Usman Shuaibu is the President, Young Professionals Forum, an arm of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, (CILT). In this interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY Shulammite ‘Foyeku, he speaks on sundry industry issues and what the Young Professional Forum aims to achieve.
What is the essence of CILT Young Professionals forum?
The Young Professionals (YP) forum was set up by CILT to promote career management and advancement for youths. CILT is worried and concerned about youth involvement in the transport and logistics sector. There are many challenges in our sector and one of the key solutions to that challenge is the ability to identify the gap which is capacity building, the need to get the right technical people to do the job. The future is very bright but there are challenges so the youth need to be involved, engaged and empowered as well as fully motivated so that they can be able to take up the challenges of tomorrow. That is the whole essence of YP in Nigeria. It is a concept that was coined by the international body and has been accepted by 14 countries currently. In all these countries we are trying to advocate how youths can be actively involved in the overall decision making, plan, research and coming up of topical ideas on how to address some of the critical challenges of transport and logistics sector in Nigeria. So that is what the forum is all about and that is what we are set up to be so that we can achieve that goal in trying to see that youths are adequately motivated and empowered to take up the challenge of the future.
Since YP is an arm of CILT, why have we not heard anything about it like WILAT, which is the women wing of the institute?
YP was adopted by CILT Nigeria since 2009 but some certain challenges that have to do with autonomy; funding and tertiary institution curriculum might have affected the progress of the sector. That is why the YP has not been able to evolve since then. But we are very determined now since I came on board to change that and make sure that the arm is vibrant and effective. We want to make sure that the impact of YP is really felt by the industry and the engagement will be very enormous. The networking functions we have and the ones that will be coming up are there to promote and encourage career development.
What are the prerequisite for membership of the forum?
From the name Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, you know we are talking about people that are building the sector. But as a body that is looking at the future, we are also flexible to look at those who have interest and the desire to be a transport and logistics professional. So the primary focus is to those who have the background in transport and logistics, supply chain management, inventory management among others. We also welcome those who have the interest and the passion to be in the industry. For those already working in transport and logistics companies or a related field, what we do is to encourage them to have the certification program. That can actually reduce the technical differences so that they can come of age and give meaningful contribution in the industry. The prerequisite for membership in YP is free but we have a subscription fee of N3, 000. The individual will also obtain a form which will be sent to the institute and membership is accepted. But we expect that any member that joins us should properly register with the parent body so that his contribution can be felt and be properly recognised.
In what areas can your group help to bridge the capacity gap in the industry?
There are many areas we can come on board and help. One of the key areas is making sure that we have the requisite capacity of the people that can take up future challenges. The issue is not that there were no people that can be trained to do certain job of transport and logistics but because those who are doing it are not encouraged to continue in that path and that is why you see people graduating from schools and diverting to another sector. What YP is actually trying to do is to make sure that those schools that have the background in transport and logistics and the technical know-how are rightly placed in the industry so that they can be able to take up the challenges. So we engage them through our functions so that they can be exposed with the industry technicalities and be prepared for the future challenges as a way of narrowing that gap. What we can do is through training and development. We leverage on our parent body through their well-designed professional programmes that they have and make sure that our youths get those trainings. The trainings are actually aimed at reducing the capacity gap so that people who have the technical know- how can be in the transport sector.
Earlier, you talked about infrastructural deficit in the sector. With over N215billion budgeted for the transport sector last year, do you think this is enough to revive the transport sector?
First the government needs to recognise that there is need to have harmony between policy formulations and policy implementation. These are very critical in whatever we want to do in the sector. The sector has a deficit in infrastructure. Despite the concessioning of the port, we still have the gap between the foreign and Nigerian operators. If you go to any of the foreign establishment or operators, you will see that the terminals have improved in terms of deployment of infrastructure and technology whereas it is not so with many of the local operators. So the government should also start looking from that angle to know what the problems are. Policy formulation is the first important thing in whatever they want they do. The amount earmarked for the transport sector may look too small or big but the key thing is what it is going to be used for. So the government must make sure that whatever is budgeted for transport should be used for that purpose. That is key. Not in a situation whereby the money is only seen on a paper caption and what is released for implementation is something different. The government must be consistent in whatever policy it is making. There should also be transparency in the system so that government can encourage the local indigenous operators or haulage companies through incentives. We have done so much on the other sectors of the economy but the transport that has the capacity of championing the yearning of the diversification of the economy has not be giving the opportunity. It could be the answer to the problem that is bewildering the nation and holding the nation back. The sector must embrace intermodalism. We need to have a well integrated inter modal transport system. We cannot have one without having the other. They are like twins. We need to have the rail working so that it can support the road network and the road will also support the water transportation because they all have the roles they play. So government must make sure that they exploit all public private partnership opportunities and engage private operators through dialogue and engagement so that we have adequate input on what need to be done and how it should be done. One of the key things government should do is to be consistent in giving more of the people with the requisite knowledge and technical know- how to man the industry. The problem of the industry as of now is management and infrastructure.
What do you think the government can do to help address the problem of Nigerian seafarers been rejected by foreign ship owners due to lack of requisite training in sea time experience?
The problem that we have as a country generally is that there is no political will. Political will is very important in the maritime sector. Just like others have been advocating, there should either be a minister of maritime or we create a commission that has to do with policy implementation in the maritime sector. The problem here is that we talk about the issue of cabotage and local content but we don’t have the capacity for operators simply because our policies are not consistent with encouraging local participation in shipping. For example, the local operators do complain that when they imports ships, Customs do charge them about 13 percent on ship importation and spare parts but if it is a foreign operator that imports ship, he imports it under Temporary Importation Permit and he pay as less as five percent and already he is having a compelling advantage over the local ones. On the issue of seafarers, the government must make a commitment to have at least one viable ship and one viable shipyard in a year that is operational at optimum capacity. This will reduce a lot of the problems we have with our seafarers because some of them can be easily be placed on board the ship to get the sea time experience. Ships are even important for military purposes. So Nigeria must make effort to grow its fleet by increasing the tonnage. We need to increase the ownership and government must do that by providing more incentives to the local operators so that they can do more in the sector.
Do you see Nigeria acquiring a national carrier soon?
There is nothing difficult in life; all we need is to be committed towards that course. I wish to see Nigeria acquire its own national carrier soon and I am very sure the Transport Minister is trying his best to make sure that we get it in no distant time.