Last Saturday, I got a call from Ifeanyi Ubah who recently has been gradually shifting to the centre of economic public discourse. He wanted me to join in the touring of his massive faculty in Apapa. It was a journey that ensured I called up all the courage in the world to embark.
I was supposed to meet up with him at his Truck Park along the Apapa Oshodi Express way and from there hitch a boat ride to his depot. I missed my way and while I was trying to navigate myself back on course, his convoy drove past me. I immediately put in a chase and met up with him.
Our first port of call was his jetty which he explained was part of Capital oils corporate social responsibility to provide easy access for commuters escaping the gridlock on the expressway. He explained that he had two of such on that canal. He wondered why the government was not giving him the opportunity to manage the expressway. Citing that his truck park which could take about 1000 trucks could serve as a waiting bay for truckers pending when they loaded. This he explained further would really ease up the logjam as truckers would only hit the express when it was their turn to load. This could also serve as another revenue spinner for the Federal Government. According to him about N5b was lost daily on that road as a result of that blockage becuase, this was the main artery in which over 70% of goods and products being used in the country was being transported.
At his depot, what met my eyes was a massive well designed and constructed modern depot, With the best of modern facility and second to none safety and fire fighting machinery. He felt pride in taking us round and displaying the efficacy of the fire fighting equipment in the place.
What is of interest to me however, is his position on the deregulation of the industry. He believed that with his capacity, he did not understand why he had to be limited by allocation as a result of the regulated nature of the business. This is the cause of the scarcity which is artificial and could be avoided. This scarcity has also led to corruption especially with the ongoing subsidy scheme.
With a depot of 32 loading bays and a capacity to load and park over 200 trucks working over 24 hour shifts, I reluctantly agreed that he was by far the biggest player in this sector. From his observation point, I could see that his competitors where midgets beside what was on display. His competition where displaying at best 4 loading bays and a capacity to berth just two ships. What I learnt was that the other 27 players had access to only two berthing gallows while capital oil, apart from having access to this shared by competition still had his own berthing capacity private to him.
He has built a structure far bigger than the size of the regulated business in his expectation of a policy shift. He is of the strong believe that the market was ready for deregulation on both sides, the supply and demand side. Hence his push for such.
What I saw yesterday was marveling, from his observation post, I observed that no other person was loading apart from him and yet the truckers were parked tail to tail as far as the eye can see on both ends.
This is a crisis that would need more than rhetorics to resolve. This is a crises that needs all stakeholders especially those with the kind of size that Ubah has displayed, sitting down with Government and drawing up a credible plan that will see the Government slowly and gradually withdrawing from this business like it did in telecommunications and allowing the market find its true bearing.
I left that depot yesterday in awe of a much misunderstood young man, who has fought very distinctively to emerge a power broker in today’s NIGERIA, a position I never held prior to seeing things for myself.
Written by Joseph Edgar follow his explosive blog here