WE CAN’T KEEP CONDONING PRACTICES NOT IN CONSONANCE WITH ANLCA CONSTITUTION
— DOM ONYEKA
Players in the Maritime industry have continued to seek lasting solution to the protracted crises rocking the leadership of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA),the imbroglio continues to escalate triggering lots of tensions and bitterness amongst members. In this exclusive interview with The PRESTIGE BLENDED MAGAZINE in his Lagos office, the Apapa Chapter Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents- ANLCA, Mr. Dom Onyeka, speaks passionately on the protracted crises rocking the association, its effects on the industry and his expectation for the association in coming days, the veteran Customs Broker, MD/CEO, MUDONS TRUST NIG.LTD and KEZIM SERVICES AND AGENCIES LTD also utilized the robust time to speak on the current state of the Maritime industry.
Enjoy the excerpt !
SIR, Maritime Practitioners have been expressing serious concerns about very harsh economic and administrative policies which they say is affecting their business and livelihood, what’s your take on the situation?
” The issue we have presently is multi dimensional in the sense that we are witnessing a lot of crises globally, call it war, call it climate change, call it inflation, and that has affected businesses across the world; international business treaties have been breached because of very obvious factors. If you take it down to Nigeria, the current government is trying to midwife the economy by actually trying to implement a lot of policies that are inimical to importation, they want to see if they can revive local industries and improve agriculture, they want to play down on importation but because of the problem of the comatose state of our refineries, importation of refined crude and other challenges, they couldn’t do much. Government is really showing interest in importation, we are not producing because we don’t have the enabling environment and policies and that is one of the major reasons why we are in this situation.”
MR. DOM ONYEKA, CHAIRMAN, ANLCA, APAPA CHAPTER
“And looking at the stakeholders in the industry, the shipping companies, terminal operators, the associations and other players get involved in high level of corruption because the system itself is an enabler of such acts, it has always abated corrupt practices. People no longer do what is right while trying to make ends meet. People want to benefit from the system, they want to gain favour here and there, so they do whatever they like with impunity, shipping companies increase their charges and freight at will, terminal operators hike theirs on regular basis. Honestly, some of us are fade up with what is happening; a situation where hardship keep increasing every day. This is my fortieth year in the industry; many of us stay put because we don’t have any other job, people that had left the business some time ago are no longer looking back because the business has really crumbled. Are we talking of the power tussles among the associations ; problems everywhere.”
SIR, amid high duty rates do you envisage positive changes in the industry soonest even as Customs keep announcing stupendous increase in revenue generation every month ?
“As a matter of fact, change is permanent, there is no how a change cannot bring either positive or negative result but the truth is that the increase in revenue is not because of Customs performance, it is because of the exchange rate as well as inflation. If the exchange rate were to remain what it was, majority of importers wouldn’t have stopped importation, you can see that importation has declined drastically, exchange rate went from 150 to almost 500, official rate, and almost 700 plus in the parallel market, it is a wide gap, look at it first you see that the increment doesn’t correspond with the revenue , it is inflation that made it that way.”
On Customs Management
” There is no gainsaying that an officer who rose through the ranks would make a better manager, if a seasoned Customs Officer was occupying that position we would have seen professionalism, we would have seen passion. It is a fact that some of the officers know how to achieve better results but since they are not in position to implement such ideas they play along as some even work in fear , they wouldn’t want to lose favour or their jobs. But if people are doing their jobs out of love and passion, obviously, we would have been having better results, we all know that if we have someone who rose through the ranks , someone who is a true Nigerian, a person that is neither tribalistic nor nepotic, we would have a better result, people are drafted to man offices because of their relationships with the man at the top, for that, square pegs are forced into round holes and that is not affecting only the Nigeria Customs, it is also affecting almost all the agencies of government and is telling seriously on our nationhood. That is why the country keeps retrogressing, we don’t put the right candidates in the right positions , people don’t contest for job opportunities before getting hired, they get jobs because they are connected and that is why the best ones are left to roam about while the less brilliant ones get the jobs. If you visit other climes you see that people are engaged on merit ; you must not go through the back door , you must follow due process to get what you want . If you get something on merit you will be so passionate about it, you won’t abuse it “.
ON the performance of the Former Minister of Transportation
” On Former Minister of transportation, Rt.Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, l can boldly say he didn’t do much, he came, did the little he could and vanished like vapour, l didn’t see any phenomenal change on his part. Talking about his performance in the Maritime Industry; l can say he succeeded in drafting his cronies into strategic places, the CRFFN, NPA, NIMASA, Shippers Council name them. The primordial system of transportation like the rail system is not really operational to ease the burden of transporting containers by road, we had expected a lot of innovation and improvement in that area. The Kaduna- Abuja rail attack by terrorists would have been averted had it been the Minister made necessary security arrangements which include surveillance. How could he have made such grave mistake, all the money invested in the project went down the drain , l am yet to appreciate his performance in the industry.”
