Steve Agbota, [email protected] 08033302331
It is worrisome that most laws in the country are feeble in almost every aspect of the economy. No one can imagine that a serious nation would ever allow foreigners dominate key sectors of its economy.
In Nigeria today, the manufacturing sector, construction, food and beverages, oil and gas, aviation and some other key sectors are dominated by foreigners, while the nation’s unemployment ratio is on the rise. The foreigners make their money here, repatriate it to their home countries in hard currencies to develop their economy and create employment for their people.
Due to foreign dominance in the maritime sector, it is demoralising that over 400 Nigerian Licensed Ship Chandlers Association (NLSCA) are being chased out of business by foreigners and are presently jobless. Nigerian ship chandlers are ranked among the poorest in the maritime space despite the fact that the business is meant for local operators. For instance, when a ship makes its next scheduled port call, its first place of call will always be the specialist ship chandlers, which is often referred to as ‘supermarkets for ship’. When the ship’s master and its crew call, the local chandlers are there to provide all the items and services needed during a trip.
The local ship chandlers traditionally provide ship hardware items, chemicals, galley equipment and supplies, charts and binoculars, paint and varnish, chipping hammers and scrapers, lubricants, foods and beverages, spare parts, water and other services to make the next trip smooth for the ship’s master and its crew.
Ironically, these items and services needed during a trip have been hijacked by foreigners while Nigerian chandlers are operating as third party.
Presently, Nigeria is said to be losing over $15 billion annually, 5,000 direct employment and 20,000 indirect employment to foreign chandlers due to inability of policy makers to formulate what would favour local operators.
Daily Sun learnt that less than one per cent of Nigerian chandlers are engaged by the multinationals in the nation’s petroleum upstream sector to provide supplies for more than 2,000 vessels and other oil facilities, which operate in the sector as against the 95 per cent allocated to Nigerians by the Nigerian Local Content Policy.
However, indegenous chandlers, who spoke with our reporter appealed to the Federal Government to save the industry from foreign dominance by setting up a standing committee to correct the anomalies affecting the local ship chandlers in the country.
They alleged that all the needs of these ships and other oil facilities were being contracted to foreign chandlers in connivance with some Nigerians in government with excuses that Nigerian chandlers lack experience and finance.
They blamed the Nigerian Local Content Management Board for its failure to implement the policy, as all the supplies of over 15,000 international vessels that call at Nigerian ports were provided by foreign chandlers. Nigerian chandlers acted as third party in the supply. They also alleged: “Ship chandling is strategic; a vessel cannot move without supplies. It is unfortunate that the industry has been hijacked by people who are not licensed. Nigerian chandlers handle less than 1 per cent of over 2,000 vessels that participate in the nation’s upstream sector as the multinational oil companies give out contracts to foreign chandlers instead of Nigerians, citing lack of experience, finance and others.
“All these are happening when there are existing laws. 95 percent of activities at the upstream are allocated to Nigerians by the law; it is unfortunate that no Nigerian is doing the supply except as third party.”
Advisory Head/CEO, Kamany Marine Services Limited, Charles Okorefe said the question is who gave the foreigner chandlers licence to practise? He queried, how they (the foreigners) came into the business?
According to him, chandling is supposed to be a local business not for foreigners, adding that the hierarchy in the system needs to explain those who issued licences to those foreign chandlers.
“And I know a lot of Lebanese and Indians are now taking over the business from the indigenous operators, which is an anomaly. It is the government that needs to protect the interest of their people.
How did the foreigners get their licences as chandlers? This is a major question as well! Because Chandlers are licensed just like those agents by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
“Is it that Customs deliberately licensed them to undermine the local chandlers? These are critical issues that must be raised because it is like they want charity to begin abroad whereas, it is not supposed to be so. I was a chandler before, then, you won’t even see a single white man or foreigner working as a chandler at the ports.”
He said questions must be raised how foreigners are chasing local chandlers out of business and how they were licenced. He stated that the questions must be directed to the hierarchy of the Nigeria Customs because they are responsible for licensing chandlers just like Customs agents.
Meanwhile, former member of the Presidential Taskforce on the Reform of Nigeria Customs Serivce; Presidential Committee on Destination Inspection and Ministerial Committee on Fiscal Policy and Import Clearance Procedure, Lucky Amiwero, said there is a problem in the Customs and Exercise Management Act.
He explained that the act is not restricted to a particular area that is why it has a problem. He said ship chandling is a local business because the supply of stocks to the ship has international connection.
He noted: “Because when you are supplying maybe some other things like engine and all the rest, you need to order them and supply the ship.
The requirements in the Customs and Excercise Management Act is not the fault of Customs, it is the fault of people working together to see how this thing can be amended in line with international best practice.
“It is also the fault of the law because the law actually does not specify who and who are to be ship chandlers. Finance minister regulates chandling business in the country and gave Customs delegated power to actually look at the operations. So, the provisions of that ship chandling does not actually restrict it to local or to anything, it is just a provision in the law.”
He said chandling business is an indigenous business, but not so all over the world. He added that the business depends on a nation’s law and if the law allows it, it is okay, but the Nigeria law does not specify a particular area and those are the areas government need to amend in order to protect local ship chandlers.