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Federal Government policies are not stable

…Says Pius Ujubuonu (Executive Director, Synergy Index Ltd)

Mr. Pius Ujubuonu who is currently the Executive Director, Synergy Index Limited is a Maritime Consultant & Analyst.

He was former Senior Personal Assistant to the Ex-President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), on Shipping Companies & Terminal Operations; in this interview with the Correspondent of NATA News, he speaks on why the Federal Government cannot achieve the ease of doing business in the Nigerian ports without carrying stakeholders along in the policy formulation.

Excerpts:

NATA News: May I know Synergy Index Ltd and when it started its operation?

Synergy Index is a company that handles freight forwarding operations within and outside Nigeria. We started operations five years ago. Our aim and focus is specially on delivering goods and services, maintain sanity, bring in integrity to our operations and ensure that our business is in-line with international best practices. The Company looks forward to building unity within the areas of transaction as the company has a woman as chairperson; and the major tribes (nationalities) in Nigeria as board members.

NATA News: What is your take on the ease of doing business in the Nigerian ports?

For any government to make policy and achieve it, first, they need to have the will to implement; they should bring on board the right persons to drive the policy; they should be able to play along with the problems that may arise and have patience to analyze the situation, access it and come up with long or short term solutions that that can yield the desired results.

I think the Federal Government is just intending to bring about the rhetoric of “Ease of doing business” because in the actual fact, the implementation hasn’t even begun. The government has not taken steps towards the full implementation of the ease of doing business in the Nigerian Ports. You may also know that, you cannot talk about ease of doing business in the ports when there are no port access roads, you cannot talk about the ease of doing business when shipping companies do not have enough space as holding bay for their empties, you cannot talk of ease of doing business when there are poor and rickety trucks that always break down in the ports thereby causing delays; no regulations on the use of trucks and no truck holding bay.

You cannot talk about ease of doing business when some shipping companies are still doing manual releasing and you cannot talk about the ease of doing business when some concessionaires do not have enough equipment and some of them do not do 24 hours business delivery. So, the birth and breath of ease of doing business in Nigerian Ports are reserved within the government and something needs to be done as fast as possible.

NATA News: What are the challenges so far?

Every company in Nigeria is facing one or two challenges but the major challenge remains the issue of no access to requisite funds and as such we don’t have banks that are business-friendly. What we have are money lenders, because banks are meant to be business-development-apparatus for small and medium scale businesses.

Secondly, the government policies are not favorable in the business we do and the economic situation in the country tends to stand as a threat because there isn’t much business like one would have expected.

NATA News: What is your unique selling point?

Integrity!

NATA News: How has Synergy Index Ltd contributed to the Nigerian economy?

First, by doing business in the shores of Nigeria and we are immensely contributing to her economy by paying taxes.

Secondly, through the servicing of labor.

NATA News: As a Maritime Analyst; why do we still witness port delays?

There is no reason why we will not have delays in the ports, because for you to have 48 hours business delivery; all logistics encumbrances have to be removed and the port access roads set free. The system of documentation have to seem less, the single window they preached about will fully be in operation, making it a one point way such that when you import , you go to one point and get your assessment form nearly for all your bills.

For example, you may finish your documentation in 1 hour but the loading of the cargo can take another 12 – 13 hours and when the cargo is loaded it may take another 24 hours to come out of the port. Then, when it’s out of the port, it may take another 4-5 days before the consignment leaves the port finally to its transportation zone or to the warehouse where the goods will be stored.

So, where do you expect the speed to come from? Another issue why we have delays at the ports is because of too many government agencies doing same work with the customs. Even when you are released by the Nigeria Customs Service, you are not yet free to go because of these agencies are there to ask for the same documents that may have been checked by the customs thereby causing delays at the ports. And this tends to encourage human/physical contacts while we are supposed to be operating above human contacts in the ports like other modern-day ports where there (are) less human at the ports.

NATA News: Previously, some agencies were stopped from operating in the Ports?

A good number of them have in one way or the other find their ways back to the ports. The problem here is that the Federal Government policies are not stable, so, policy summersault is a major problem here.

Executive Director, Synergy Index Ltd and Maritime Analyst, Pius Ujubuonu

NATA News: You handle maritime freight forwarding, land and air freight forwarding, how have you been coping with these 3 sub-sectors?

By God’s grace we are able to cope with them all, but the only few challenges there; are that the seaports have no access roads and its delays. The land boarder, the roads are not even there at all, while in the case of air freight forwarding, there is serious reduction of cargo inflow.

NATA News: What will be your advice to Nigerians and players in the maritime business?

My advice will strictly go to the government. The government should (look) inwardly at their maritime policies with the view to bringing practitioners on board in their policy formulation, because if you bring them in, they will be able to advice; based on their experience; not those (that) are giving (pieces of) arm-chair advices.

• Interview conducted by: Cliffsimeon Akalonu

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