Cargo business can boost in Nigeria under enabling environment, policy, says stakeholder
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Executive Director, Fast Forwarding Group, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Cargo Terminal Lagos, Mr. Yinka-Babalola Ayodotun in this interview, spoke on challenges, potentials of cargo industry and how the business can boost the nation’s economy. Chika Goodluck-Ogazi was there. Excerpts:
What is Fast Forwarding Group into?
We operate cargo flights from Dubai to Lagos on a weekly basis, minimum of three flights every day. We have also commenced operation into Kano and our first flight landed recently. We also operate into other countries like Accra, Ghana and Abidjan. We formerly operate into Sudan, before they were broken into two countries. But because of the issue of boundary problem there, we stopped flying.
And you know that if anything happened anywhere with an aircraft, it becomes a global issue, because of that; for security reasons we stopped the Sudan operation temporary.
How do you view the operation of cargo business in Nigeria, when compared to other advanced countries?
Basically there are lots of challenges that we are facing as cargo operators in this environment, our standards here is a bit on the low side. For my own experience and the few places I have visited around the world. In Nigeria, we have this low sensitivity to how cargos business should be operated in this environment. For instance, when you enter into this place, you will see a lot of activities going on. In other countries, they have their offices outsides the airport environment where they transact business with you. In this our place, we have a lot of canopies everywhere. To my own view, security wise, I don’t think is the best. If not for the rain today, it will be difficult for you to have access into this complex building and even from the main entrance you would see people moving into this place and some of them are not suppose to come in here.
Secondly, in terms of export, we have not been fantastic; we have too many agencies at the airport, making a lot of charges on the goods. Those high charges have also become a source of discouragement to investors that want to come into the country to invest. It is also not encouraging a lot of people to do export business in this country, because the charges are on the high side, basically export charges should be low and that is what Dubai government is doing, if you go and buy goods there, you don’t pay heavy dues exporting it, because the fees are very low. The money of which you used to buy it will remain there. So, I think our government should try to look at it that way and encourage people to export goods outside the country.
Is Nigeria really exploring the potentials of cargo business?
Obviously no, we have not really explored cargo potential business in Nigeria. Look at China today; they are the second largest economy in the world. If the economy of such countries goes down, it would definitely affect other countries economy.
However for every importation you are making, you are sending money out and for your export, you are bringing money into the country, and we will have money to expand the economy, create more jobs, open more companies. For my own opinion the government does not have any business in creating employment. The business they have is that let them create an enabling environment and policy for each entrepreneur to strife in the environment.
If you look at the activities in Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), 90 per cent of the activities here are based on importation and the importation is sending money out, so we are more or less not exploring the potential for any growing economy.
Nigeria has been seen as a hub for Africa, are we really meeting up the demand?
There are a lot of challenges that is not making us to meet the demands of being a hub for Africa that is in the area of infrastructure, even with the ones we have on ground, there is no maintenance, another one is development. From my observation, this cargo ramp that we have here has been here for a couple of years. As of the time that ramp was built we don’t have so many flights that are coming in here. There should be expansion and maintenance of that ramp. A lot of work has not been done on it for over a number of years that ramp has been in existence. A lot of times we do have challenges due to ramp being filled up; sometimes people will queue up there for a long time.
There are a lot of resources, which are lost, because of lack of good development as concerning the handling of our cargo project. Security is one basic challenge that is really critical. Any foreign airline operator would first look at the security, if he should send his aircraft to any country. If there is no security, there is nothing that would make him, bring the aircraft to that location.
So if I am in the position to give out advise to those in authority, the first place I will ask them to secure is the main entrance here in NAHCO, the airport environment should be serene environment where not everybody comes in accept if they have business to do there. Airport environment is a global village on its own, because you have a lot of foreigners working in there, because of the foreign airlines. So if anything happens before you know it news will begin to fly around. So we need to be very security conscious of our airport environment, especially the cargo airport, you noticed that our security agencies are more particular about passenger flight on the lookout for drug trafficking and terrorists. They have to also look at the cargo section, because all these vices can be shifted to cargo section, these people can make use of cargo, because the terminals are linked. Still on security, I would suggest that most of these parking lots very close to the terminals should be relocated to somewhere else.
Article credit: Guardian Newspaper
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