ANLCA National President, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike

The Association Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, has made a strong case for the adoption of the virtual business communication model, which it believes will drive successful business transactions in the post COVID-19 port industry in the country.

The association also believes that though the maritime industry is not totally insulated from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, harnessing the vast potential of the industry with the right business models will mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the sector.

National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, who spoke in Lagos Wednesday, also urged the Federal Government to embark on an aggressive non-oil export drive to break the jinx of overdependence on the oil and gas sector as part of deliberate measures to diversify and reflate the economy in the post COVID-19 era.

According to him, unlike the aviation industry, where both government agencies and private firms including airlines are contemplating pay cuts or even rationalisation of human capital, the maritime industry still has the potential to serve as Nigeria’s low hanging fruits towards the country’s economic recovery and growth as well as an indispensable mode for global trade and commerce.

He argued that operators in the maritime industry including freight forwarders, truckers, chandeliers and other allied service providers should rather gravitate towards keeping themselves with virtual presence and operations at the seaports than fidget over pay slashes or job cuts like their counterparts in the aviation industry.

The President also noted that ANLCA as an association of professionals has over the years advocated the enthronement of a regime of modern port systems that tolerate the physical presence of a very few persons at the port areas, a development that would now fast track the virtual business communication model, which enables operators submit, process and receive documents online, real time from the comfort of their homes or offices.

He said: “At ANLCA we have always advocated for a modern port regime with lesser amount of persons coming into port areas. This will now be a fast track drive because persons and businesses can meet virtually, submit, process and receive documents online without leaving the comforts of our homes and offices.

“While the port cannot operate virtually; our presence can be. We have been partaking in Webinars where we communicate effectively, take business and corporate decisions without traveling. This is the new curriculum we are recommending as basic training content for everyone wishing to use ports and other maritime services moving forward.

“Regrettably, ANLCA’s independent research shows that over seventy per cent of persons using our ports are yet to understand these things which they need for their professional future and business survival. Over eighty per cent of them do not even know the many unused business tools to advance their trade embedded inside the mobile phones they carry about.

“Unknown to them, they can set up virtual meetings to discuss all business related issues and perfect related bank transactions without moving around the cities bugged down by snail speed traffic”.

Nwanunike, who doubles as Managing Director/CEO of MAC-Tonnel Nigeria limited also noted that the haulage section will always be there physically, as it cannot be done virtually, however expressed the confidence that the enthronement of a regime of efficient rail services will sufficiently address most of the challenges currently associated with haulage.

On how best the ports can effectively maximise the benefits from the post COVID-19 era, he made a strong case for an aggressive non-oil exports drive, insisting that the country should as a matter of urgency begin ti develop non- oil exports to create more jobs. He argued that much more was needed to be done to boost the agricultural sector.

He regretted that Nigeria as a country took an unfortunate back stage position in export of commodities such as cocoa, palm oil, and many other agricultural produce, which he said must be resuscitated to boost the economy, saying: “The value chain from the farms through logistics to the ports for outward shipping will employ more persons than the petroleum sector”

“As a country, Nigeria should identify products for which we have comparative advantage. Nigerian made electric cables have been noted for being of higher quality than most imported ones. Government should be the number one buyer of quality made in Nigeria products while encouraging citizens to do same without promoting monopoly and profiteering.

Urgent steps must be taken to refine crude oil locally and stop the importation of refined petroleum products. A good amount of what should have been earnings for the country from the sales of crude oil has gone into payment for subsidies on imported products.

“It doesn’t make logical and economic sense for Nigeria to be buying what she produces from outside simply because she failed to process her crude, fix her refineries and postponing the deadlines for the commencement of operations of expected private refineries.

“That we have cotton but still depend on other countries to produce our clothing needs is a result of fall in the local textile industry. The industry is dying partly due to lack of power as it was discovered that it is cheaper to manufacture textiles outside Nigeria than doing it in the country.

“Our textile industry alone can produce jobs running into millions for a 200million population and exporting to other countries. Achieving self-sufficiency in rice production is still a struggle even after the removal from the FOREX restriction list and ban on its importation through land borders”, he also said.

The ANLCA-boss, who was the pioneer chairman of the CRFFN, observed that a lot of government funds had gone into wasteful and unnecessary spending on foreign trips, bogus seminars and conferences in costly hotels and many other avoidable expenses, arguing that cutting off such expenses will not only save cost for government but will help to get attention to relevant areas.

He however admonished agencies of government in the maritime sector, which he said are culpable in this regard with most of the conferences being mere talk shops, to desist from such practices.

On private investments on rail coaches, he argued that whereas the railway is government owned, there is the need to allow private investment in ownership of coaches to move cargoes from dry ports to the seaports and vice versa.

This mode of transport according to him, if encouraged and opened to the private sector, will bring about cheaper and safer mode of cargo movement within the country, among several other benefits with multiplier effects on the economy.