An interview with Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril, the Director of Administration and Human Resources, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency can be very educative. As the President of CILT, he fielded questions from the trio of PortNews editorial of Wale Oni, Fidelis Ugbomeh and Gboyega Oni in his office in Lagos. Cerebral, suave but humble, Jibril took us through a lengthy but very didactic expose on maritime and the gamut of transport vis-à-vis their importance in pulling the Nigerian economy out of the present crisis. Excerpts
The nation is experiencing economic recession and it seems all efforts being approached by government to tackle the problem are not working. What is your advice to government towards reviving the economy taking into consideration the role maritime industry can play?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. It is the time of recession like this that our ingenuity should come to play. I would prefer to advise government in certain areas. For example, when we consider the volume of imports into Nigeria, I think the government tariff regime and import control can be looked into in order to influence growth. What I mean by tariff regime is that there are charges that incident on our import and if we look at it holistically the regime, I think we can stimulate growth. Particularly, you will agree with me that maritime sector carries the highest percentage of our imports and looking at tariff regime in that area can assist us to achieve growth and improving port facilities. Terminal operators have terminals concessioned to them. The main essence of concession is to see that port facilities are improved upon so as to encourage efficient cargo handling operations. And this will lead to quick turnaround time of vessels; that is the ultimate a shipping nation may want to achieve. Quick turnaround of vessels will stimulate growth of the economy.
When you said review of tariff, what exactly are you insinuating? Is it increase or decrease in tariff?
When I say tariff, you look at areas that we need to increase, if need be, or at areas you need to reduce, if need be. There are areas we have completely banned some products and we could not close our borders. Why don’t we use tariff regime if Nigerian importers believe they need to import these commodities into the country, a kind of hiking the tariff, for government to generate revenue and allow people to import whatever they want to import? I don’t think anything is wrong with that except where there are illicit drugs and similar items that are harmful to our citizenry. Otherwise I think they can be allowed but increase the tariff inasmuch as you want to encourage indigenous production in certain areas but people also need to learn from what is coming in. To be honest with you, I am not particularly happy when I hear that the revenue of Customs in on the increase. It only shows that we are more and more becoming an importing nation, more and more a consumer nation instead of a nation that produces. The present stance of the present government is an encouragement for us to produce locally; not only in the future, we will be able to address our local production and demand but also available for export. I think in this area government can do a lot in order to stimulate the economy.
Another area we can stimulate the economy is the conscious development of the inland containers depot (ICD). I know that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is doing a lot of work in this area and making it easy for shippers to have their imports coming directly to their doorsteps. I think it will also assist in stimulating the economy and ICD will play a great role in this area.
All the ICDs are not developed. They are still at the stage they were when they were concessioned. This has impact on the economy particularly in the area of transportation.
As far I am concerned, developing ICDs may not be the problem. You see, moving the cargo from the ports to the ICDs is the challenge; the logistics. For the most part of the last two or three decades, we have depended on the road to move our cargo inward as against a system whereby we can use railway mode to move our cargo from the ports. And, of course, you will agree with me that apart from maritime mode, the railway mode moves the next higher volume of cargo. There is nothing stops Nigeria from exploring or reviving the intermodal arrangement so as to have most of our ports connected to rail lines in order to move cargo inland. Once that is done, I am sure we will be able to have our ICDs fully operational.
Will your administration advise government in that direction?
Definitely. We want to advise government such that all the ports are connected to the rail lines. If government can do it, fine; otherwise it can enter into Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, which is the in-thing globally, for our ports to be connected by rail. Talking about transport modality even the airports should be connected by rail not only for mass transit of passengers but also for goods.
Airports too connected by rail?
There is a large cargo moving through our airports. I do not have the statistics now but there is a large volume of cargo coming through our airports; that we need to be moved by rail into the hinterland and other parts of the country.
Plans are underway to concession the railway. What is your take on this?
Concessioning of the railway does not necessarily mean concessioning of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Some aspects or segments of the rail lines can be concessioned but you still need somebody to regulate, somebody who going to be the landlord in a system is called landlord system. And Nigerian Railways Corporation will continue to have prominent roles to play.
Of course, as the regulator. But you can concession different segments of our rail lines. For example, Lagos – Kano rail can be concessioned; Apapa port rail can be concessioned; Port Harcourt-Kaduna rail line too can be concessioned. Recently, the federal government has been making an arrangement with General Electric (GE) in order to concession one of these lines, yes, Lagos – Kano rail line. And this is going to be very beneficial to the country. The good thing about the concessioning is that we will have better infrastructural development along these lines and then we will have mass transit movement effectively and efficiently along these corridors. I think this is going to be very good for the Nigerian economy.
The concession policy at initial stage did not take into consideration the local content. The arrangement, as it is, allows capital flight when the country is in dire need of revenue. What is your view on the review of the concession?
