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Maritime @60: Put the Right People in the Right Place to Get it Right- Expert

by timenews
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written by Timenews

 

 

Hajia Bola Muse is the National President, Women in Maritime(WIM), the National Financial Secretary of one of the foremost Association in the Maritime Sector, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent(ANLCA) as well as MD/CEO Bomarah Investment Limited. In this interview with TimeNews Reporter.com, she x-rayed the challenges of the Maritime Sector at Nigeria’s 60 years of independence, blaming the menace in the Sector on leadership.

Excepts

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 we 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  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  issue of the border closure 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, , whenever I travel outside the Country anywhere in the world being a maritime person, I am always curious to 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 are 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.  We requested to see the Minister of Transport because all our cases were based on the transportation, so that the stakeholders will have a 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 the Minister of Works then who was indegene 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’ affair. So, I told him, the people that you called up here are not the stakeholders, I did not see single terminal operator, I did not see shipping liners, I didn’t see them there. They 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? Hajia HadIzah-Bala; ‘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 peg in their right hole as to man these agencies, to correct some of these 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 you’re sick, who do you meet? will you go to the mechanic? Because mechanic repair 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 professional doctors, 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, when he was given the appointment, he is an honest gentle man. He said ‘this is not my line, what do you want me to do there?  And the asked him to stay 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 in such manner?, it is not possible. Let’s call a sped, a sped.
 
What is the way forward, we have seen the decay in the industry, it’s an obvious thing? Now what is the way forward? There must be a solution

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 the male-dominated shipping 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.
Secondly, When you are a lion, a lion always fight, it does not wait for anybody to fight for 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 this is me ; this is my potential, this is what I can do, things will be so easy for you. And this job, the profession is a masculine thing quite alright; what makes it to be? Men 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 staff; and I didn’t see myself as a woman in their midst and. We always looked at ourselves and one thing that is unique about us that makes the Company to move forward is 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’s only my office that, differentiates us, we are the same. I keep telling them that and that is 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’s because of the administrative names that we gave to ourselves, 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 are 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, but any other thing when it comes to professionalism, we are one and that is why you see that was why it was easier for me.  Everything was easier 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.

Did you encounter any challenge  being in this field or has it been so rosy?
First of all, you have to ask yourself, is life a rosy thing? is not. You have to. 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 rosy but the ability to withstand it is what you should talk about. I have an issue,  for the past three days, let me give u an example of what I have been going through now,  I’m a barge Operator. We operate a barge and we took the barge to the terminal to discharge. When we got to the terminal, the barge developed problem on the waterside and we have to take the it back to another Jetty because we can’t not repair the barge in  water. For the past 10days,  I have been going up and down,  the owner of the barge is on my neck,  the owner of the goods is on my neck because we still have the truck inside the barge. You can imagine, the driver has been inside the barge. He cannot come out because they are on top of the water, then can’t come out,  so the problem is there. Now 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 barge 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 Crane and Crane you know how much it is? The Crane we took is N650, 000; Ok fine we brought the Crane when we brought the crane down,  the owner of the barge now came up with me again that this truck will not come out except I pay him his demurrage. Is his barge that was not good and he has finished repairing it and he has forgotten and he is telling me he is a Senator his this and that, I look everywhere how will I go and talk to the officer that, 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 Oga, 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, agreed, let the driver come out for 10 days if driver did not see their family they could not eat there, one driver is sick,  allow them to come out.  Now we have gotten a Crain, we went and rent a crain and the Crain is per day, second per day the Crain will charge you the same amount 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 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 know, agreed. In the first instance, who caused the problem? If your barge was good, are we going to be in this situation, do I even know you? Now, you make 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. The owner of the Jetty used his barge to block the Jetty.
Now headache, I couldn’t talk,  I couldn’t sleep every day, they will be on my head. Now as at 11:00 pm last night, I ask him to send the format to me. Is it not to right we sit down and talk about it.’ When he sent the format, I called my lawyer and he re-drafted the letter, so we sent him the letter, that his Crane has spent two days again and that was when he agreed that we should offload the truck from the barge. Now, I’m left with the Crane people, battling them, talking to them, now when he agreed, now he said they will not offload until we pay their demurrage again. I said ok, no problem when the Crane eventually entered the barge, the Crane damaged his barge again.  Now, is like madam, another trouble, so now, tell me, when you talk about the challenges, there are lots of challenges.

Are you talking of the truck that you loaded peacefully from the port come out, maybe the truck has spent almost five days before coming out of the port and the truck is going and had an accident? So, there is no job that doesn’t have challenges, it is only the wisdom and grace of God and especially, when you see that this is the job, this is what I know how to do best, you just have to be passionate. That is how it is.

Still on Nigeria at 60 and we are looking at the place of Maritime after 60 and from what you have said, it does appear that not much development have taken place and some school of thought also alleged that why the Industry is still where it is, is because NPA has lost control, that when they concession, it then means that their hands are of and nobody can control these Operators, that, that’s why 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. Every day, if you follow what is happening in the Maritime Sector, you will see how NPA has been ‘fighting tooth and nail’ with all the operators, but you see Nigeria, I don’t know how to really analyse or describe us. We just believe in lawlessness., this is me. When I have arrived, nobody can control me. And everything still boils down to leadership, because  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. Is 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 dwell much on it because I have a lot of relationship. So, I have with Shippers’ Council, I have with NPA and I 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 foward, we need to, sort the issue of gridlock. No Port in the world that you will see as porous 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 the road has caused. People 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 one out, the Yorubas said that ,you would have to first of all drag the visitor away before talking to the owner ,in the house. So, all what you need to do is that, if we 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, if you load in Apapa to Ijora here, 20 footer  was N25,000 or N30,000, but now it is N450,000 while to load a 40 footer then was about 40 thousand Naira, but is now 650 thousand Naira. I’m telling you this; from Apapa here to Tin Can Port and cargo N450, 000 and when you are going up Country, it is another different ball game. Up Country that was N450, N400 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 N1,000 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 do you think are to be blamed for all this traffic gridlock because effort to ensure that all this should work has 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 a Nigerian, I am a Nigerian. What makes it not working?

Some feel like they are gaining from it,
 
Thank you, case closed

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