Time to properly regulate Nigeria’s shipping sector
Last Monday, the “International Sea Trade and Investment Convention 2015,” with the theme “Exploring New Trade Frontiers” and expected to last three days, commenced in Lagos. One of its key participants is the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the “Interim Regulator” of the country’s shipping activities.
The outcome of this convention should attract the close attention of the authorities in Abuja in so far as they want their oft-stated commitment to the diversification of our economy from its overdependence on oil to be taken seriously. However, the status of the NSC as merely an “Interim Regulator” of the country’s shipping activities deserves even greater attention.
The reason is pretty obvious; shipping, as a live-wire of the country’s economy, is probably the least regulated sector in Nigeria. Other “lucrative” sectors like telecommunication, broadcast, banking, insurance, pension and even the most corruption-riddled of them all, the oil sector, all of them have fairly strong regulators.
True, service delivery to consumers in most of these sectors has been far from satisfactory. But invariably the problem has been that the leaderships of these regulators hardly gave a damn about their private interests conflicting with those of the public they are paid to defend.
Such conflicts of interests, however, do not, and cannot, invalidate the need for strong economic regulators. For, as even the most ardent proponents of free market economies would admit in their moments of self-candour, it is dangerous to allow the market’s so-called invisible hands to operate without restrain, as we have since seen in, for example, the collapse of the free-wheeling global banking sector in 2008.
According to experts, over 80% of Nigeria’s trade in goods is by sea. The key components of this trade are the ports and their infrastructure, the ships and shipping companies, and the goods and cargoes. The auxiliary components include freight forwarding, trucking, insurance, cargo surveying, banking and information and communication technology (ICT).
The activities of the actors in all these areas had remained unregulated since Independence until last year when the NSC, which had existed since 1978, was granted the status of “Interim Regulator.” The predictable consequence of the freefor-all in this critical sector is that the cost of the shipping business in Nigeria has been among the highest in the world.
Take demurrage, for example, as a component of this cost. Whereas in Nigeria the free period for demurrage is three days, in the nearby Benin Republic it is 10, in Ivory Coast, nine, and in Ghana, 7. Take again the terminal operators’ charges between Nigeria and Benin Republic. Whereas the “acconage,” i.e. Terminal handling, Customs Examination and Delivery Charges, for a 20-foot container in Nigeria is about 63,000 Naira, in Benin Republic it is 24,000. The same charge for a 40-feet container is nearly 88,000 Naira in Nigeria and 48,000 in Benin Republic.
Little wonder then that many importers into and exporters from the country prefer the ports of our neighbours for their businesses.
The absence of proper regulation in this sector has also contributed in large measure to the gridlock along the Lagos Logistic Ring (LLR) on Apapa-Ijora-OrileMile 2-Tin Can-Apapa corridor becoming worse than a nightmare. A study of this corridor has shown that between 5,000 and 7,000 trucks ply it daily. This is more than three times the actual number of between 1,500 and 2,050 that the ports and tanks in Lagos can handle.
A strong regulator of shipping activities in the country would, of course, not be enough on its own to solve these problems of, among others, excessive shipping costs and nightmarish ports and roads congestion. For that the regulator will also have to be competent and efficient and, even more importantly, it has to possess integrity.
However, even though a strong regulator is never enough in and of itself to make service provision in its sector efficient and cheap, it is an imperative for such service provision. As a regulator of shipping in the country with less than two years experience, the NSC probably possesses insufficient skills and equipment to do its job well. With time and enough resources this can be easily overcome.
More importantly, however, its status an “Interim Regulator”, i.e. a temporary regulator, gives it insufficient clout to command the respect and cooperation of the actors in the sector it needs to carry out its functions properly. The law making it a regulator may have given it precise functions but in a world where image seems to have become more important than substance, names do matter.
Now that we will soon get a Minister of Transport, the NSC will, hopefully, get the status it needs to properly regulate shipping to and from Nigeria so that the sector can become a net revenue earner for the country rather than the big drain which it has been virtually since independence 55 years ago.
Re: Hajiya Bilkisu: she was too good AND true Sir, Thank you for your thoughtful and excellent memorial on late Hajiya Bilkisu. I am sure there is no other person to extol Bilkisu’s personality than yourself given the little, yet much, that I know about the profiles of both you. I have had the self indulgence of keeping watch over the many highly successful friends - distinguished former students - in whom I am very well pleased and lucky and privileged to have been associated with in my early career as a university lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Late Bilkisu had been one of these blessed persons.
Occasionally I had run into Bilkisu at the Lagos and Abuja airports and we would not only exchange pleasantries but also would get engaged in intellectual discourses. Bilkisu had sent to me two sets of publications of Research Projects in which she was involved and which I read usually with learning and fulfilment. The last of such publications was on the electoral, party and governance systems preparatory to the 4th Republic which was supported by a Swedish or Nordic NGO.
These intellectual products arguably assisted the INEC in dealing with the complex and difficult Nigerian political process in the past 15 years. Objectively, not spiritually, Bilkisu’s death in the most holy pilgrimage site, location or venue of prayers is a most painful loss to the intellectual and dedicated activist community of Nigeria. She was an embodiment of goodness with a true personality. I express my heartfelt condolences to her children and close family network. May the Good Lord receive Bilkisu’s departed soul in adoration. Prof Sam Oyovbaire email@example.com Sir, I appreciate your write up on our late fellow undergraduate in the then Department of Government (now Political Science and International Studies), ABU, Zaria, 72/75. Given your close association with her as a professional colleague, I am of the considered opinion that you are in the best position to comment on her remarkable life.
I was always excited anytime I met her in her numerous engagements, which was only (for me) as resource person in training workshops for government functionaries and sometimes as paper presenters in academic conferences. Hajiya usually came across as intelligent and pungent. She never criticized without offering options.
Although a committed Muslim, she separated her religion from political discourse. Like old classmates, we were always exchanging banters. Bilkisu was reserved without being aloof. She always carried herself in words and deed with remarkable decorum. She had influence, but never threw her weight around. As Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed commented, Hajiya could not have wished for a better place to meet her Maker than in a place of supreme worship to Allah (SWT).
We shall all miss her. May Allah grant her Aljanna Firdausi..
Prof. Rauf Ayo Dunmoye, Dept. of Political Science and International Studies, A.B.U. Zaria.
Lionel Messi has seen charges of tax evasion against him dropped as prosecutors in Catalunya instead seek 18 months’ imprisonment for his father, Jorge Messi.
The Barcelona star had been accused of avoiding 4.1 million in tax obligations from 2007 to 2009, related to payments on image rights.
But Spanish authorities opted to drop the charges against him, marking his father as the sole person responsible for the alleged fraudulent acts.
Tiger Woods has plummeted down the world rankings, undergone more surgery, and gone winless for two years for the first time in his career.
Yet still the mystique of one of sport's greatest athletes of the last generation has a strong pull, if the results of a recent Ebay auction are anything to go by.
On first glance that in itself is perhaps not surprising: this putter was owned by Woods in his glory years: it's from 2001, made for the golfer by Cameron himself, the world's most renowned puttermaker. It comes with a signed headcover, framed picture, and a certificate of authenticity.