Hajia Bola Muse

We need the participation of more women in the freight forwarding industry – Muse

Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Bomarah Investment Limited, Hajia Bola Muse, is one of the few women who is a practicing freight forwarding, a male dominated profession in Nigeria. In this interview with Ships & Ports’ Uju Ozoeze, Muse says that greater awareness will increase the participation of women in the profession. She equally spoke on the role of a better rail system for an efficient ports operations.

What inspired you to go into freight forwarding?
Right from my childhood I’ve always liked challenges. I took up freight forwarding because I feel it is a male dominated profession and I said to myself “why not women, why not me?” That is how I came in. I had to go for tutorials, attend courses and worked in a clearing and forwarding outfit before I was able to set up my own, Bomarah Investments Limited, and today we thank God.

Am aware you operated in the north, specifically in Kano, before you shifted base to Lagos, how would you compare freight forwarding operations in the two areas? 
There is a big difference because in the north there are no seaports but dry ports. Talking in terms of cargo clearance, we make use of airports but most times clear containers through dry ports. We made use of ICNLs, then when ICNLs, Inland Containers, were functioning. They are still functioning but not as much as before. So most of the time we have to come to Lagos to clear our cargo before moving it down to the north and it has not been easy because of the bad state of roads. You can spend five to seven days clearing the consignment here in Lagos and then before the container arrives the north it takes ten days to two weeks. Gone are the days when train moves the containers but it’s not like that now, it has to go by road. The government should provide a better railway system for easy transportation of containers.

Aside your freight forwarding agency you also own a travel agency, how do you cope managing these two businesses? 
The clearing and forwarding, the travel agency are all on the same platform. It’s just a matter of planning. I get people to work for me because I can’t do everything jobs alone. I have a passion for travelling which made me go into providing travelling services for people. I am adventurous, I love travelling and I have a lot of friends that travel too. And just like a joke I started the agency and to God be the glory it’s been working out just fine. I also have a pet programme, an NGO called Bomarah Foundation. I started it since 1997 and I believe when God bless you, you just have to touch the lives of others who are in need especially the youth and the disabled. Since then, we’ve been working.

How do you view operations in the ports as regards cargo import?
For some time now we have had a lot of cargo coming in through our ports. With the situation of things and with the help of the federal government a lot of people are importing because the government has been encouraging people from other countries to come and invest in our country. So by doing this, these investors bring in their goods, in the form of raw materials, machinery etc, to come and establish here. We have much cargo now than before which makes the ports to be busy and which also makes us very busy. Unlike before when we had Nigerian Ports Authority handling port operations, the situation now is much normal.

I suppose you are a registered member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria? 
Yes and also a registered member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents.

Do you think the Council is getting it right in terms of regulating agents? 
Am just coming in and is studying CRFFN. The little I have seen under the chairmanship of Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju I think he is really working for now. As far as am concerned, Olanrewaju and the people he is working with gave me reason to say yes I want to belong to this group. They are serious minded people and are people everything to see that things work out well for agents so that we will be able to have a say in the industry as time goes on. They are trying especially in the organising of trainings for the members. Just recently, there was an executive diploma programme organised by CRFFN which I participated in. Honestly from the bottom of my heart am glad I did because I learnt a lot of things, not just about clearing, which I couldn’t have gotten from a school. I tell you after the training I started applying what I learnt in my office and it is working for me. But you know Nigerians are always in haste, always rushing, with time I believe we will get there with CRFFN.

Do you think women are strongly represented in the freight forwarding industry? 
Not at all because the women feel that this is a male dominated area. When they hear clearing and forwarding, they say…it’s only for men, I cannot withstand the hassle. That is what is making them shy away from the profession. Like in politics before it used to be only men but thank God the awareness is coming now. Maybe, by the grace of God, with our help, more women will start coming in to the industry but for now I must say we are not much. Awareness is what we need. And for those already in the industry, participation in the activities of the association! For example when you look at associations like ANLCA and NAGAFF you would notice that only the male members that usually vie for executive positions while the women sit back. Only recently do we have a woman in the person of Barrister Ada Akpunonu who holds a position in ANLCA Tin-Can chapter. I will try and do the same in Apapa chapter since am now based in Lagos.

As a member of ANLCA, what do you think of the leadership of the association under the administration of its incumbent national president, Prince Olayiwola Shittu? 
Fantastic! I must commend the efforts of our president, Alhaji Shittu, especially for the Biometric ID card initiative because it is not easy. You see we have a lot of touts that has been denting the image of the association. In fact, most people refer to clearing and forwarding agents as touts because most of them don’t own licences! Fraudulence and touting among agents is what we need to curb because when an importer gives an agent container to clear he is entrusting you with his life. Once an importer gives you documents to clear his container, he goes home and sleep while you as the agent struggle it out. Most importers use all their life savings to purchase goods and leave them in the hands of agents to clear and we have a lot of bad eggs, who call themselves agents that toy with the livelihood of these importers. By coming in with this Biometric ID Card I am so happy because with the card the real agents can now be separated from the touts, we will now know who is who.

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