Comrade Benson Adegbeyeni is the President of the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporations (SSACTAC), Maritime Branch in this interview with Segun Oladipupo states how the staff of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will be led by the association to resist any further concessioning of the ports even as he adds that the earlier privatized sectors of the economy have not added any meaningful impact on the economy. Enjoy the interview…
Let us talk about the proposed further concessioning of the port. What is your take on it?
I will not call it concession but sharing the core jobs of NPA.
The concession agreement was signed in 2005 to 2007 at the Obasanjo era when the ports were concessioned to third party. It is like leaving the core decision of your house for other people to take for you; if you do that, you are finished. You can never go to Asia or Europe and see them giving the core jobs of their economy into private hands, it is not possible. The port of Vantage was concessioned out, the workers there have up to 30 to 40 percent, if you have a stake in a place, you will make sure the place works very well.
What exactly are you saying?
What I am saying is that port concession was done in a hurry. It was done in such a way that I have my own, you have your own which is happening now.
The remaining core jobs like pilotage, towage, harbor are about to be concessioned out. The government that cannot contain Boko Haram for how many years, today you say you want to give away towage and harbor which are the core jobs that bring vessels to sail and you want to bring non-Nigerians saying they are expatriates; experts what? Can they be more expert than when NPA and Nigerian Navy were together and called Nigerian Marine? Since NPA has been doing it in the 50s up till now, somebody is now saying is more expert than I, is it not the people in NPA that have been doing the job from the 50s up till now, that Nigeria is making money? So, they cannot do it again? Is it because you are marrying a new wife that the wife that gave you children is not good again? Now, they want to kill the eagle that laid the golden egg? Now, NPA is to get pilot boat, all those voyages cannot be on NPA equipment and if you make use of NPA personnel and somebody somewhere will say he is the masquerade doing the job and they say NPA will now be collecting royalty in the sense that you give me hoes, yams, fertilizers, you give me labourer to plant it for me and at the end of harvest, I now harvest ten yams, I give you two and take eight, who is the loser?
The inheritance of your children and my children yet unborn are gone. What is the fate of our children yet unborn? In overseas countries, they have up to twenty years development plan for everybody but here in Nigeria, it is not so. I am not talking of a political party now, I am talking generally. They said they have created jobs, where are the jobs? They said there are roads, where are the roads? To move from been concessioned in the 70s was it like this? These days, I could drive to Okoko and come back but I can’t try it now. For the past two weeks now, I have been running on generator which I know applies to others. They sold NEPA (PHCN) isn’t it so? What has come out of it? Private participation in abroad is good, everybody monitors and the progress and knows what the terms are; you cannot compare the way they privatise to Nigeria.
Electricity was privatized, we thought the tariff will come down and to create employment, it became worse; NPA is the same, it became worse is it not so? Up till now, do you believe that government is still founding NEPA (PHCN)? They keep posting money to NEPA to be shared.
All the Olokola, Omotosho, are they working? Can you drive to your village and come back? In fact, when people assume that Nigeria’s economy is buoyant, that we have money, we are saving the money in the bank, the money is not there, it is just the paper work like the auditing firm in Nigeria, they will say we make profits and at the end of the day, if is only the manuscripts you see. When are we going to do ourselves good so that things can move forward? Every day we are moving closer to where we came from. They are talking of Awolowo, Azikiwe, Balewa today, during their own time, the country was better and there was no oil. They believed in Nigerian products; Awolowo established a university in Ibadan and he was from Ikenne, why didn’t he put in Ikenne? He said it should be at the Centre and they built it in Ibadan. When it was time to establish the University of Nsuka, Zik was supposed to put in his own village, same thing to Ahmed Bello University, Zaria. They were using agricultural products to do all those things that time and the naira was even strong then. Nigeria is a country that produces oil but we don’t have refinery, we still import oil.
How do you think the drop the value of naira and price of fuel will affect the economy of Nigeria?
It will have adverse implication on the economy. When I was very small after losing my father that I came to Lagos, a dollar was equal to one naira or a dollar to two naira but as at today, how much is a dollar to naira?
One of the reasons is that we are a consuming country, we are not producing and he who pays the piper dictates the tune. My father used to say in those days that if he would come back to the world, he would not be a cocoa farmer because he as a cocoa farmer could not determine the price of what he was producing as well as he could not eat it neither could it be preserved. Ha said if it was yam, and it was not marketable, he would eat it.
So, everything about Nigeria is import, our money is going out. If you go to Dubai, you will see what they are doing with Nigerian money there. A time is coming when they see that Nigerians enter Dubai every day, they will say Dubai is no more a free zone, they will devise a means of entry. I love Obasanjo and Dangote; they are creating employment for Nigerians no matter how small. If I do that and everybody does that, Nigeria will better.
We are too dependent on oil, no other means of bringing money into the country; it is only through oil, no other alternative. Now, America is no longer buying oil from us, they used to be the largest buyer.
Let us take Singapore for example; their revenue is from their ports and tourism. Nigeria has several ports but due to the sentiment of I am in power today, let me use it to amass wealth for myself not thinking of what they can do for average Nigerians like you and me. An average American will always think of what to add to the system. We are talking of different brands of car, is it not human beings that invented them? Toyota is the name of a family likewise Honda. We don’t think of what others will remember you and me for.
Tell me, if country like Malaysia is living on ports, Europe has port of Valencia, their main resource is the port because you cannot short charge them but here people that call themselves untouchable will import goods into the country and they will not pay. If Obama imports pen into America, he will have to pay for it.
In facts, most government establishments in Nigeria are not paying electricity bills and they want electricity companies to survive it.
If I buy from you I pay you, if you are buying from me, you should pay me too. Some people believe they are gods in this country and nobody can touch them. The system is faulty and I begin to wonder why the government cannot use some of the resources, it is wasting on graduates who do not have jobs yet, it will reduce all these crimes you are seeing. When you don’t have hope, idle hands become a devil’s workshop, but if you have a hope, the sky is your limit. If you are earning certain amount, you will try to do something with it rather than not doing anything at all.
What are your plans for the members of your association?
Generally, you know as a union man, my priority is the welfare of my members and the growth of the organisation .It is when the organisation grows that you can be happy, if not , nobody needs to tell you that the market is over. If NPA today is growing, and I see Nigerians coming in, graduates being employed, school certificate holders being employed, they will increase our membership and it is my right to fight for their welfare so that the issue of the elongated 12 years promotion will be will not happen. We want to do so that within three years, you get your promotion, if you pass the exams and if you don’t pass the exams that mean you caused it, you don’t have to apportion blame to anybody. If you have stayed at a level for three years, you write exams for promotion, and if you pass, you are promoted. I want to make sure that everybody keys inti the system; if you are doing your job and I am doing mine, and the organisation is running, that is why we prefer people to come and take over the place. Since they have been privatizing, government has never come out to say, this biro was sold for a hundred thousand naira and this is what we have used the hundred thousand to do. All the NITEL sold, we did not know how much it was sold for and what they spent the money on. I have said that if I become the president of Nigeria, if it is only light I can provide, I will do it for everybody to know that this president gave us light