Hajia Bola Muse is the President Women in Maritime, in this interview with TimeNews Reporter.com, she ex-rayed the challenges of the Maritime Sector at Nigeria’s 60 years of independence, blaming the menace in the Sector on leadership.
60 years of Maritime sector, do you think there are things we should celebrate as a sector?
First of all, as human beings, we need to celebrate ourselves and thank God especially for the situation we find ourselves now what almighty God has already sent to us which nobody predicted because everybody looked up to year 2020. All our agenda, all our mind, all the focuses were always on year 2020 but almighty God came in. He said no, you are just on your own; one thing is human being always proposes and God disposes.
Back to the celebration, it is good but still pray to almighty God for guidance especially with our leaders in the maritime sector. Today, where we are supposed to be, we have not reached there. Our case is still like a case of a baby trying to grow and when a baby is trying to grow, it’s stage by stage which we are seeing in the maritime sector today.
But what encompasses everything is good leadership. When we have a good leadership everything will be in place like in other countries today; look at Benin Republic, they have everything in place. They have the law guiding them. Let’s forget about the closing of the issue of the border that we are talking about and the ease of doing business. Are we really having the ease of doing business in Nigeria? Look at how porous our Port is looking. Fine, there is no way, there is no construction when you are doing construction, but a lot of things need to be put in place and are we really working towards it? Who are the people that are supposed to be in charge? What are the things we need to put in place before the commencement of this construction?
If we put right people, maybe you have good people in place, especially if you communicate with the real stakeholders of the maritime; we will not be in this situation we find ourselves now.
Some attributed the problem we are having in the maritime sector especially in the Port to the concession of the Port.
Of course, agreed. You see, I have never seen because, whenever I travel outside the Country anywhere in the world being a maritime person I am always curious go to the port to see what’s happening there. When you go to other people’s country, if you see their port, you will cry for our own, because the port has been concession to the foreigners, to people who are not even supposed to be in the port. Who are these people? People that are just ready to reap and just leave us alone, if not we will not be in this situation. We have a lot of indigenous port operators, look at SIFAX, and look at ENL. A lot of things are happening that still boil down to the fact that the right people are not in the rightful place.
And it was said that even in the review which NPA is proposing that the real stakeholders like you said were not even informed, they were not part of the review Committee.
They were not. I need to tell you something, there was a time that when the situation of the port was seriously bad. Initially, we didn’t know that we will get to all this when it was newly. We requested to see the Minister of Transport because all our cases were based on the transportation. Ok, so that the stakeholders will have the meeting with the Minister of Transport and tell him this is what we are facing, this is what is happening, But no, the Minister of Transport did not come and they have to send, because the Minister of Works then was indigenous of Lagos State they had to send him to come and meet with the stakeholders and by the time we were called up who were these stakeholders? The real, actual people that were supposed to be there were not in the meeting. I now came up and I told the Hon. Minister that Sir number one, this venue is very wrong because it was in one area that; you know we Nigerians we love to do a lot of ‘we we;’ it was ‘we we’ affairs. So I told him, he people that you called up here are not the stakeholders, I did not see single terminal operator, I did not see shipping liners, I did not see them there. We will just carry all these road people; all these transporters that are people that own the road. Even the freight forwarders were not in the meeting. How do you want the matter to be sorted out if the real stakeholders are not there and this is what we are saying. People will say; ‘that woman, she is a woman in million she tried her best and she is still doing that but you know everything has a limit that you can go before you step on peoples toes because when you are In a country that when you are saying the truth, your truth is like it’s in your pocket there is nothing you can do so that is it. And that is why I maintain it that when we have a good leader the leadership matters in the affairs of the country, when you don’t have a good leader you are nowhere is not good.
Come to government agencies does it mean that they don’t have right bed in their right home as demand these agencies to correct some of this anomalies. You see you are right if you say so that is to my own opinion but I still believe that in the government agencies there is a lot that are wrong in the affairs of these people because when your sick will you go to the mechanic? Because mechanic repairs cars when you are sick you go to see a Doctor but the doctor you want to see is being given an appointment, because he’s my friend’s child, my friend’s family and the real doctor you will never see them and that is exactly what is wrong with us in the Country. I could remember when the Minister of Trade and Investment said ‘this is not my line, what do you want me to do there? The asked him to say it there and he said the truth and is he performing. Because of political appointment, because you want to assist me and I assist you, how can a country move forward? We should have a solution we have been having a solution but still has not been effective until we get it right before we can succeed and how do we get it right? It is to put the right people in the right place.
Please tell me your experiences what gave you the inspiration and how has it been as a woman in a the male-dominated sipping sub-sector?
Number one; everybody has his or her own vision in life. When you say okay this is me you will first of all discover yourself and when you do, things will be so easy for you to do.
