Dr. Kayode Farinto is seasoned Freight Forwarder and Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), in this interview with Timenews he called on the federal government to decongest the existing ports by establishing bigger ports at areas like Badagry and Lekki in Lagos State, saying he was optimistic of the Nigeria Ports Authority electronic call up (NPA E-Call Up) system. Among other issues, he noted the need to dislodge the current management of the Nigeria Customs and on the ongoing crisis in ANLCA; he said the Association was no longer after crowd but members that are disciplined.
How would you assess the NPA E-Call up system?
NPA Call-up is not something I want to talk on now because I’m still understudying it and you know when a system is still new you don’t just subject it to criticism or condemnation. I’m not a pessimist but a realist; I’m somebody who believes that a system must work because if this E-system does not work then we are doomed. So I do not want to condemn this E-call up irrespective of whatever is involved.
Don’t forget that if you introduce any system there will be teething problems here and there but Nigerians just want everything to come in a rosy way. It’s not done. After all when I was coming yesterday and this morning I know what I went through on the road but I’ll not because of that say we should throw away the baby with the bath water. It’s not done.
Let’s give the E-call up time, let’s see how it works and if there are issues we feel are militating against the success we point them out because if it does not work we’re doomed. We have tried task force it didn’t work and some other methods, I believe it will work.
What obtains in other countries?
I have been shouting severally about this; other countries have what you call ‘Port Development Plan.’ 10 years ago I was in Rotterdam Port and as at then they were talking about Port Development 2021. I mean 10 years ago the Country had already mapped out their plan; they had started re-rolling it and implementing it, gone beyond e-call up.
We have a situation where everything in the Industry has been distorted; even the Apapa Master plan was disrupted, this was not the plan. It was not in the master plan to have fuel tankers; fuel tanks that were brought to Apapa worsened Apapa’s problem.
The problem of this Country lies with the elites and we don’t have what is called inter-modal port system. If the ship berths them and they want to leave the port, 90 per cent of our goods leave by road, what happens to the rail? What happens to barges? Even the barges that were implemented have recently been bastardised because people believe in capitalism, making money, making money. Because we do not plan we should expect this, so if somebody is bringing another idea that would work we just have to see how we can key in because we have not even made the foundation; because we don’t have anything called port development plan we ran into problem, serious problems. Also don’t forget that some of the ports when they were built were not built with the plan to handle the volume of business they’re handling now. What have we done to that? Part of port development plan is to look at Badagry and site a bigger port there, it’s to look at Lekki and site a bigger port there also, so that you start relieving these current ports of heavy goods. Have we done that?
What about the Lekki Sea Port?
They’re still building it and it is Lagos State project but it’s supposed to be a federal thing. It is not that we don’t have the resources; we do so we should build more ports.
What will you say about FOU Intervention of containers that were already cleared at the Port because they also contribute to traffic?
I have shouted several times and nobody seems to have listened to me. We are not an ideal state. I have written and I have shouted that it is not healthy. I went as far as suggesting that if you know you must incorporate the FOU let them come to the Port and be part of the examination instead of this national embarrassment.
It’s a national embarrassment. It’s not only FOU now; we even have CG strike force, we have Due Process; it’s the height of it but because like I just mentioned the entire management of the Nigeria Customs officers are confused; they’re not seasoned officers, they are not good administrators. What do you expect? Their boss is a military man whatever he says is done. I told him sometime that there is need to dislodge this current management but the so called people surrounding him are not helping him. Part of the embarrassment is this Circular requesting log book for second vehicles to be cleared. How can you issue this kind of circular?
How will you rate the performance of shipping companies in the Country?
They’re just milking Nigerians, siphoning our money and people are giving them express permission to do whatever they’re doing. The shipping companies have not added value but they constitute a sort of nuisance in the Maritime Industry and courtesy of the fact that there is no law to check these. Nigeria Shippers Council that would have done that can only bark.
Can’t we have more of indigenous shipping companies?
