SONNIEL ONOCHIE, MD/CEO, REAL PASSION NIGERIA LIMITED
I WILL RESTORE THE RESPECT AND DIGNITY OF CLEARING AGENTS AT TINCAN PORT IF ELECTED CHAIRMAN,
—– Sonniel Onochie
RECENTLY, THE PUBLISHER OF PRESTIGE BLENDED ONLINE MAGAZINE, McANTHONY UDOCHUKWU ONUOHA, ENGAGED THE MD/CEO, REAL PASSION NIGERIA LTD.,AND FORMER 2-TIME PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER (PRO), OF ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN LICENSED CUSTOMS AGENTS(ANLCA), TINCAN CHAPTER, AND CHAIRMANSHIP CANDIDATE IN THE UPCOMING TINCAN CHAPTER ELECTION, ONOCHIE EBONYEM SONNIEL, IN HIS APAPA, LAGOS OFFICE. HE UTILIZED THE ROBUST TIME TO UNVEIL PART OF HIS MANIFESTO, ADDED HIS VOICE ON THE CRISIS ROCKING THE ASSOCIATION, AS WELL AS THE CHALLENGES POSED BY THE PERENNIAL APAPA TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK AND POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO IT. ENJOY THE EXCERPT !
SIR, LET’S LOOK AT THE SITUATION OF THINGS IN YOUR ASSOCIATION PRESENTLY, WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ?
ANLCA is one big family . Give or take, it’s just one big family. It is just ego and power tussle. Who are you, and what do you have ? Besides, there is no problem in ANLCA; I don’t want to delve into BoT matter; it’s none of my business. We all suffered finding our ways to warri to elect Board members; came to Lagos, started the election of that of National President.
However, nothing is wrong with ANLCA as far as Sonniel Onochie is concerned, because ANLCA has been in existence since 1954 , you know full well that a good number of us were not born then; we are all joiners. Nobody is ANLCA, no family is ANLCA, it is no man’s property. Even husband and wife do quarrel and after quarrelling, they resolve the issue.
The issue in ANLCA will be settled and the association will bounce back. But how can it be settled? very simple . Let’s remove ego, remove pride,. come to the round table to chart the way forward . This is the only way we can welcome back peace to our fold . Presently, people are going through hell in the ports and leaders of associations should stand up in their defense.
SIR, YOU ARE AWARE OF THE ELECTIONS THAT USHERED IN A NEW EXECUTIVE AT TINCAN CHAPTER, WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL VIEW , AND WHY DO YOU WANT TO CONTEST FOR AN OFFICE ALREADY OCCUPIED BY SOMEONE ?
(LAUGHTER) To the best of my knowledge, there was no election in TinCan Chapter ; not at all.( Displays his certificate of return as former PRO of the Chapter, issued to him by ASECO): You can see that the election that produced me as former PRO of the Association at TinCan Chapter was properly conducted and certificate of return duly signed by the electoral body. The duty of the BoT is to oversee the election ; it is NECOM that conducts election ; so when you say there was election in TinCan, l laugh over it because the election is null and void, and cannot stand the test of time. Have you ever witnessed any ANLCA election where they said, if you want Mr. A to be your Chairman raise your hand, and if you want Mr.B to be your Chairman raise your hand; It is not done, not in ANLCA. Who was the ASECO that organized the elections; who signed their certificates of return. Did they go for screening, did they campaign, so, as far as l am concerned, there was no election. Mojeed is my friend, but there was no election in TinCan. And that is why l am coming out to contest for chairman of TinCan Chapter of ANLCA.
SIR, WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THOSE QUALITIES YOU PARADE THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE THAT YOU CAN DELIVER ; WHAT MAKES YOU OUTSTANDING FROM OTHER CONTESTANTS ?
I served at TinCan Chapter as PRO for two consecutive terms. All of them jostling for that position know my antecedents, and they know what Sonniel Onochie can do. I have told everyone that election is not a do or die affair, it should be a peaceful game. Come and test your popularity, sell yourself to the electorate , let them know what they stand to benefit from your leadership; tell them what you can offer . Most of them know my records when l was the PRO. My first tenure as PRO was during Prince Ozo Chukwurah’s administration. Kayode Farinto was Secretary then. In my second tenure; Ada Akpunonu was Vice Chairman while Kayode Farinto was Chairman. So , everyone of us contesting the election knows the other person’s antecedents. We know what everyone is capable of doing.
I have come to restore the hope and the pride of Agents in the field at TinCan Chapter; and also, that of the association. I want to restore the hope of my professional colleagues who have long suffered and are still suffering. For instance, formerly, if you charge a Volkswagen Bus N200,000.00., you remove your profit the moment you received the bill of lading and money for the job. You knew then what would go into your pocket after delivery,so you remove it. Now, if you charge N250.000.00., you can’t be sure whether your personal money won’t go into it. Once you have any job you begin to pray asking God to help you deliver and make small profit. You can’t even remove N10.000., when you have not delivered the job for fear of the unknown. That is how bad the business has gone. In those days; if l charged a bus or Mercedes 230, l would remove my profit before lodging my entry ; but now , it is no longer done that way . Definitely, if elected Chairman, l will restore the hope and dignity of my colleagues in the field.