Outsourcing and concession arrangement has to do with capacity. At the time these ports were being concessioned, I am sure a lot of considerations were put into the capacity of would be concessionaires who had bidded for the terminals. It would be completely out of place to hand over a facility to an individual or company that does not have the capacity to run the place; and this could lead to disaster not only in terms of the economy but in terms of lives and welfare of our people. That we concessioned and entered into agreement with multinationals to handle our terminals does not negate the fact that we need to build indigenous capacity. Although we appreciate the fact that at a time we did not have indigenous capacity and at certain time we should be building indigenous capacity. I can remember at the time the concession arrangement was on the table, I was one of the people that advocated that we should, for whatever reason, start by retaining our indigenous stevedore, having some of them working with the multinationals as their stevedore in the terminals; so for them to start building capacity in order to see our indigenous companies and individuals take up some of these concessioned or outsourced facilities in the future. That is my belief and that is my advice to government; we must look inward in building capacity such that eventually our indigenous companies are the one handling these facilities at end of the day.
But I am very much aware that with regards to the good deals as a result of the concession arrangement, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is currently looking at the arrangement. We hope that more benefits will come out of the reviewed agreement and we intend to work closely and make our offers and recommendations to NPA in order to see how we can maximise the gains of the concession, start building indigenous capacity in such a way that our locals will be the beneficiaries of the arrangement.
Is CILT’s input to the concession review not too late now?
It is not too late. You know we just came on board and we are already making contacts to visit NPA and at such forum, we will open discussion. Be rest assured that our contributions are going to come out strong. We are going to advise NPA on best ways some of these issues can be handled.
Nigeria is surrounded by many landlocked countries and this should have been an advantage for us to transit their cargo through our transport modes. But our railways and road networks are not helping matters. What is your advice on this?
I agree with you. By now countries like Chad, Niger and other landlocked countries should be patronizing our ports fully, not only the seaports but the airports. There are airports upland in Kano that can service import requirements of a country like Niger Republic. And, of course, to say that I do not see Nigeria taking full advantages of this our relationship. Naturally, we Nigeria as a country and Niger are like one; Chad, we are like one because we are close to each other. Some of the ethnic groups you find in Nigeria, you find them in Niger, across the borders. So we are naturally one, which is one advantage that is good for Nigeria. Another advantage is that there are legal frameworks in place that should give us backbones for us to take advantage of this arrangement. I am sure under the ECOWAS Treaty and European Union Agreement, there are legal frameworks. In fact, the Nigerian-Niger Commission is a very good legal framework that would have given us the benefits of coming into mutual relationship with these countries that are landlocked. What we are going to do as an institution is to make strong representation to the Commission as it is holding a series of meetings in and around Nigeria and Niger. We have our members working at ECOWAS. And, of course, we are going to work closely with the Nigerian Shippers Council, to see how this can be achieved.
CILT was formerly known as Chartered Institute of Transport but later logistics was added to it. What necessitated this and what does logistics represent?
Transport as it is a subsector of logistics. Logistics emboldens the total gamut of the movement of goods, products, services, people, ideas across the globe. To achieve that, we need transport and you can see naturally that the two go together. That is why there was a merger between logistics and transport.
Initially, CILT had a legal backing and had limited spread globally but Institute of Logistics had more wide spread globally but no legal backing. And the coming of the two together has made the world to have the benefits of having a harmonised logistics and transport arrangement which makes things smoother, more efficient and more effective in the delivery of goods and services across the globe. That is what makes CILT have a bearing on almost all our endeavours. There is no any aspect of our endeavours that logistics and transport does not have impact on. This is why we believe CILT is the most global professional body. That is why transport and transport contribute over 12 percent of global GDP as an industry. And you will agree with me that is the highest you find globally.
What qualifies a person to be a member of CILT? Is it based on experience as a worker in transport or through examination?
First and foremost, it is the interest of individual who is engaged in activities of logistics. Secondly, we have two ways. One, you register with the institute, and then you go through examinations. There are courses on logistics and transport that we run and then you sit for examinations. Thereafter you become a professional in logistics and transport after passing the examinations. We appreciate the fact that there are some people who have worked in the industry with a lot of experience. We run short time programmes for these people because of their experience; once they participate, they become professionals. But interest must come first; you apply and once you do this, you become a student member, then affiliate member, full member and chartered members having gone through all the mandatory courses.
There are calls for the revival of the Nigerian National Shipping Line by the government. What is you view on this development?
I am not too sure if at this time we will reap the benefits as we should have in the past. Definitely, there is a need for us to have a shipping line that will be our national carrier. There are lots of advantages; it will help us in building local capacity both in terms of ship acquisition, building and human capacity building. However, it is a need and, coming from our professional point of view, it is better to enter into a PPP arrangement such that the risk that government will shoulder, will be shouldered by private sector who can run the system better than what government would have done. That will ensure that we have an effective and efficient system running but done in a private sector way rather than leaving it in the hands of government.
How can CILT help in attracting foreign partners into ship acquisition and building?
