Four years ago, it was business as usual — drive to the port to clear your goods, and maybe tip the security agencies if you so wish. But in 2016, this routine changed, the decision to tip was no longer yours to make, as the value of the tip became subject to the desires of the security agencies.
What used to be a friendly gesture has now metamorphosed into daylight robbery, and there’s no law enforcement agency to call on as, according to one of the container managers, Ibrahim Olawale, most of the security agencies are involved in the corrupt activities, leaving a trail that leads to the state government.
Security agencies involved
Initially, LASTMA was the only security agency stationed around the routes linking the ports in Apapa, and their job was cut out for them: control traffic to ease transportation for every motorist as containers, trailers, and flatbed trucks make their way into the ports.
It was as simple as that before the LASTMA officials were withdrawn from the road, and a taskforce unit was setup to replace them. This was when the innocent tipping blew into a full scale corrupt activity with no limit.
The taskforce is made up of Navy officials, Custom officers, Civil Defence, and Army officials who all collect their share of payments from drivers of the containers and trucks. This taskforce operates ruthlessly.
They break windscreens and beat up drivers (they once allegedly chased a driver to his death) all for the unlawful charges which all security agencies within the taskforce lay claim to. While some of the agencies don’t come directly to make their demands, they have plainclothes men demanding these charges on their behalf, and only God can protect the driver or manager who protests against them publicly.
During a surveillance of the area and activities of the taskforce, Nairametrics was informed of the involvement of the security guards at the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA). These are non-arms carrying officers whose responsibility is to guard the Apapa Ports; that is where their jurisdiction begin, and that is where it’s expected to end. But corruption has extended their jurisdiction and added extra to their responsibilities.
“Wetin NPA security dey find for here? (Area B police station along AP Moller (APM) port) Their job is to secure the port, what are they doing here?” Olawale asked in anger.
Olawale added that, at first, the soldiers’ presence at the APM terminals and on Apapa road was like a miraculous intervention, as the soldiers were quick to disrupt the illegal charges, and fast-track activities ensuring all trucks were allowed in and out without delay, but soon, the soldiers fell in line, and the corrupt practices continued.
His frustration is understandable if you consider the amount these drivers, especially those working for less known companies in Nigeria, are paying to get into the Apapa port (which is another journey on its own).
These drivers spend three weeks on the road trying to load their containers or trucks, a task that once used to take just one week. They go back and forth on the Apapa road, due to the refusal of the security men to pass them after each negotiation fails.
Nairametrics noted that each security agency takes its turn while drumming up illegal charges for which there are no receipts, just papers that are subject to renewal based on the duration placed on them by the port authority. It was disclosed that these papers serve different purposes: for entry and loading.
From the Apapa bridge to the Area B police station, Nurudeen Opeyemi, one of the container drivers, says that he and his manager have already spent about N80,000 and they’ve been on the road for about two weeks trying to gain access into the APM Terminal to load their container. While on exit from the Apapa road, they settle with about N500 per security officer that makes request.
“If there’s no delay, what will cause holdup? But they know if they slow down work, Navy will be able to get money from us, we will pay additional money to be inside, the police will get theirs. Aside from these ones, some people are also collecting money before them.
“Money that doesn’t have receipt. Aren’t you supposed to collect receipt after buying goods? The money they collect from us falls into loss account for us,” Olawale disclosed.
Note that, in our recent interview with Fidelis Ayebae, CEO of listed firm, Fidson Healthcare Plc, he said that in 2018, the cost of moving a container from Apapa to Ikeja moved from N120,000 to N900,000.
According to Opeyemi, a particular form, ‘Call-up paper’ which used to be sold to them for about N2,000, now goes for N10,000, with other hidden extra charges around it — a fee is demanded to get it signed, another fee is demanded to submit it. If they are lucky, the officials will not reject the paper, and request a new one.
The paper has an unwritten expiration date decided by the NPA officials, who will demand another payment once they believe the expiration date has passed. This happens to most papers collected by the port drivers.
Benefit of the illegal payment
While the payment is illegal with no receipt to prove such payment (asides the papers given to them which don’t state the amount paid for it, just words and signatures), the payments made to all security agencies afford the drivers a security officer (be it Navy or Army) who will escort them to the port and facilitate their loading.
In the case where the officer given to them as escort is considered low in rank by the NPA security, they are bound to restart their journey, which contributes to the days spent on the road and the increased amount charged by the security agencies whose initial job is to control traffic, and secure lives and properties.
Other challenges on the port route
While the security agencies engage in day light robbery, the container drivers also get robbed at night, but this time, by unknown individuals who take whatever is available while the drivers are asleep after a frustrating day. The security agencies who are supposed to secure the lives and properties of these drivers are busy robbing the drivers in the day, while those they are supposed to protect them from are reportedly having a field day by night.
If the illegal activities of these taskforce officials are curbed, the duration spent on the road will be limited, helping to reduce traffic on the Apapa road as well. But with the calibre of security agencies involved and the feeling that the Lagos State Government is involved in this scheme, Ibrahim Olawale doesn’t see an end to the illegal charges.