SIR, CAN YOU TELL US THE STYLE OF LEADERSHIP YOU INTEND TO BRING TO THE CHAPTER TO ENABLE YOU ACHIEVE YOUR SET GOALS?
My style is nothing short of carrying everyone along . I am a team player and no one takes that away from me. I am not an office man; l have been a field man from day one; so, l wear the shoe and l know where it pinches. I know how to interact with Agents, l know how to dialogue with Customs and other stakeholders to achieve good results. There are not two ways about it; everyone in TinCan knows Sonniel Onochie; you can go into the field and ask them who Sonniel is, they will tell you. I don’t compromise . If l tell you that this is white ; take it to any where, it is White. Till today, if l go to any office and see any of my colleagues passing through one challenge or the other in line of cargo clearing; l intervene straight ahead to get the problem solved, that is me, l have not changed.
I am presenting myself to serve and to do them proud . Those going out there to get jobs from importers deserve better; l am not going to achieve their welfare by violence, but by consistent dialogue with Customs and other stakeholders. I will make them see reasons why agents should be treated with respect and dignity. I am always in the field, call me anytime, you will see me either at First or Second Gate. I am a field worker.
YOU ARE VERY CONFIDENT OF WINNING THE ELECTION; WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION ?
I am very very confident. What wins election in ANLCA is the licenses you registered ; your ability to sway voters to your side, your power of conviction and charisma. I have never been an O’ yes member; l am not a booth licker; l have never been a stooge to any man, l know what l can do, and l have been doing it before and will keep doing it over and over again. I am very proud to be a Clearing Agent; and must always defend my profession. No one toys with his or source of livelihood unless a stupid man. I am very proud of my profession, and extremely proud to be a member of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents. So l want to stop the pains Clearing Agents are going through at TinCan Chapter. My members will again be treated with dignity and not as riffraffs. I have come to restore the pride and hope of Agents at TinCan, that’s my prime mission; that’s my utmost priority.
SIR, AMONG THOSE WHO HAVE HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO CHAIR TINCAN CHAPTER OF ANLCA, WHO CAN YOU SAY GAVE HIS BEST ?
Plus and minus, l have my own mentor, my brother, a real Patriot, a consummate professional and outstanding leader. Prince Ozo Chukwurah is the man. When he was Chairman; l was the PRO. He is the only man that won election as Chairman at Tincan Island Chapter and reliquished it to Late Olatunde for peace to reign. And till today, no one has made such sacrifice. So, why are we quarrelling, why are we fighting. I want to borrow a leaf from Ozo Chukwurah. If all of us are coming to one Port, why the quarrel; we want to make the port a viable port , we want to make sure our members are treated with respect; why are we quarrelling. But because of ‘paddy-paddy’, this man must be here, that man must not be there. Since after Ozo Chukwurah chaired TinCan Chapter of ANLCA, no lgbo man has served again in that office. He won the first election, reliquished it for peace to reign, then came back again and contested after Olatunde’s tenure, and still won . So, after him,no lgbo man has mounted that saddle again at ANLCA, TinCan Chapter. No other tribe has been chairman, TinCan Chapter. Is that how an association should be run? It is association for crying out loud; one person does not answer association, never, l like ANLCA, that is why l registered to associate with its members, and that makes me a member.
I want to impact people’s life. I want to leave a legacy. I want to make the association proud , that is my mission. Those days , if you belonged to a particular union, people would accord you respect. Check out what is happening today, one cannot access an elected Chairman of a chapter, the door to his office is programmed with fingerprint, so you can’t go in to see a person you voted into office unless he permits you to see him. Everything is made very difficult for those who elected them into office. It is not done that way; we know that there has to be security measures, but not denying those that gave you the mandate access to you while you claim to serve them. It is wrong; l must carry everybody along if elected Chairman, TinCan Chapter.
SIR, WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU SENSE SECTIONALISM IN ANLCA ?
I will neither call it sectionalism nor tribalism, but in those days, leaderships of chapters were shared. While Apapa chapter was chaired by the Igbos, TinCan Chapter was left for the Yorubas, that was before PTML was established.
