Dr. Olusegun Musa, MD/CEO of Widescope International Logistics Limited.
Story by Dili Utomi.
Dr. Olusegun Musa needs no introduction when it comes to the topic of freight forwarding in Nigeria, he is the MD/CEO of Widescope International Logistics Limited and was was once the Murtala Mohammed Airport chapter chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Licensed Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), he is also a member of the Nigeria Air Freight Forwarders Network and has garnered over thirty years experience in the Maritime sector.
In a press conference with newsmen at his Ogba Ikeja office, he bares his mind on the issue of Nigeria’s preparedness or otherwise for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfFCTA) the trade entity that followed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The versatile businessman and erudite scholar who has been on many trade committees, conferences, seminars and associations started by saying that he is not aware that the Nigerian Government had signed the Memorandum of Understanding on AfFCTA under duress, because the action or inaction of the government betrays a lack of seriousness for the Agreement. “The government seems only to see threat where there are opportunities. A few years ago, we had the ECOWAS Liberalization Scheme and because we did not handle it properly, the Scheme died a natural death. Nigeria is a huge economy that if we do not partake in the Agreement, it will not work, but that still remains a badly managed entity. I was privileged to have served Nigeria under ELTS as president of the Nigeria-Cote D’Ivoire corridor project and the essence of the project was to take care of all the trade issues along the corridor and we were refered to as the non-governmental group and it was funded by European Union and it was applauded by all and sundry. We realised at the time and contrary to opinions then, that about 80% of the cargoes then were legitimate business.
Immediately it was inaugurated, the Customs Controller General came in to say that the project was going to encourage smuggling and because of that pronouncement, the government shut down the borders and billions were lost in the process”.
Dr. Musa continued by saying that “The best way to grow the Nigerian economy is to privatise the Nigeria Customs Service, in the old days of the NPA, if they had been told that a part of the NPA would be privatised, they will tell you to go and sit down, but today that has become a reality and we are all aware if the better level of efficiency. Freight Forwarders are Customs men in mufti, I remember that I was one of those who helped train the Customs personnel, we can perform better than the Customs. There is nothing special that the Customs are doing, so the Customs should be privatised.
He continued, “Going back to AfCFTA, Nigeria is not serious yet, we have over 40 items that are banned from importation, I should not be compelled to buy a made in Nigerian product if the quality is low. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria will tell to come and get the MANCAP for our manufactured goods or SONCAP for imported goods, but when you ask them what is the standard, they cannot tell you. What then is the standard on which the goods are judged, they are only interested in revenue generation”.
Dr. Musa added that “We are dealing with countries that are serious about trade and so have particular standards. If we want to get serious about AfFCTA, you must have energy or power as it is, electricity should ve superabundant”.
Secondly, he said “there should be proper rail transportation into and out of the ports, you can only pilot the Inland Container Terminals with rail to make costs cheaper. We cannot use haulage for long distance transportation of materials, it is meant for local distribution of goods and cargoes”.
He said that “Security is another factor that may affect AfFCTA, now most farmers have ran out of their farms because of security challenges and now food comes in from Chad and Niger”.
The fourth factor that will affect the success of the AfFCTA he said “Is Government Policies, no economy can grow where the atmosphere is made volatile through policy summersaults and this should be looked into. We have told the Customs to automate the system, but because of personal reasons, they will not automate and would like the continuation of the person to person influence”.
He also delved into the lack of impact on the part of the sectorial associations as said that “We really do not have associations, what we have are group of friends coming together to socialize, they are not pressure groups that can influence government Policies. The Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria has failed in its responsibilities because a lot of the members do not know what it entails to run the Council for the members. A leader that has much weakness and cannot handle stress will always fail”
If we can identify all the factors as enumerated above, we can then begin to act appropriately towards the set goals and objectives, in order to make AfFCTA work, but as it is now we are not ready. We need government to have the political will, the people advising the government are not giving them the right information, and the right information is what they need to have and the right infrastructures are what the government need to have to put in place in order to make it all work”, Dr. Musa concluded.
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