When you are a lion, a lion always fight it does not wait for anybody to fight it. Lion goes to the bush to hunt for its food and gets it done. So I always tell people that when you discover yourself, you know who this is me is; this is my potential, this is what I can do, things will be so easy for you. And in this job the professional is masculine quite alright; what makes it to be? When you are not carrying the container inside the port, it’s only the documentation that makes it and it’s the same thing we are doing in my office I am the only woman and I have 25 men working with me. My Company is 25years now working and we have been working as a family. You need to see my star and I don’t see myself and one thing that is always unique about us is that the unity makes the Company to move forward. It’s because we are sincere in what we are doing, Sincerity matters most and you make sure that when you call yourself a leader there are a lot of things that make you a leader; it is to be able to accept that this Is you and to bring others along with you. Example, in my office it is only that, that differentiates you, we are the same. I keep telling them that what everybody has in his or her mind that we are all the same rank; when you give someone a manager, somebody is this one or that one it is because of the administrative names that we gave to ourselves but all of us we work as a team and that Is what has been keeping us. I don’t think we have a new staff here except the trainees all my staff we grow together, we started from one room together, all my staff got married in this office, all of them are young, we came in together as young professionals and we are still together all of them and always happy because we work as a team. When you think about been a man in the midst of all professional colleagues they don’t see me as a woman. What makes you to be a woman is the difference that God the creator of all who created us as men and women put in us but any other thing when it comes to professionalism we are one and that is why you see that I was able to be here. You know everything was easy for me in their midst, always a living witness when we are together in their midst with understanding the wisdom because we need to have the wisdom and you know women have a lot of wisdom because there are a lot of things that women will think twice before doing something. First of all the ability to withstand life is what you should think about, there is nothing easy; you want to talk to customer, the customer’s consignment is in the port and being delayed and you pay demurrage. The customer 24/7 is on your neck disturbing you day and night, you cannot sleep it is not growth but ability to withstand it is what you should have. I have an issue for the past three days let me give u an example of what I have been going through now, Ok, I’m a batch operator we operate a batch and we took the batch to the terminal to discharge. When we got to the terminal, the batch developed problem on the waterside and we have to take the batch back because we can’t not repair the batch. In NPA water there is always an actual problem, for the past 10days I have been going up and down the owner of the batch is on my neck, the owner of the goods is on my neck because we still have the truck inside the batch and it cannot come out because they are on top of the water they can’t come out so the problem is there for about 10days we have been running up and down shouting. I was at a party yesterday I could not enjoy myself because of the problem and they need to talk to me even if the Manager is there but they need to get a final say from me. Ok now we found a solution they repaired the batch and now to get the driver to come out the driver said they are afraid they can’t come out because they don’t know whether they will go and jump inside the water, or whether the boat will sink again they will have a problem. What do want? We need to go and get a Crain and Crain you know how much it is? The Crain we took is 650, 000; ok fine we brought the Crain when we brought the drain down, the owner of the batch now came up with me again that this truck will not come out except I pay him his demurrage. Is his batch that is batched well and he has finished repairing and he has forgotten and he is telling me he is a senator his this and that, I took everywhere how will I go and talk to the officer please this is what is happening the police was like okay fine, the man has come to report first we cannot do anything this and this we have to go and get agreement now for 2 hours I was on a conference call with this man talking. the man is not in Lagos he is in Warri I was talking to him for 2 hours I closed from work that day around 6:00pm and this man engaged me till 8:30pm, my head was aching. I said of am a woman when I go home I don’t discuss business again because I need to face my family. Ok fine; if you want to ask for demurrage let the driver come out for 10 days if driver did not see their family they could not eat there, one driver inside is sick so allow them to come out now we have gotten a Crain and the Crain is per day second per day the Crain will charge you. The same amount so ‘oga’ please allow this motor to be released, He said no, I need to go and write an agreement when I was hiring a Crain from him I did not go and for any agreement now you said I should go and make agreement that ok I’m going to pay this demurrage. I said ‘oga’ I’m learned and this is my Country nobody can tell me what I don’t no agreed. In the first instance, who caused the problem? If your batch wasn’t good are we going to be in this situation, do I even know you? Now you allow me to lose the contract because its people that gave me the job, I lost the job because I signed a 10-days agreement with them, 10 days now I have not even done half of the job and now you are asking me for money.
