Vincent Nwani is the Director of Research and Advocacy Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) with over 14 years of extensive field experience Dr. Nwani has supervised and executed consultancy and research projects across Nigeria and beyond attracting funds from donor/multilateral agencies and working with policy experts, industry and market research firms, academia and learning institutions. His career path had taken him through a comprehensive ‘hands-on’ experience from a research/financial consulting firms to reputable investment/asset management companies, commercial banking, Teaching and Training functions. In this interview with OLUYINKA ONIGBINDE he speaks on efforts of LCCI towards the reformation and efficiency of Nigeria ports. Excerpts
What is LCCI
Lagos Chamber of commerce and industry is a research institute founded in 1888, that is about 108 years ago. Today, LCCI is the oldest largest corporation in Nigeria and the activities of LCCI are just about working with government and the private sector to ensure that it is easy to do business in Nigeria; that is it easier to do business for investors. That is private sector investment promotion through business policy advocacy, through trade promotion. We just finished the Lagos international trade fair which is the largest trade fair in Africa, where we hosted about 2000 exhibitors and close to 500,000 existors, we have been doing that for 30 years successfully; that is one of our platforms for trade promotion. Last year alone we had about 400 trade missions from different countries into Nigeria, it is also part of promoting business. We discuss with government on trade laws, trade policies and investment through media engagement, memoranda, communiqué and in house meetings. We do research to make sure businesses are done in Nigeria in ethical manner to ensure revenue for the government through tax, and also to the benefits of investors whether local or international.
What can we say is actually the problem of investment in Nigeria owing to the speedy decline in Foreign Direct Investment
As far as trade fair is concerned, the number we see this year shows we even got more exhibitors both in volume and in value. In 2016, we had about 12 countries, the 12 countries brought in 200 exhibitors. China alone brought in 55 exhibitors. Even countries that have never come before have started indicating interest of not just coming but coming in numbers just like china. So this again shows that Nigeria might be passing through recession due to the economic challenges that we encountered but the appetite is still there. Before we had this year’s trade fair, we were scared whether investors will come but our fear was overcome because they actually responded. The numbers we had in 2015 was almost at par with the numbers we has in 2016 both in volume and in value. Foreign investment have declined no doubt because the business environment is becoming more challenging, especially the difficulty in getting dollar and exchange rate volatility. These fluctuations are what hinder foreign investment, but I can assure you that most of them are just sitting on the fence waiting, once the environment normalizes and they will come back the way they came in the previous years.
Sir, as a Director of Research and Advocacy in LCCI, what can you boast of as your major achievement (s) since you assumed office in 2012?
Well since I assumed office as a Director of Research and Advocacy in the middle of 2012, I have achieved so many things as a director; my coming in has taken LCCI to the next level not just as advocacy, but evidence based advocacy. We do not just talk; we use numbers to appeal to government on the impacts of policies using numbers and research. So we base what we are doing with facts and figures and that led us to become undisputed voice of the private sector in Nigeria, because we have so many other private sectors in Nigeria, we collaborate with them but it has become clear that LCCI is second to none when it comes to private sectors. It is called LCCI but the role we play is national, good enough, LCCI was formed even before we became a nation, so we predict this country. So my comings in scene strengthened the voice, research strength of the organization. We are in Lagos but they come all over the world to consult us. My coming in has brought a lot of respect; intellectual respect, leadership respect based on evidence based advocacy; we do research before we talk.
Do you think exhibitors actually turn out as expected in the recently concluded Trade fair or does the recession impacts on expectations
Yes they did turn out, even we discounted that going to be worst this year, but we were wrong. Both the number of people that came in as exhibitors and the number of people that came in to buy or to look were just as par. When I was doing my analysis, my chart showed that only 1000 difference of those that bought the ticket to enter but those that paid for multiple entry were 700 more from what we had in the previous period of 2015. That is evidence that Nigerian economy remain strong and viable despite the on-going economic recession. I am even optimistic that if government solves the scarcity of dollar, we will come out of recession because, what we are having is just a dollar liquidity liquidity challenge.
Last month LCCI held a programme on port reformation; do you think reformation will bring efficiency to the port?
Yes last month we held a programme on reforming the Nigerian port, and we had in attendance port operators, port regulators, and the minister of transportation who was represented by the Director General Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
what prompt the programme was our research on the Nigeria port and we realize that distortions in Nigeria port is still predominant, there are issues of corruption, bribery, and 65 percent of total time its take to imports goods into the country are caused by delay about 50 percent of money we gather for export or imports are illegal fee and fines and there are impediment and this has bursts importers and freight forwarders into a corner such that they approach the business by trying to give illegal fee. We also realize that even in the port there are multiplicities of agencies, I think we have about 14 agencies and if you unbundle the 14 agencies you will come with about 28 which is one of the largest in the world and that’s why 65 percent of goods meant for Nigeria first of all land in Ghana or Republic of Benin and come into to the country illegally leading to loss of import duties. So we came up with the forum and research in other to find a solution to the problem inhibiting the Nigeria port and we agree that only six agencies should operate at the port as stipulated by the federal government, we also talk about the Customs single window where importers can easily log on and see what they need to see and we discuss about the automation of the ports because if we reform our ports it will replace the issue we have about port to a large extent.
After the public private dialogue on reforming the ports have there been any changes?
Changes don’t just happen, it’s a collective effort and its takes time, where we are as far as the port is concerned is to get full buying by these regulators last week we engaged Nigeria Ports authority they were at the trade fair we had a private meeting with their leaders, we also had private meeting with Nigeria shippers council in few weeks we will be in Abuja to meet with the leadership of Customs we will meet NIMASA, NIWA and security agencies operating in the port. So its means that LCCI is not going to rest until things change as far as reforming the port is concerned.
What other challenges is the Nigeria port facing presently?
Yes so many things infrastructure deficit the roads are bad from the Apapa port, there is no rail connecting the port to town or from the port to the airport in other countries the port are connected to the town and it’s not like that here, so even when you clear your goods its takes like 5days to move out your goods and on the way the goods are falling because of bad road. So the infrastructure issues needs to be address and we are saying that if the government doesn’t have enough money to the infrastructure to and from and within the port that is when the private sector can come in. In the port there are issues about documentation multiplicities of agencies like I said before and the one single window were every agencies can c connect together for documentation and also for complains it’s important. Nigeria terminal is the most expensive in the world now over the last eight months terminals operators has increase fee by 150 percent and regulators need to wake up. Also the shipping line is another issue to look into the most functioning shipping line we have is the maersk shipping line and we are also calling for the Nigeria Cabotage act to be updated. We also need to look at the issue of trucking, trucking need to be regulated in other to have effective transportation.