How I Escaped Land Mines, Booby Traps In A Dangerous Maritime Sector – Olotu, LPC Outgone PM

How I Escaped Land Mines, Booby Traps In A Dangerous Maritime Sector - Olotu, LPC Outgone PM

She wasn’t dubbed the Queen of Port Management and Administration for nothing. Under her watch as the Port Manager of Lagos Port Complex, Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu carved a niche for herself as a no-nonsense, discipline, and highly principled administrator.

She described her high points in the saddle as LPC PM to include: Trade facilitation in a safe, secure, and customer-friendly environment, zero tolerance for corruption, debt recovery, and increased revenue generation and collection, amongst others.

Those who have come in contact with her describe her work ethic as legendary. No wonder she holds the record as the longest-serving female Port Manager in the history of the Nigerian Ports Authority following stints at Calabar Port to Lagos Port Complex.

She recently exited the LPC where she had held sway for the past four years following her promotion to Assistant General Manager, Tariff and Billing at the Corporate Headquarter of the Authority.

In this interview with BABAJIDE OKEOWO during her Valedictory Service and Change of Guards ceremony in Lagos recently, Mrs Olotu disclosed how her principled nature cost her some friends who later turned foes, the state of the ports access roads and how Nigeria can achieve her potential in the maritime sector.

What Would You Identify As Your Biggest Achievements As LPC Port Manager?

I will say revenue generation, collection, and debt recovery are among some of my biggest achievements as the Port Manager of Lagos Port Complex.


And In The Same Vein, What Were Some Of The Challenges You Encountered In The Actualisation Of Your Duties?

My biggest challenge would have to be having to deal with people that are not sincere, people who want to cut corners, people who often times use your name to commit atrocities and sometimes you do not know, and having to navigate through land mines and booby traps in a sector that is dangerous, in a sector that is challenging but at the end of the day I got praised, here we are, we came, we saw and we conquered.

Can You Identify Some Of The Things That Standing On Your Principles Cost You On The Job?

It cost me friends that turned foes, it cost me moments of anxiety, not knowing who was going to backstab me again, and there were betrayers that were so painful.

There were moments of taking the right decision and yet you are not celebrated. I have been in a situation whereby as PM Calabar Port people are going to functions in Uyo and when they are presenting their travelling allowance it’s written Calabar-Lagos-Uyo, Uyo-Lagos-Calabar, for anyone who is familiar with the geography of where I just mentioned, that is ridiculous, to say the least.

And I can see that you are trying to control yourself not to laugh, and when I said no, I was reminded that there is a policy, civil service policy that states that when there is no direct flight from one location to the other, we can use the nearest airport.

So, my strategy was to now say no problem I will sign on one condition, you are going to show me the receipt of your tickets, you are going to show me your boarding pass because I knew nobody was going to do that.

So those are the moments you begin to ask yourself, did you drop from the sky? Are your values so strange? I am a stickler for integrity, I am a stickler for transparency, I am a stickler for doing the right things at the right time in the right way. And for me my goal has always been you cannot shortchange the Federal Government of Nigeria under my watch. I did not see myself as an NPA employee I saw myself as a representative of everything good that Nigeria should stand for and for those principles, they came with a lot of knocks, I am not popular but am principled.

What Were Your Blueprint For Success?

I always have my policy outlined when I get to any place, the first thing I do is to study their environment for like they will say for women there is no experience in the labour room, what applied for the first child might not apply for the second child, so if any office will send me I want to carry out an appraisal, what are the things that are good I will sustain them, what are the things that are not too good that I can go and improve on, and what are those bad things I need to drop? My blueprint has always been if it leaked out in the open can you be proud of yourself?

The moment that consciousness is there, your core values and your personal values must always count over and above any selfish interest.

How Can Nigeria As A Country Actualize Her Vast Maritime Potential?

I believe that the Lekki Deep Seaport is a step in the right direction, I believe Olokola is still in view, and there is also an upcoming one in Badagry.

Why am I mentioning these places? These are Deep Sea Port, unlike the other ports that are river ports. And I do not see the other ports going into extinction I believe they can still serve as the platform where bigger vessels go into Deep Sea Ports and off-taker vessels can still bring cargoes to this other ports to service industries in their immediate environment.

There are so many industries in Apapa that won’t just go away with the snap of a finger and they are cargo- driven and cargoes are brought by vessels, so ultimately, I believe we can still tap into the huge resources of our coastal range.

What Are The Low-Hanging Fruits That The Present Administration Should Be Looking At In The Maritime Industry To Drive Revenue?

Port Access Roads because when we talk of revenue it is not just about activities within the port, for every delay along the chain of maritime activities translates into money, that’s what I tell people so if you think you are delaying someone as a government worker, you are refusing to sign, you are keeping documents, ultimately, for every naira and kobo that that person has spent to get the cargo out if it is imported or get the cargo in if it is export it’s going to come back to you and  because we are all going to patronize the same open market and he is going to spread all his cost and he will make sure he gets his profit and ultimately you need to pay, so why don’t we do it right.

Apapa Is Key In The Drive To Earn Nigeria A Hub Status, What More Can Be Done To Actualize This?

We have achieved a lot but as they will always tell us, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement so if I say we’ve done enough that would not be right, we can always improve on what we’ve done. The e-call -up system is in place and it will help significantly in ensuring that there is a free flow of traffic in and out of the port.

But, what about the Port Access Roads? They are not in the state that we desire. But, I believe that with the new government in place, they are going to place a premium on fixing the port access roads. The port is as efficient and effective as the port corridor not just about activities in the port but also about activities around the port, so I believe we need to do more.

And even on the rail, the previous administration started a very good project and I feel it shouldn’t be abandoned, it should be sustained so that if we have cargo evacuation via rail, via road, and via water and that is when we can say yes, we are a hub.


Nigeria Is An Import-Dependent Nation And We Have Been Advised To Increase Our Export Capacity, What’s Your Take On This?

We ought to, I need to say this. I was in a meeting with the British Envoy and when I raised this same issue of trade imbalance, you know what he told me? Go and work on your reputational deficiency.

 If anything comes from Nigeria as an export and it’s carrying that brand Nigeria it comes with a question mark but when the same commodity, the same cargo is now taken through any of our neighbouring countries and ports and you now remove that label of Nigeria and you assume their own label it is accepted.

And of course, they knew the origin of the cargo is actually Nigeria. So, my charge to everyone out there, when you are talking about integrity you all need to work and when we are talking about our national brand you all need to work.

We need to make them stop seeing us as a country where anything goes, let’s begin to bring professionalism into what we do, transparency, integrity, see ourselves as that Nigerian that can make a difference, in any encounter you have, make the best of it and am sure by and large with the new government we will be able to get to that level.

What Advice Do You Have For Women In The Maritime Industry To Rise To The Top Of Their Career?

Don’t make gender an issue or barrier to your success. Deliver on any assignments and don’t give excuses, look for people who can mentor you, draw from their strengths and don’t see men as competitors see them as complimentary colleagues and leverage on whatever platform they allow you to assess to bring the best of you.

What’s Next For Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu?

I am going away with fond memories of the port, the maritime sector. I am going to have more time with my family because in the course of being a port manager for 7 years, it affected the home front, but God helping us we were able to still bond and do things together.

I also look forward to being a grandma soon. I do not see retirement as another step to just go and sit down, I need to get myself busy, I will still get involved in activities around the maritime sector, even as a consultant and see if we can put things together, even have a show on television.

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