FG SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHEN FLOATING FOREIGN BONDS — OCHI

Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla, High Chief OCHI ODE EMMANUEL, a Lagos-based maritime services provider and Chief Executive of Dominion Global Logistics Limited, in this interview looks at the poor state of the port roads, the Abuja Airport repair and the government’s monetary policies among other crucial issues. He spoke to Ejikeme Omenazu.

ochi-and-nick-2
Chief (Amb) Ochi Ode Emmanuel

 

Excerpts:

As a major maritime stakeholder whose daily activities centre on the ports, what would you say is the state of the roads leading to the ports in Lagos?

I am worried that very serious issues are always politicised. The roads leading to the ports should be seen as very serious matter. That is where the second revenue base of the country is located. It is a big surprise to know that the government has not taken access roads to the ports as serious matter that will be tackled urgently. Last year, the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, visited the access roads to the ports from the Ijora end and saw how deplorable was the roads. He ordered for immediate repair, which was done haphazardly. The part from Leventis to Port gate is in a very bad state and containers fall there every day. This is with colossal losses in terms of human resources, time and wastages. The containers are and with goods. It is rather unfortunate that this is allowed to be happening. To me, the federal government has failed woefully in addressing the needs and requirements for the ports to functions optimally.

Equally, I will sound unjust to myself to exonerate the Lagos State government on the deplorable nature of the access roads to the ports. Lagos State government collects wharf landing fees from all imported goods in the ports. They pass the deplorable roads to collect these fees. It does not prick their mind that the money they collect from importers, whose goods are being wasted, should be catered for by repairing the roads. While calling on the federal government to repair the access roads to the ports, the Lagos State government should also do so because it gets a lot of revenue from the ports.

The federal government has continued to float foreign bonds since its request for foreign loan has not been granted by the National Assembly. What is your take on this?

I have always said that our present set of leaders is not leading us sincerely. Whether it is Euro bond or foreign loans, they are money taken that will be repaid. Therefore, they should be mindful in doing this so that they do not mortgage the nation. Recently, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu publicly said that when Gov Akinwunmi Ambode was sworn in, he pitied him, not because the governor is not smart, but because of the debt overhang on Lagos State. How did these debts come about? It was as a result of local and international bonds taken by the previous administration, not minding that they would be repaid.

Thus, if you call it loans or bonds, it is the same. The money must be repaid. It is rather mortgaging the future, spending today what you have to spend tomorrow. If you spend what you have tomorrow today, tomorrow, you will have little in your pocket.

How do you see the reported plan of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to move for broad devaluation of the Naira?

To me, the CBN appears to be very confused. Because of this, they do not have a grip on the monetary policies of the country. They are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the current problems regarding the monetary policies. Thus, at any Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, they came up stampeded policies when they realise that what they put in place previously was not working. The last one was pumping money to banks and order them to attend to customers within 24 hours. But, the banks continue with what they are doing. The victims have no direct link with the CBN. People cannot even find it easy to report matters to the CBN. They have extended this to Bureau de Change. They release money to Bureau de Change. Very soon, they will realise that they have succeeded in making operators of Bureau de Change billionaires overnight.

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele is in a big confusion. World over, monetary policies are not done or applied in frequent summersaults, but in Nigeria, this is the order of the day. Monetary policies are done in a sustainable manner for long term basis. That is how investors can have confidence to put their money for investment. Where there is unpredictability, investors are afraid to invest. The Managing Director of First Bank recently appealed to Nigerians not to be saving in their homes. That shows the extent Nigerians have lost confidence in the banking system. They now resort to self-help and keeping their money at home.

Their lives are endangered. The liquidity in banks is being drained and the liquidity for growth and development in the real sector is being affected by lack of cash inflow in the banking industry. Thus, the recession that should have been eliminated is nose-diving. It is high time the CBN puts its axe together to bring about sound economic plans instead of the ad hoc method we have now. Now, what is seen from CBN is stampede. That will not help the country, Nigerians and the government. The Nigerians’ confidence in the system is grossly eroded due to confusing government policy and monetary statements. There seems to be confusion everywhere

There is a cold war between the Customs Controller General Hameed Ali and the Senate over his refusal to put on the agency’s uniform to appear before the lawmakers, while the issue of payment of duties that led to his invitation has not been fully resolved. What is your view on this state of affairs?

