exit. After a ‘frantic’ search, the ‘victim’ will be told to come later by which time the ‘missing’ document would have been found. He is given cork assurance of the letter surfacing. On the appointed day, the same scenario of a ‘frantic’ search is repeated to no avail and he is told to ‘please send in another letter’ this time, to be given a dispatch treatment. If the person does as advised, it is the same scenario that plays out.

Sadly, this hanky panky game is being played in a department peopled by public relations experts, persons who have seen it all as far as image-making is concerned.

One can hardly count any maritime journalist that has not fallen victim of this prank by NIMASA PR unit.

The unit is no respecter of persons in its antics of exhibiting what some people term as wickedness to supposed friends, as even the umbrella body of journalists, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also fallen a victim. It was gathered that some months back, the Director General had given approval for the Lagos State Council’s training programme following a request by the body. As usual, it was learnt that the paper got trapped in Osamgbi’s office and as at the time of filing this report, it was yet to surface. Some officials of the august body, who spoke to TPP on conditions of anonymity, expressed their disappointment with the development moreso, coming from a department headed by one of their own, a journalist.

If the truth must be told, it is the right of journalists as Nigerians to solicit for such assistance to aid their work because huge funds are always budgeted for things like that. It is capacity-building. It is legitimate!

NIMASA is the apex regulatory body in maritime just as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to the banking sector; or the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the oil sector. These agencies, CBN and NNPC and at times the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) annually organized media retreats or workshops to update the media with recent developments on their operations and in the sectors. By this, media practitioners use the opportunity to upgrade themselves on the job. But NIMASA would have none of this. Yet there are huge provisions for exercises like this running into hundreds of millions of naira annually.

Maritime media men are Nigerians. They are entitled to pecks from agencies of government in terms of capacity development. That one does not work in NIMASA does not make him a less Nigerian than the staffers of the agency.

TPP gathered from insider musings that documents developing wings in Mr. Osamgbi’s office is as a result of the frosty relationship between him and his boss, Mr. DakukuAdolphusPeterside, who always tongue-lashes him whenever he pushes such letters to his desk. Another side of the musings has it that there was a standing instruction from the DG not to entertain documents of assistance from the media practitioners except from those perceived as Peterside’s close pals. Consequently, according to the musings, Osamgbi has been constrained to ‘kill’ documents from ‘unfriendly’ quarters by thrashing them on their arrival thereby leading to his department’s inglorious AWARD of DISHONOUR.

Many journalists spoke to voice out their displeasure on the development, wondering why a public agency should be toeing this line of dishonor. Some of them recalled similar experiences in the last administration when the refrain was that “the DG has a limited approval limit” just to deny journalist legitimate favor, only for the bubble to burst when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) exposed the rot in the system.

The journalists have wondered why this should be happening now, recalling that this unholy act was quite alien while HajiaLamiTumaka held sway as the Deputy Director, Public Relations (DDPR), which position is presently occupied byMr. Osamgbi. They pointed out that Tumaka represented and defended the interest of the media irrespective of where they came from by ensuring that every genuine request was given adequate attention. Presently, Tumaka is the Director, Special Duties in NIMASA.

As far as TPP is concerned, disappearance of journalists’ papers at the PR Unit of NIMASA cannot be justified in any form. Yet this same department, more than any other in the industry, churns out an average of two press releases every day for same media men it has mistreated to use.

It is for this reason that the unit gets TPP maiden monthly DISHONOUR AWARD!!Puuaahh!!!

Updated: October 5, 2019 — 10:05 pm

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