State Government connection
Olawale is one of the managers of the containers on Apapa road, and he echoes the same thoughts of Opeyemi regarding the activities of the taskforce on the Apapa road. But asides that, he brings a new twist to the formation of the story, while airing his thoughts regarding those involved in the illegal charges.
While noting all the security agencies involved in the illegal charges, he drew a link between the Lagos State Government and the taskforce. The government is accused of indirectly getting its cut from the charges, which is why he feels the illegal activities will continue without checks.
Nairametrics learnt that there is speculation that the State Government withdrew LASTMA officials from the Apapa road to avoid these illegal charges being directly linked to the Lagos State Government.
It was noted that the setting up of the taskforce would cast doubt as to where the charges are remitted, as there’s no known commission or bodies in charge of the payments received from the drivers, which means no accountability.
Opeyemi, however, stated that the LASTMA officials are now involved in the plot despite not being duty bound to the NPA.
Union and protest
Opeyemi and Olawale, who were heading to the Wharf in their containers, explained to Nairametrics why the charges haven’t met protests from the container drivers, citing lack of a union. It was disclosed that no one is willing to head any union, and the likely corruption that might entangle the body wouldn’t make anyone believe in one if it was eventually set up.
Those who have engaged in individual protests end up being beaten up. An example was given of a man who was chased into a coming trailer by uniformed men because he refused to yield to their demands.
Nairametrics observed the broken windscreen on their trailer, which Opeyemi stated was broken by a Naval officer who climbed their truck to set an example.
Olawale said that the problems on the road are NPA, Navy and AP Moller. The staff of AP Moller who are in charge of the terminal are responsible for the slowdown of loading due to their attitude towards work.
Adding that there’s a paper called ‘booking’, if work goes as required, the booking won’t expire. He explained that someone can revalidate three times within one day without loading his goods.
“The more the booking expires, the more you are revalidating it, and the more you are paying,” Olawale informed Nairametrics.
Meanwhile, attendants at the terminal are said to be less than the required number of staff expected to attend to drivers in the port. In most cases, both Olawale and Opeyemi said just two staff will attend to them, and that’s after many man-hours have been wasted by these staff who are mostly found sleeping or watching movies.
These are reasons for the long queue of trailers or containers on the Ojuelegba and Apapa road, they told Nairametrics. Apparently, these drivers find no joy in spending three weeks on the road, but they are compelled to do so. The longer they park on the road, the more money the taskforce and NPA make off them. And they resign to fate, as they don’t see the government stepping in any time soon to end this terrible practice.
Total Plc must quickly move past one of its toughest year yet
Total Plc’s revenue plummeted by 30% in 2020 compared to 2019.
The reliance on and importance of PMS – gas and diesel in Nigeria cannot be overplayed. The deplorable state of our electricity ensures at the very least that oil companies like Total plc stay in business. Afterall, what business or household can thrive without power?
2020 has been shocking. The sort of year wherein businesses suffer shortages in the shadow of plenty and the oil sector is no exception. The performance of oil particularly, in 2020 was dreadful, to say the least. Total plc as a case in point suffered severe cutbacks in revenue from all of its operating heads. The general consensus is that this poor return is clearly product of the instabilities experienced through the course of the year. Covid-19 did wreak havoc on lives and livelihood necessitating various restrictions within the country. The restrictions meant decreasing activities which as a consequence upset travels, the operations of businesses and individuals. For Total Plc it meant just one thing – DWINDLING TURNOVER.
Total plc has hitherto been a leader in its sector. They generate revenue from three major expenditure heads namely Network, General Trade and Aviation.
Sales from Network refers to the turnover total generates from sales to service stations. General Trade refers to revenue obtained from its sales to corporate customers excluding aviation. Aviation, as the name implies refers directly to revenue obtained from its business with customers in the aviation industry.
Revenue generated from these segments coupled with proper cost monitoring has hitherto placed Total Plc at the summit as industry leaders. However, this year tells a different tale.
Total Plc’s revenue plummeted by 30% in 2020 compared to 2019. The company made N292billion in 2019 and N204billion in 2020 FY. The respective operating segments each suffered some responsibility on this. Sales from Network (its most fruitful revenue source) made only N143billion in FY 2020 whereas it made 205billion in 2019, that’s 30% reduction. Aviation and General Trade weren’t spared. Aviation dropped 54% from N26billion to N12billion while General Trade was only able to generate N49billion against N61billion in 2019.
These poor records were always going to reflect in closing figures at FY and pile further misery on investors who have endured what seems a horrid year. Total Plc finished with a position 1.5% worse off than they did in 2019 at N2.2billion. But to their credit, the extent of reduction was pleasantly a far-cry from what the differences in revenue had suggested. This is due to proper handling of expenditure heads particular finance costs.
Total Plc recorded N2.9billion as finance expenditure in repaying interest on loans and overdraft, compared to the N7.9billion it made in interest payments for year 2019. This singular factor amongst some others made for a more presentable finish to this year’s campaign. The slow but steady restart of activities offers the inclination that improvements are at the very least an expectation this year. We will see from first quarter results.
