‘Government must relocate tank farms before they bring down the maritime industry’

Alhaji Umar Jimoh Omeiza is the Deputy President General of the Senior Staff Association of Communication Transportation Corporation. He spoke to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Babalola Yusuf on expectations regarding the new Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Ado Bayero,how government can reduce congestion and other issues in the industry.


We have a new Managing Director at the NPA, where do you advise him to start from?


The new MD is welcome on board. I believe he is ready to educate himself about maritime activities and gather insight from what is obtainable in other countries and what was obtainable before his tenure. We have a very big maritime industry in Nigeria where we have summersaulting policies of government overwhelming the growth of the industry. We also have situations where workers’ complaints are being toyed with just like we have seen in the last two and a half years.

The new Managing Director should not toe the line of past NPA Managing Directors by having situations where agreements are reached and agreements are signed but are not respected.

Former Managing Director Abdul Salam came and achieved because he respected agreements with workers; Omar Suleiman achieved because he respected workers agreements; he respected opinions and agreement.

We workers believe governance is a continuum; so also is the leadership of NPA. He should be reminded that the goose that lays the golden eggs must not be treated anyhow because if maltreated, the goose may refuse to lay more eggs.


Should government continue to appoint Managing Directors of an institution like NPA from the outside?


I have said that we should always put round pegs in round holes. I agree that government appoints and when you are not performing to their expectations they dis-appoint you.

At this same NPA, we have seen a situation where a former bank manager was brought to NPA and he did well; like the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of NPA, Olumide Oduntan – he is also a good example, doing wonderfully well. He has performed to an extent that the union is satisfied with him.


What requests are you making to the new NPA Managing Director?


We the workers’ representatives want the new Managing Director to know that anything we do affects the industry and we will meet with him and speak to tell him our demands. We will meet with him to discuss the way forward.


What tasks are you giving him?


We will tell him that if there’s no maritime industry, he won’t be the Managing Director. The maritime industry’s achievements he met must be consolidated on and he must ensure that we continue to grow and take our place in the maritime industry.

We are leading in West Africa and we are supposed to be the leading giant in West Africa. That must be consolidated on. We must take the lead and fix our target on leading the world maritime industry. He should make himself the first NPA Managing Director to enshrine policy direction for the industry and he must carry all the stakeholders in the industry along.

The Nigerian workers in the maritime sector are ready to cooperate with him but their welfare must not be toyed with.


Looking at the industry, where do we need urgent government attention?


First of all, we need a concise maritime policy inclusive of roads and rail, infrastructure development. We must get things right because what affects other industries affects the maritime industry.

Lack of electricity at the ports is also not healthy for visiting vessels who have to put off their plants in order to connect to the power grid of the country.

Also, we need to educate and train all stakeholders. We need to ensure that we have different modes complementing one another to avoid the unnecessary and unwarranted choking up of the system which has been compounded by tank farms. Government must relocate the tank farms with immediate effect before they bring down the industry. If we have a transport policy that covers rail, it would employ a lot of Nigerians…


 (Cuts in) But, government just announced the privatization of the rail network.


As a transporter, I will say we have a lot of rail terminals that are strategically located within some towns around the country but when we talk about rail lines, it is not modern gauge but standard gauge. The government should make the rail efficient so that whenever I want to move it would be easier and also we can move both petroleum products and cargoes through the roads.

The tankers and trailers are creating so much nuisance in the port access roads. They must be asked to move away from the port access roads. Cargoes and petroleum products should be delivered through rail, and government should refurbish the wagons or buy new wagons for this.

We have goods that should be evacuated by rail, we have dry ports and they should be connected by rail from the seaport. We should be able to send consignments to the dry ports by rail and when you want to import and export you use the dry port.

This will enhance door to door delivery of cargoes and will create employment opportunities. If we have dry port in the east, it will assist; if we have dry port in the north, it will help decongest the roads because if my container is to go to Maiduguri and it gets to Kaduna, I think I can finish the rest by road and it has decongested the ever-busy Lagos road. If we mean business in this country, we should revitalize rail because what we have presently is a cosmetic approach.


Do you support privatization of the rail system?


No, because privatisation will not work. What are we privatizing? Who is ready to build a rail line? Rail lines are capital intensive, who will invest in terminals? It is the sole duty of the government to make these things available.

What we can privatise is the mobile unit, government should privatise the coaches and when they do that, they will get much money from it. For the rail system of a big country like Nigeria to be comatose is a ridiculous issue.

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