It’s not about indigenous shipping companies; the shipping companies are the representatives of the carrier and do we do not have vessel, do we have a shipping line? We don’t so how can be talking of shipping company, what we suppose to do is to have our own indigenous shipping line first. After that then we talk of cargo but when you don’t have vessel how can you talk of indigenous shipping companies? What we’ll look at is for us to have our own shipping line first, and then we now look at cargo.
But are you clamouring for a shipping line enough?
A lot the time and even when Obasanjo came and said all the indigenous ship he left they sold them cheap that does not still mean we should not have our own because we have the market; that is what these foreign shipping lines are exploiting. We have the market; if we have an indigenous line now with an administrator who is very good he’ll do what is called marketing and he’ll make Nigerians know that if really you’re very patriotic patronise your own line and with that it will help reduce the rate of freight. All over the world nobody has the market Nigeria has.
What’s your perspective of the Maritime Industry so far this year?
It’s too early to do that now. Let’s see how it goes in the next four months, and then we’ll be able to assess it.
What is the fate of some of the ANLCA members still on suspension?
They remain suspended until National Executive Council (NEC) decides otherwise. It’s only NEC that has the right to reverse it and the Chairman of NEC is our President. If they write a letter of appeal or come to NEC to say that they have retracted the story, then NEC may decide to upturn. If that is not done our decision remains sacrosanct.
Some people believe you are power drunk, hence the suspension, I would like to know if the President is in full support of the suspension of these BOT members?
Madam I do not know what you mean by full support. In our Constitution I am the National Chairman of the National Disciplinary Committee and I receive complaint letters when there’s allegation against anybody. This particular letter was submitted to me and the President said I should act and we had series of meetings and I invited them too. I’m a very thorough person, today is supposed to be the second meeting with them (three of them) but they didn’t come. I’m only doing my job. The letter was minuted to me by the President to investigate and recommend and I have done job, anybody saying I’m power drunk is entitled to his opinion.
I’ve been an Association member for the past three decades I rose through the rank, when you say you’re suspending somebody I know what it takes. We gave them enough fair hearing, instead of even one of them to reply us he replied personally and I was abusing me. I will put it in my recommendation and whether you like it or not you cannot be more than a constitution; if it will remain only 30 ANLCA members that are disciplined it is okay for us than bringing people who came in through the windows and think they can just re-roll themselves and do whatever they like. It’s not possible. Gone are those days.
Why is it difficult to bring the two factions together?
Because some people believe that they are above the Constitution and some people do not want to see the President’s face. It’s a personal thing and whether you like it or not you don’t look at the face, you don’t look at the occupier of the office but you look the office. You must respect the office and whether you like it or not if not for ANLCA nobody would have known me in this Industry and that is why you see me putting in my best when it comes to the issue of ANLCA. I’ll be an ungrateful person if I say the Association should fall. No, I will not be party to that.
The President was magnanimous enough by saying he has forgiven but look at what they are doing after that, attacking the President, beating up the man I cried at the case of PTML and people were celebrating this. The man even set up a Committee and put them as members and made recommendations but you know when somebody has made up his mind to hate you or when somebody is a sadist there is nothing you can do about it. It’s very unfair
Don’t you think the crisis is dragging this administration backward?
Whatever they are doing is not dragging us back, it is distracting us rather. It has never dragged us back and we are achieving and we are moving forward irrespective of whatever they are doing. This is the only NECOM that has been taken to court for more than 11 occasions but we still make sure that we are focused. We leave it that posterity will judge everybody; we’re only distracted but we have continued to do the best we can.
As for those that are suspended they remain suspended until NEC decides otherwise. I’m not above the NEC; the NEC comprises all the executives of the Association throughout the federation and I cannot be bigger than them. If they come and upturn their decision, so be it, even they come and say it’s not only suspension but expulsion; who I’m I to say no. You cannot really change some people; some people believe they’re above the law and it’s not done like that.