By Steve Agbota, [email protected]
Prince Adeyinka Bakare is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of De Potter Nigeria Limited. He is also the President-General of the National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC).
Bakare has over 23 years experience in the maritime sector and he also is a seasoned freight forwarder with a practicing experience spanning 20 years.
In this interview with Daily Sun, he talked about the need to decentralized the nation’s ports to get things right and takes maritime sector as a serious business in the country.
Creation of Maritime Ministry
There are some things that need a very strong hand and decision and there’s going to be silence everywhere. The maritime industry is the biggest all over the world. The day Nigeria takes maritime business as a serious business, we are going to see that oil will not give us anything comparable to what we can get from maritime. But we are not looking at it as business. This is what Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic are doing.
Cargoes going to Niger now go through Benin Republic. Chad’s cargoes go through Nigeria same with Northern Cameroon. We need to start looking at the opportunities.
The Minister of Transport has tried his best. We need at least a Special Adviser on Maritime to the President.
Nigerian ports Vs other West African ports
There are some comparisons I don’t do and I will tell you why. Nigeria is a population of about 200 million people. The ports were built many decades ago. The newest among them is Tin Can port, which was built in the 80s.
The Cotonou or Togo ports are newly built and they are deepsea ports. They are not a consuming nation. They don’t have the population. All they do is generate revenue for themselves.
Whether we like it or not, we are still an import-driven nation. So, we still have much traffic coming in probably because of our population. Asides that, we have some landlocked countries around us that rely on Nigeria as a transit country to their nations.
Having said that, something better could have been done because whatever we don’t build now, if we are going to build it in the next three years, it might be times 10 of what we are supposed to have spent now.
The industry is so delicate that we don’t look for professionals. Nigeria tries to politicise everything. The Nigerian maritime industry is so sensitive that professionals need to be deployed as the head of agencies. We can feel the current Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, on his administrative style because he is a maritime person. Also, until we decentralise our port system, we are not going to get it right.
If the only port we are using is Lagos Port and maybe Port Harcourt, in another 10 years even if we have deep-sea port, we are still going to have the same problem because the cargo will still need to move.
We could develop more jetties than we have now, which actually have a lot of impact on the Apapa Road. The presence of jetties has stopped a lot of trucks from coming to Apapa.
It’s a good innovation. The system would have been a success if the human interface was eradicated completely. Even with the ètò system, the corruption in it is still very high.
I had an experience where the truck had done the pre-gate. And when it got to the gate, they said the code had been sold. So, we had to wait for them to regenerate the code.
There is nowhere you want to build a new system around the old people and the system will work. It’d have been great immediately the ètò was launched, all the security architecture including LASTMA; FRSC; police among others are all changed and trained for that purpose.
If you go on Mile 2 Road, you will be surprised at the volume of extortion from the police to the area boys and others. At what point did we get to that level?
A lot of people don’t go into Lillypond anymore. All they do is, once they are coming, somebody takes their pass into Lillypond, do the gate thing and goes out to give the truck the tag.
This is why when you ask around, they will say it’s not working. The platform itself works perfectly but the human interference makes it a failure.
I can remember vividly that when he came back for the second term, he said he hadn’t really paid attention to maritime. You have to be very strong to face the maritime industry.
The industry has a lot of moneybags. So, whoever you think you are, they are ready to face you. I think the Minister has been careful to watch the industry.
To some extent, he has tried to the best of his ability. He came into an industry he has no knowledge of and he has been able to pull some stunt. You have seen him launching the Deep Blue Project on security. One good thing about him is that he is a very blunt person. He tells you exactly what he wants to do anywhere you meet him.
But I want to say that it would be nice if we had a minister specifically for the maritime industry just like we have for the aviation industry. Even if we cannot have a minister, we should have a Special Adviser to the President on Maritime whose focus will be solely on the industry.
The Federal Government has proposed N686 million as the Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) budget for the 2022 Fiscal year. What’s your take on this?
If you look at the breakdown very well, you will realise that the budget has not carried anything that has to do with per head or expenditure. The majority of the budget is on fixed assets, completion of some projects that they have at hand, and a bit of personnel. As far as the CRFFN is concerned, the government is still looking at their generating their own revenue. And from there, they would be able to balance some things. So I think I am not seeing anything serious in that because there are lots of pot holes that have not been completed. Those are what the budget is for and not for the grassroots to come and spend. If you look at that figure you will think the Council is rich. I don’t even think that the CRFFN management fund is up to N100million for them to fuel their vehicles and other logistics.