Deaconess Kate Oghabgon

‘Those who have no business in the ports should be wiped out’

Leader of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Women Forum, Deaconess Kate Oghabgon speaks on the rationale behind the setting up of the woman wing of NAGAFF. Oghabgon who spoke with Uju Ozoeze, gives reasons as to why women practitioners are not popular in the freight forwarding industry in Nigeria. Excerpts: 

As leader of the NAGAFF Women Forum, tell us when the forum startedand what prompted it?
The forum started January this year. Before it started, the national president of NAGAFF, Mr Eugene Nweke, called all the association’s female members and made them to understand that in the country now, women are in the position to take their place, among men! He stressed that women are now being empowered and that those in the maritime industry should not be left out; those in NAGAFF should not be left out. He urged us to come out and do what we are supposed to do as women. One day, after the day we assembled, the President called me to say that he wants me to be the women’s leader, although I hesitated he insisted saying that he has seen the qualities in me to lead NAGAFF women. I thought about it, went into prayer, and decided to give it a shot. I spoke with some women and we all agreed that it is good we form a unified platform which will serve as an umbrella for the female members of the association and that was how NAGAFF Women Forum started.

What is the strength of the forum’s membership like?
We are quite many. At the airport chapter, I have been able to meet with about forty-six women, then at PTML chapter we have about twenty-seven, and at Tincan we have about eighteen. We are still working on mobilizing others. I have a date with women at Apapa, Idiroko and Ikorodu chapters. In fact, am going to visit all the seaport and border chapters to see to how the women are operating there and to see to what we can do to empower them and to encourage them to compete favourably with their male counterparts. Because we believe that what a man can do a woman can do better and much more;but we need to do it with unity- one heart, one mind.

What problems do you women encounter working as freight forwarding agents?
The major problem peculiar to female agents is that some of them are afraid to see their jobs through to the end. They are always afraid to do it on their own; they will prefer to sublet their jobs to the men. They believe the men can present and carry out the jobs better. But what they should understand is that the moment you know your right and do what is expected of you by the government, there is no need to be afraid! If you don’t cut corners while doing your jobs; you pay the normal duty you are given, get to the shipping companies –no short payments, let customs carry out their examination then you will not have any challenge! This habit of when they have big jobs they are afraid to do it and then sub-let them out to the men, they have to stop it. I am now telling them that if they have problems with their jobs they can call on me. I promise I will guide and help them see their jobs through as long as they fulfil the requirements of the jobs. There is no need sub-letting your jobs to any man! When you do that you make them feel very important. He is not superior to you in the field! Just know that God created us equal and for the fact that they are men does not stop us from working along with them and to make what they are making in the industry. Another challenge is that most of us are not registered with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria which is very important. I’ve encouraged our members to register with the Council and also to belong to an association so that whenever they have problems the association can stand by them. You know anyone operating independent of an association is like a child without parents.

As a port operator, what kind of change do you think the nation’s ports should undergo for better efficiency?
The ports need to be sanitized, to be made a place of discipline. Those who have no business in the ports should be wiped out. The nation’s ports should be a place where things are done accordingly, where jobs are done legally, where agents should cooperate with customs – though not a cooperation of kill and divide, where correct duties are paid, where honest declarations are made, where protocols are followed, where agents don’t dupe their importers. What I usually tell my members is that they should be transparent with their importers. Let their importers take them by their words. For instance, an agent who charges her importer two hundred thousand naira for a job and because she has been given the bill of lading hikes the charge to three hundred thousand naira is not helping herself because the importer might give you the additional three hundred thousand naira for that particular job just to get his consignment but he may not come back to you next time because he does not find you sincere. If you play it well with one importer, he will definitely refer you to another. Sincerity is the key of all.

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