There is no doubt about it. We can broker that. Taking advantage of our global spread, there are many places we can come in to play. For example, if we enter into PPP arrangement, I am sure we can connect with ship builders across the globe that can come in as partners, who can provide the ship which can become part of their equity and then other players will contribute their own quota of the equity. This is a PPP arrangement and then that will ease the way business is done.
What is your relationship with higher institutions of learning in the country?
We have a very good relationship with institutions of higher learning in the country. Many of them are our training partners; we accredited them. We have accredited some universities like Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State; Nigerian Institute of Transport and Technology, Zaria, Kaduna State; Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State; that is on the side of the government. We have also accredited some private training institution providers like Ultimate Nigeria Ltd and some other concerns who are our training providers, training our students.
We provide the curriculum. We have a very good relationship with them. We intend to open discussion with the National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) and Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and collaborate with them to see how transport and logistics can be built into course curriculum for some of the universities, polytechnic and monotechnic across the country.
CILT has not enjoyed much publicity. How do you going to enhance image of the Council?
I totally agree with you that we are not well publicized. We have not had much publicity and that is not augur well for us. I want to assure you that henceforth, with the new council coming on board, we are going to concentrate on this issue of publicity. We intend to mount multiple programmes within the life span of this council that will see us more popular and make people becoming more aware of CILT.
We intend to do courtesy calls on most, if not all, to all transport agencies both in the public and private sectors; to create awareness for our members who are outside of the pool of CILT to come back and be part of the CILT family. We intend to approach government more, engage the National Assembly very soon. In fact, we have started. You know we are working under the Royal Charter, we intend to domesticate it very soon. We have started talking with members of the National Assembly; we need to have a charter of the institute domesticated, to give it more acceptability and publicity. It will cover the entirety of logistics and transport in Nigeria.
Are there plans to bring in members of NURTW, RTEAN, NARTO, NAGAFF, ANLCA, and others in?
Like I said earlier on, we are going out to approach all these transport and transport-related organisations. We intend to start talking with the unions because they are our members working in logistics and transport subsector of Nigerian economy. We intend to have them on board; we need to have their capacity developed but we need to give them a place and arrangement where they can acquire skill in order to do what they are doing in transport and supply chain industry. So for us to do this, we need to collaborate with the unions and their representatives. We want to approach them and let them know that this is the time for us to start collaborating and create awareness among their members so as to take advantages of the capacity we intend to provide. Also I think we are reaching out to NAGAFF; our female section has already got some of their members on board. So we have started and very soon, we will capture majority of members of these unions.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
My life has been mostly in the areas of professional practice. People get amused when I tell them that I think, I breathe and I talk transport. There is a friend of mine who was always amused when I told him that in primary school, I did subject in social study where an aspect of transport is discussed. In secondary school, I did geography, physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology where aspects of transportation was taught and learnt them. Even at a level, I studied physics, mathematics, and geography. I studied aircraft and helicopter engineering. I did masters in other areas; I am currently pursuing PhD in public policy. After all these studies, I have worked as an aircraft engineer. I had a stint in operating helicopter. I was involved in private sector before I joined public sector and have been involved in coordination of multimodal policy programme. I was seconded to JOMALIC and now in maritime at NIMASA. I have been in transport all my life, whether as a student or practitioner or as a regulator. I do not know anything but transport.
I had worked in the aviation sector as a training engineer before becoming staff of CAFU now NCAA. I was trained to be a surveyor and inspector before leaving the industry.
Any other message?
We are currently encouraging our young members in Nigeria to enroll in the institution’s Young Professional Forum where we intend to catch them young and start training them, developing their skills from their youthfulness such that they will grow in the industry. And by the time they get to the helm of affairs, they must have seen it all. We have for about six years now trying to develop our womenfolk as professionals in logistics and transport. God is so kind; we have a women wing called Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT), which is chaired by Mrs. Aisha Aliyu Ibrahim of the NPA. She is the founder of WILAT; so it may interest you to know that WILAT is a global female wing of CILT International and that section of CILT was initiated by a Nigerian and it has become global.
It is in over a dozen countries now; founded by Mrs. Aisha Aliyu Ibrahim and she is the global convener of WILAT. To be honest, Nigerians are doing well in the global arena. Right now, we have a Nigerian who is the chairman of African Forum and this is one of the ways we are using Nigeria initiated African Forum in CILT. We use the arena to build bridges across Africa.
In fact, come March 2017, we are going to have African Forum meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. A Nigerian by Major General U.T Usman (rtd) is the chairman of the forum; this qualifies him to be in the international council. A couple of years ago, Nigeria was able to attain the status of an International territory within global CILT family, that has earned it a seat in the council which I am currently the International Vice Chairman, representing Nigeria at the International Council in London. Nigeria is the only member of International Council for Africa. And, of course, the global convener of WILAT having worked so hard to spread membership across the globe is also automatically on the International Council in London. Three Nigerians are on the International Council.
CILT started in 1919 in the UK and got Royal Charter in 1926, first recognition and was introduced to Nigeria in 1958. So it is one of the first professional bodies in Nigeria. Before we clock 60 years, we will have got our Act of parliament; we are working on it.