I Don’t Like Female Lone Ranger Status In Trucking – Folake
Mrs. Folake Soji-George is the President of Women in Logistics and Transportation (WiLAT) Nigeria and Chairperson, Corporate Truck Fleet Owners Association. In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus newspaper, she calls on Nigerian women to join her in the lucrative business of truck haulage as she doesn’t want to be a lone ranger in the business. Folake also speaks on trucking activities in Lagos State since the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. She reveals opportunities available for women in trucking business and gives unveils her aspirations for WiLAT.
President Mohammadu Buhari declared a lockdown in Lagos but the seaports remain open. How has trucking business fared during this period?
Trucking hasn’t fared badly since the ports are not closed. Truckers are part of the maritime industry because it is a chain also known as the logistics chain. Once the port is not closed, transporters are not supposed to be on holidays. So, we have them around during their businesses.
Has there been challenges in terms of restriction on movement of trucks as a result of the lockdown?
We have been able to prevent this challenge by setting up a process. We have identification because looking at the presidential address, they mentioned the port is exempted and all those that are associated with the port. The address specifically mentioned logistics and haulage. With that, individual companies in collaboration with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) are regulating and giving identification for those that should have access to the ports.
What about the Presidential Taskforce on restoration of order on Lagos ports access roads, there are reports that they have withdrawn their services?
They have not withdrawn any of their activities, they are still on the roads. They are still working to manage the traffic and movement of trucks on the port access roads. In recent times, there have not been any challenge.
Since the concessioning the ports in 2006, there have been new challenges as well as gains, but the concession agreement review has just been concluded. What are the concerns from the point of view of Truckers?
At the moment, the truck transit park at Liverpool has been concessioned, they have called our attention to it and we have met we the concessionaire. The Lilypond truck park has also been concessioned and we have met with those that will take charge even though they have not really come in.
We are working together with unity of purpose because we want to move the industry forward and we also want the nation to prosper. There is not going to be an issue with the way things are going at the ports from the perspective of trucking. Our prayer is that those who are the new concessionaires of these truck parks will be better at it and allow the industry to move forward.
As President of WiLAT, what are your aspirations for the association?
WiLAT represents women in logistics and transport generally. The difference between WiLAT and other groups is that it encompasses all transport modes. We have most of our members from the rail, air, maritime and road modes of transportation. They are all members of WILAT.
The thrusts of WILAT include; empowerment, corporate social responsibility, leadership and entrepreneurship. We organise frequent trainings and bring women out to understand what is going on in the industry. We look for how to empower them and how to enlarge their horizon in the industry.
We have those operating at the rail sub-sector of transportation just as we have those in maritime. So, members get to know about each of the various sub-sectors of transportation. As a transporter, I work with the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) when the need arises. I know that if a ship brings something into the country and it has to be taken to another part of the country, they would be need for rail or barge operations before trucks via road transportation will take it to the warehouse. We also do trainings and hold meetings at WiLAT.
Today, we are collaborating with other women groups for us to be stronger together and make more significant contribution in developing the transport sector. WiLAT is partnering with Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria and the Nigerian chapter of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA) to provide relief materials to dockworkers and seafarers as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.
What do you intend to do differently at WiLAT President and what would be your priorities?
What I intend to do differently is to take the existing mentoring programme to another level. WiLAT already has members at Lagos State University (LASU) that are our mentees but we want to open up that avenue to invite more women. There is a faculty of Urban Logistics and Transport in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), we want to incorporate the students that are in that faculty. We want them to know about WiLAT, we want to expand and have members from those that are in the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA). These are the things we intend to achieve during my tenure as we seek membership from relevant areas in the transport sector.
The Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIoTA) got its Law last year with empowers it to regulate and enshrine professionalism across the nation’s transport sector. Does WiLAT intend to explore this development?
WiLAT is under the umbrella of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), which is different from this IOTA. While the new law is a good development for the nation’s transport sector, this issue is going to be optional because you must be a member of CILT to be a member of WiLAT.
So, it is the same industry, same goal and motive but we have not decided on what will happen in that area. However, I know that we would have to deal with individuals if we are going to have collaboration with them as well. Time will tell, for now I cannot say anything specific on that.
Presently, there are few women in trucking. As President of WiLAT and one of the shinning lights as a woman in trucking business in Nigeria, should we be looking forward to having more women in trucking?
Yes, one of my personal goals is to get more women involved in trucking business. Women are trying to come up in the business of trucking and we are also making efforts at WiLAT to get other women in the industry and beyond, come in and join WiLAT and lend their voices.
I don’t want to be a lone ranger as a woman in trucking business. I also want other women to come in and play significant roles. Definitely, in the next one year, we will have a lot of women in the trucking industry. There is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t do, especially at such a time when we are clamouring for gender parity.
Women shouldn’t be shy. They should know that there are enormous benefits attached to people involved in the business of trucking. They can see me as a success in this business and I know that when I talk to any woman about the opportunities in this business, they would love to be part of it.