So, if you were to contest for Apapa Chapter Chairman, you must be of Igbo extraction. If you were to contest in TinCan, you must be a Yoruba indigene. When Ozo won election in TinCan; there were pockets of protests here and there, and for peace to reign, he relinquished it to Late Olatunde. When he came back again, they said yes, this man has tried, let’s give him a chance, and since after Ozo Chukwurah, no other lgbo man has emerged Chairman, TinCan Chapter. It was arranged by our leaders in those days. But after Ofobuike’s tenure in Apapa, he brought Fakanlu and he was given support to win as Chairman. So, his emergence broke that jinx. We should toe the path of Ofobuike, because his tenure changed the narrative having installed Fakanlu as Apapa Chapter Chairman. So, after Fakanlu’s chairmanship in Apapa, they still retained the same archaic order in TinCan, so why should that be, l have come to change that order, we don’t have to allow a very wrong arrangement to thrive, it must be changed because it makes no sense as far as l am concerned.
SIR, WOULD YOU WANT TO DELVE INTO THE ISSUE THAT FUELED ANLCA CRISES ?
I have told you that what we are witnessing today in ANLCA was fueled by ego, nothing more because my brother is there, you want to make sure you are there. In those days , according to ANLCA Constitution, before you become a Chairman you must have served at a lower office; but no one cares again because of Godfatherism ; Man- know- man; paddy- paddy, let this one be here ; let this other one be there. That is the basic fact. But we have to change the narrative. How do we do that, ask everybody that declares interest to go to the field and contest .
If Mojeed wants to contest properly in ANLCA election, let him come out; no one is stopping any one. They did not conduct any election , election by affirmation, in ANLCA ? No! So, if you are interested in contesting ANLCA election at TinCan Chapter, come out and contest . There is no Chairman in TinCan as far as l am concerned, no executive. The best thing for them to do is to go to ASECO and obtain their forms, run their campaigns, register licenses, canvas for votes, and go in for the elections.
Nobody is stopping anybody. We are all qualified to contest, let’s go and test our popularity. Tell your electorate what you are going to do for them, with condition that if there is no outstanding accomplishment within 90 days, they should stone you. You don’t come out to deceive people.
So, l advise that ANLCA should go back to the drawing board if really we are sincere to getting it right. Our people are going through pains because no one is coming to their rescue ; they need someone to take them to the Promised Land. As it stands presently, we don’t have problem in ANLCA; we can fix it.
Why is it that when it comes to Association matters we go for one another’s jugular, but when we see outside, we hug, we sit at a place and eat together from one plate, why ? l think it is personal interest. No one has the interest of the association at heart.
Back to TinCan Chapter election: If l may ask, they say there was election at TinCan that produced Muhammed Mojeed as Chairman; was it the same pattern of election that produced Segun Odutan as Chairman ? Segun campaigned, registered licenses, and went through due process as provided in the Constitution to win the election. What about the one that produced Mojeed. So, why would anyone say there was election into the office of Chairman of ANLCA, TinCan Chapter. I think it is a joke taken too far. We must fix back ANLCA to its enviable position ; we must always make sure due process is followed.
In the area of non compliance and corruption, l want to advise the Government to find a means of compensating Clearing Agents for assisting Customs in revenue drive ; for instance, giving every agent 1or 2% of the amount of duty he pays each year, it will go a long way to curbing corruption. When a Clearing Agent knows that he will have something out of the amount of duties he pays into Government’s coffers each year as compensation for assisting Customs generate revenue, there will be less corruption, and their zeal and hope will be rekindled as well.
SIR, COMMENT BRIEFLY ON APAPA GRIDLOCK:
It is the biggest challenge to anyone doing business in this axis. The NPA and Shipper’s Council should do the needful. How do they do the needful, very simple; mandate all the Shipping Companies to evacuate their empty containers stacked within and without the ports and give them 21 days window to do that, you won’t see any empty container along the road or elsewhere again. For instance, go to TICT, we have over 50,000 empty containers stacked. Mandate all shipping Companies to remove their containers. Customs can assist agencies in doing the magic if the duo of NPA and Shipper’s Council can not do it.
Let Customs begin to issue Demand Notice ( DN) to Shipping Companies who abandoned their empty containers in and around the ports. As a matter of urgency, let them send notice to them, demanding that every vessel must not leave Nigerian harbour without the number of containers it came with. If a vessel comes in with 370 containers, it must go back with the same number of empty boxes belonging to the company. Nigeria is being used as dumping ground by shipping Companies. Let the Customs assist Shipper’s Council and NPA in compelling shipping Companies to compute the numbers of their empty boxes littered all over and make same available, slamming a condition that if they are not evacuated within the 21 days window given, DN of N7,000 per day or more, should be on every empty box and failure to pay, either their licence will be revoked or they stop their ships from entering Nigeria, I bet, they will sit up.
The high cost of haulage is as a result of the perennial Apapa traffic gridlock caused by lack of holding bays for empty containers. Few years back, we were paying hundred thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand (100,000-150,000) to load a 40feet container to ALABA, but today, we pay N1.2 million to go to Alaba International, just because of traffic gridlock caused by Shipping Companies. All this act of sabotage, lawlessness and impunity have to stop if at all we sincerely want to bring new impetus to the sector.