 

To me, there is need for peace between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The matter of gangsterism that exists among the three arms of government should be a matter of concern to all Nigerians. Therefore, the Executive must cooperate with the Legislature and vice versa for the good governance that Nigerians desire. If the Senate has unanimously passed a resolution that the Controller General of Customs should be in uniform to address them in the Chamber, I see nothing bad in the Controller General appearing in uniform and go to the Senate. That would have ended the hullabaloo. Today, we will not be talking about it again. The Senate and Customs would have moved on to offer good services to the Nigerian people.

But, today, we are still talking about uniform, but the key matter the Nigerian people are interested in, which is the decision of Customs to make people pay duty on vehicles registered for many years and months past has been suspended and left hanging. I find this a disfavour to the Nigerians people by these organs of government. Where two elephants fight, the grass suffers. That is what is happening. The Nigerian masses are suffering, groaning in these acts of gangsterism happening between the arms of government. It is my appeal that the president should take charge of his administration and call his appointees to order to relate well with the other arms of government to achieve peace and stability that will guarantee good governance. Now, these are lacking and it is unfortunate. Nigerians voted for ‘Change’. They want unhindered manifestations of that Change.

How do you see the continued refusal of the Senate to confirm the appointment of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, and suspension of consideration of the appointment of some INEC Commissioners until the President sacks Magu?

A house that is divided against itself cannot stand. That is why I advise the president to take charge of his government. Let the music the president is dancing to be heard loud and clear by his appointees so that they will all be on the same page. Right now, there are a lot of beats of music. The president is dancing one tune and his appointees are dancing to many tunes. The DSS officials, especially the Director General, were appointed by the president. The EFCC Acting Chairman, Magu, was appointed by the president. If they are all on the same page, I do not see what the DSS should castigate Magu before the Senate. I would have expected the DSS to send their reports to the President for him to look at the gravity of the offence and decide to send Magu to the Senate or not. What is happening now is a serious indictment of the Presidency by the DSS. The Presidency should take this seriously.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently accused the federal government of not doing enough to end hardship in the land. Do you agree with the union?

Right now, the government is not in control of itself. You cannot expect good and sustained dividends of democracy. That is why there are complains, suffering everywhere. The real issues are left unattended. The economy and security is unattended to. There is armed robbery, kidnapping and killing everywhere. Government is pursuing shadows, issues that have no bearing on the lives of the people. The economy is left unattended to. So, ASUU is saying the obvious.

Discussions on the recent closure of Abuja Airport for comprehensive repair work on its runways and diversion of air traffic to the Kaduna Airport has been in the top burner for weeks. As the airport would be resuming operations soon, what is your take on this disruption of air services for several weeks?

Government is about planning. Planning is about government. Sometimes, other revelations come. It makes one feel like crying. The Minister of State for Aviation told the whole world that Abuja Airport was built long ago, intended to serve for a number of years before another runway will be built. The government, having known that, left the runway to expire before planning of closing it to resurface it. This, to me, was painful and wicked. Under the belief that government is about planning and planning is about government, what stopped the government from embarking on another runway while the current ones under repair were being used? This is a question the government had found difficult to answer. Government is a continuum. There should never be an excuse. We thank God that the airport is resuming operation as the stoppage of flight in and out of Abuja really affected business and government services not only in Abuja, but the nation as a whole

Would you say the federal government has been handling the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa well?

The issue is unfortunate. Nigerian lives are considered worthless everywhere, even in this country. I see no reason why Nigerians are being killed in South Africa and the Nigerian government has not come out with strong action to stem the tide. Last year, thre was also xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and the Nigerian government did not do much. This year again, it happened and several lives and properties of Nigerians were destroyed in that country. Also, there is a threat on Nigerians living in the United States of America. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters came out with a warning and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, came out to attack her. The two officials of government came out to wash their dirty linins in public. That was unnecessary. When officials of government fight themselves publicly, why will South Africans not kill Nigerians? This is because there is no resistance from the government.


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