CBN’s Open banking regulation creates opportunity to usher in the next big FinTechs
Through Open Banking regulations, FinTechs can now help you to view all your bank accounts in one central location.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) continues to enhance the payments and financial markets infrastructure in Nigeria by facilitating innovations which produce exciting and world-leading payment services and solutions.
What exactly is Open Banking?
In its simplest forms, the objective of Open Banking is to have a payments and markets infrastructure which provides end-users with the ability to review ALL their banking and financial information in a CENTRAL location.
This is regardless of how many bank accounts they use, and which financial institution is used.
As an example, almost everyone in Nigeria has two or more accounts. You receive funds in multiple accounts and make expenditure across the same multiple accounts. When you need to track inflows, outflows, check your balances, reconcile customer payments etc., you must log into the separate banking products just to perform mundane clerical tasks.
Consequently, from an end-user perspective (think MSMEs, entrepreneurs, HNWI etc.), keeping track of your various inflows, outflows, balances, and due liabilities across all your suite of banking products is simply time-consuming.
Now imagine a product/service that allows you click on one simple dashboard and you see ALL your inflows, outflows, balances, and liabilities ACROSS ALL BANKS.
That is the aim of open banking. The implementation of Open Banking requires adoption of common standards for technology use, agreements on data sharing and regulatory guidelines.
Who else has open banking?
Most advanced countries already have a form of open banking in place (UK, UK, Europe, Japan, Singapore, China). However, in Africa Nigeria continues to pioneer innovative payments infrastructure solutions.
Benefits and Opportunities
The ability for end-users to view consolidated information about ALL their financial products across ALL authorized providers in a single location will yield productivity benefits for end-users whilst creating new opportunities for service providers.
Specifically, MSMEs; Sole-Entrepreneurs who leverage the output/solutions from Open banking will benefit from the convenience of having a consolidated view of their banking activities (i.e., balances, inflows, outflows etc.). Furthermore, the reduction of time-consuming manual and administrative efforts required during reconciliations will be a productivity benefit.
For Service providers, financial institutions will be able to sell more products (including cross-sell opportunities) as they gain more insights into their customers and worry less about overwhelming their customers with new accounts.
Think about platforms being able to suggest what insurance products or type of savings accounts your customers qualify for given the consolidated view of customer net worth.
One interesting opportunity is the potential for credit growth. A consolidated view of a customer’s net worth should allow Financial Institutions better analyze the creditworthiness of potential clients. Thus, align CBN’s financial inclusion objectives with its desire to increase credit to the real sector.
What happens next?
For those excitedly asking what happens next, i.e. when do these products start becoming widely available and easily accessible? The answer appears to be soon, especially as the CBN has finally published a regulatory framework.
Successful implementation of Open Banking is wholly dependent on collaboration between Technology providers (FinTech), Financial Institutions and the Regulator (CBN).
- From a Technology perspective, as mentioned before the capability already exists globally. Also from a Nigerian perspective the Open Banking Foundation of Nigeria has been a strong advocate.
- From the Financial Institutions perspective, SOME banks already have shown willingness to partner with FinTech to deliver a “LITE” version of Open banking.
As an example, Banks currently send SMS text messages which applications such as REACH APP can analyze and transform for insightful expense tracking.
- Finally, from the Banking Regulator perspective, the CBN release of a regulatory framework outlines how the CBN intends to supervise participants in this sector.
Specifically, the highlights of the open banking regulatory framework, the CBN aims to
a) Provide standards for the safe utilization and exchange of data and services. ,
b) Define data access levels (i.e. what bank data can be shared and who can get it)
- There are four data categories of what can be shared (PIST, MIT, PIFT, PAST)
- Each category of data is assigned a risk rating (Low risk, moderate-risk, high and sensitive-risk data)
- There are also four (4) groups of participants who can get your data (Tier 0, 1, 2 and Tier 3)
c) Establish scope of financial services
- In scope, for now, are Payments/remittance services; Collections and disbursement services; Deposit-taking; Credit; Personal Finance advisory and management; Treasury management; Credit ratings/scoring; Mortgages; Leasing/Hire-Purchase at this time.
In other words, the key stakeholders are now ready, and we simply await the collaboration necessary to deliver the desired outcome.
Why this matters
As part of its financial inclusion goals, as well as, payments system vision strategy (PSV 2020; PSV2030), CBN continues to welcome financial technology providers (FinTech) as key participants into the payments infrastructure in Nigeria.
- Recent entrants into this Payments infrastructure include Mobile Money Operators (MMOs such as PagaTech, eTranzact), as well as Payment Solutions Service Providers (PSSPs such as Paystack, Flutterwave).
- Each category of participants within the Payments infrastructure is preceded by the CBN releasing a regulatory framework. (as examples since 2010, we have seen Agent Banking Framework, Super Agents framework, Regulatory Framework for Mobile payments services in Nigeria amongst others).
- So, the recent announcement of an Open Banking Regulatory Framework created a buzz as it signals new entrants and new services are in the pipeline for the average consumer of banking services.
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