Now headache, I couldn’t talk I couldn’t sleep everyday they will be on my head. Now as at 11:00 pm last night, ‘send the format to me is it not right we sit down and talk about it.’ When he sent the format I said I called my lawyer and he redrafted the letter for us that this is how its suppose to be so that he will not use it against me in the court of law so we did I sent him the letter that his Crain has spent two days again and that was when he agreed that we should offload the truck from the batch. Now I’m left with the grain people talking to them now when he agreed the Crain now said they will not offload until we pay their demurrage again. I said ok no problem when the Crain eventually entered the batch the Crain damaged is batch again. The Crain damaged the batch again now is like madam another trouble you see now tell me that is single so when you talk about the challenges there are a lot of challenges. Are you talking of the truck that you loaded peacefully from the port come out, maybe the truck have spent almost five days before coming out of the port and the truck is going and had an accident occurs on the road. So there is no job that doesn’t have challenges it is only by the wisdom and grace of God and especially, when you see that this is what I know how to do best you just have to be passionate. That is how it is.
Still on Nigeria news on independence at 60th and we are looking at the maritime the place of Maritime after 60 and from what you have said it does appear that not much development hare taken place and some school of taught are also saying that one of the problems the Sector is still where it is because NPA has lost control after the concessioned. NPA and Shippers Council are just like toothless bull dog. Do you agree with them?
I do not agree, NPA did not lose control but at times you known the case is like a tenant and a landlord you have some stubborn tenants that even if you and the tenant are leaving in the same compound maybe it’s time to pay the NEPA bill you see some tenants that will be giving you serious headache that is the case of the NPA. Any day you follow what is happening in the Maritime Sector you will see how NPA has been fighting with all the operators but you see Nigeria, I don’t know how to really analyse or describe us.
You know in my office you have the men working with me, they can use my license to go and be stamping for people but I put my foot down that whoever uses my license for people I will not even take you to the Police station, it is jail straight and they see the readiness, they see the sincerity in me, the seriousness that this woman if I do it there’ll be problem, I rather go and use other people’s own to do it not that maybe they do it as side jobs at my back. I don’t mind you are free to do whatever you want to do but it is not with my business because this is me, it’s my identity so that is the relationship of what is happening in the maritime today. I don’t want us to drag much on it because I have a lot of relationship so I have NPA and I don’t want it to continue.
Okay ma, going forward we have done our 60 years and we are looking forward to another 60 years so in the Maritime Sector what areas do you want to see changes?
In going toward we need to control, sort the issue of gridlock, no country in the world that you will see as poorest as our port, this is the source of revenue for this Country we call Nigeria and there is supposed to be a lot of things in place. This is something that the government needs to look into, we know a lot of havoc this issue of this road has caused to people who may have lost their lives, people have also lost their means of living, they have also lost their properties and their businesses because Apapa was not like this before, a lot of people have moved out. People who own the property today cannot say that they have a property in Apapa, people who own businesses, shops, and restaurants are closed, a lot of things are happening. This is not how it is supposed to be, this is the Country that at least today this is our source of revenue we are talking about here and everybody kept mute like there’s nothing happening, that is the number one priority when we sort this out. The Yorubas said that you would have to first of all drag the visitor before talking in the house. So, all what you need to do is that if you are able to resolve this issue of this gridlock everything will be in place. Why are we having issues, before we started having the gridlock, in Apapa, to load in 20 fotter bus was N25,000 or N30,000, but now it is N450,000 while to load a 40 footer then was about 40 thousand but is now 650 thousand. I’m telling you this; from Apapa here to Tin Can Port and cargo N450, 000 to Apapa here and when you are going up Country it is another different ball game. The up Country that was N450,400 is now 1.8 million and this is coming back to the end user’ me and you’ that is to say that we are indirectly killing ourselves not anybody. The owner of the truck, that the truck has been on the traffic to enter the port to carry load he has already charged you the number of days he will spend on the road and when he put load from the port coming back to drop the empty he has already charged you everything and the person who owns the container that went to the market added all this expenses and sell it to you that is why you see that everything is high now in the market.
Tomatoes of 1000 now cannot be used to cook again, the man would now begin to shout that was it not the money he gave yesterday for food but everything is zero, is it not the transporter that went to pick the market woman that is in traffic for many hours, he has already added the money because he had been burning his fuel and he also needs to eat too so that is why everything goes down to leadership. When we have a good leader things will fall in place and we need to start saying the truth to ourselves. A carpenter is meant to be at the workshop not in an air conditioned office, he can even be in an air conditioned office when he knows what he is doing because all that he needs to do is to have a workshop and a small office to supervise the staff and not because this is my friends child or so but should be based on what we read in school. I read Economics and whatever and with this, things will be okay for us.
Who or what do you think are to be blamed for all this traffic gridlock because effort to ensure that all this should work as not produced desired result?
It is working; when we know what we are doing it will work. It is not that it seems not to be working, my sister you are Nigerian, I am in Nigeria. What makes it not working? Some feel like they are gaining from it, thank you, case closed