” As l said, l am 40 years in this industry so there is no information about the Industry l can not quickly provide. Work is still ongoing on Lagos- Ibadan Express way for years now and the federal government keeps spending money on it ever since the time of Former President Goodluck Jonathan till now, and no one knows when it will be completed. I spent more than four hours within a very short distance into Lagos, about 5 kilometers to Berger the other day. Nobody queries anyone because government functionaries are untouchable and that is why we are not winning the fight against corruption “.
On ANLCA Brouhaha
” We don’t condone things that are not in consonance with ANLCA constitution, and as you rightly know, anything that has a beginning must have an end. If an association has a constitution that says your tenure is four years, the honourable thing to do towards the end of your tenure is to prepare ground for fresh election that should produce your successor and once that is done having completed your four years, you hand over to him and vacate the office. And if at all you want to amend the year provided in the constitution, such amendment must follow due process.
For the fact that people were elected and inaugurated into offices for a four year term which has expired, continuing in that office is illegal. They have been claiming they went somewhere and held NEC meeting that elongated their tenure for one more year, you can’t probate and abate at the same time, you can not be a judge and a jury in a case you are interested in, it does not happen that way. If you are extending the tenure of elected officers, it will be for those coming after you, they should the ones to benefit from that amendment. The constitution which we operate says if there are issues in the association, like lacuna in leadership, tenure expiration etc., the only people that have the constitutional authority to midwife the situation are the BoT which have taken up the task by saying, now the tenure of Tony Iju Nwabunike led Executive has expired and we need to fill the gap by appointing an interim executive to take charge for a period of about six months before a fresh election in which every member will be given the opportunity to vie for any position of his or her choice so that we can clear this mess that is affecting the lives of members of the association, that is what the BoT members have actually done. You know that when two individuals are having issues people take sides, some would see black and call it red while some would never call a spade a spade, some would see light and call it darkness, that is how it is. The matter we have before us is that the BoT has put in place the Interim Executive but the question is, the people that are now in charge, where are they coming from and where are they going to, are they ready to harmonize the association by reaching out to others, these are questions begging for answers and we expect them to reposition the association for good.”
In your opinion would you say the ANLCA crises affected the industry ?
” Yeah, so badly, it affected every member , what is association in the first place, it is a group of people who came together having a common interest. There can never be progress where there is no peace, so Because of crises here and there, we are now like sheep without shepherd, when you don’t have people who can stand and make cases on your behalf, your getting justice becomes difficult. The people we are dealing with do not see anyone among us they can listen to, they don’t recognize those that present themselves as our leaders due to the lingering crises that produced parallel leaderships, so they do everything with impunity believing no one can call them to order or check their excesses. I personally suffer in the industry because when l have issues and go to them they begin to ask questions like “which group do you belong, which of the associations?” Some would tell you that someone who claimed he was from the same office just left here now, so who do we believe and all that trash. Honestly, it is an ugly situation and l look forward to seeing it addressed soon.”
Do you think this Executive can reinstate lasting peace in the Association since the factions are highly embittered from National to Zonal down to Chapter levels ?
” If you initiate a war, you can not determine how long it would last and the volume of damage to incur. I can’t say this is exactly how it will pan out. A journalist also asked a BoT member a similar question the first time we gathered at the Secretariat and he told him that they had done what was expected of them and would now wait to see the reactions of others. Yeah, members at various chapters must react, it is normal, so our leaders should now go to work ; we need to harmonize interests, and l believe those who have taken up the task will reach out to others to let them know why peace must return to ANLCA, if they don’t work hard to achieve that it then means they have failed in their assignment. It is a fresh start.”
Are you still Apapa Chapter Chairman ?
” Yes, though my tenure has expired but we have been given an extension to work with the interim executive until a new election is held, so as it stands l am still the Chairman of Apapa Chapter of ANLCA.”
On Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria -CRFFN.
” I am yet to see the effect of CRFFN, those that are on its Board now are after their personal interests, some are not vast in the industry and don’t even know what they are their for. Some are there for their selfish interests, just to line their pockets having got the mandate via a monetized and shambolic electoral process otherwise those that are there are not the best hands in the industry if it is based on credibility. Their jobs ought to be spelt out and they would have been screened and assessed individually based on their knowledge of the industry and personal performance. Their core interest is how much they get from the Council, the government branded vehicles available while they keep mute on the challenges we are having in the industry. They don’t intervene on our behalf, no training programme is being carried out for freight forwarders, l am yet to see them at work because l have not seen what they have done since inception.”
” Out of every twelve there must be a Judas, it was really working well when it was newly introduced but as time went on some of the managers tried to hijack it; and since they were not making illegal money as before, they came out again to scuttle the entire process. A good innovation l must say, but the bad ones want it to be a failure so that they go back to their extortion job. Those who initiated it must stand their ground to make sure it works. This country belongs to all of us and we don’t need to bring foreigners to do it for us. If we can do our bit very well things will surely change; let all of us get involved and make sure we effect a true change.”