ON Sunday, May 31, 2015, ENCOMIUM Weekly cornered popular businesswoman and CEO, Fisolak Global Resources Ltd., Princess (Dr.) Toyin Kolade, at an event in Ikeja, Lagos, where she opened up on many issues revolving around her trade and much more…
First, I congratulate the new president who has just taken over from former President Goodluck Jonathan. I wish him the best and God’s guidance so that he can lead us aright. Election of Buhari was a divine arrangement. It’s like God has decided to help this country, and that’s the reason the man defeated Jonathan. There is no doubt in the fact that we need change and we must all welcome it now that it has come. In fact, things are terribly bad. No electricity, no water supply, our roads are bad, education and health sectors are nothing to write home about, fuel scarcity almost all the time and so many challenges facing this country. And to worsen it all, Boko Haram insurgents are killing people here and there, constituting serious security threat. That’s why we must all embrace the change and make sure we pray for the new government to succeed because if it succeeds, things are going to be better for all of us.
What’s your advice for Buhari and his team?
First, they must solve the problem of electricity because if there is adequate power supply across the country, Nigerians are going to benefit a lot from that. There will be more employment opportunities. Secondly, the government should strengthen our rail transportation system because presently, it’s nothing to write home about. If you travel to Europe, from Paris to Lustenau, Austria, you can board a train in the night and get to where you’re going. From Lustenau in Austria to Napoli, if you leave Lustenau in Austria by 10 p.m you will get to Italy by 8 a.m. So, my advice for this new government is that they should make sure there is train that will constantly run from Lagos to Abuja and from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Kaduna and from Kaduna to Kano. If this new government can do this successfully, Nigerians will be very grateful. I know President Buhari is a very honest man and I am sure of him doing better things for Nigerians, and with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, I believe Nigeria is safe in the hands of these two men of integrity. And I pray God should intervene in everything this new government wants to embark on.
But a lot of people are saying this new government may make things difficult in your field, that’s freight forwarding, with stringent policies. How do you intend to cope?
The new government cannot make anything difficult for anybody at all. I don’t know why people are afraid of this new administration. This government of Buhari and Osinbajo, I am very sure, will be so transparent. They will make sure every Nigerian is okay. And then in the maritime sector, we can’t have problem. Even in Jonathan’s regime we didn’t have problem because the Comptroller General of Customs has been doing very well. You can clear your container within two or three days. You can do your PAR in one day through the bank, and without this you can’t clear your consignment. I believe very strongly that the new government will make everything possible for all importers.
We have been enjoying good things from the old administration and we believe we will continue to enjoy such in the new regime. What I am appealing to this new government is the issue of roads. Now, there is no road to access Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island and this has affected our business seriously. All businesses are down at the moment. Trucks have blocked the roads. That makes it very difficult to get to Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island. Government should make sure all the roads leading to Apapa are fixed because if the roads are not narrow and bad, I don’t think all these tankers will be blocking everywhere. We need good and motorable roads for our business to flourish.
Also, government should create new port, maybe in Badagry or Epe that will be complementing the services of the one in Apapa. When Apapa Port was established, the population was very low but now we’re more than 200 million in Nigeria. So, if the government can assist in this direction, there can be a solution to the congestion in Apapa because it’s the same place the petrol tanker drivers use as base where they lift petrol and diesel that we also park our containers. The government should intervene in this problem. Even when Buhari came during campaign, he couldn’t reach Apapa because there was no road. When he also saw the situation, he promised to look into the problem. And I pray God to strengthen and give him the will to fulfill his promise.
Apart from road problem, what other challenges is facing your sector?
Yes, there are other areas but the most important thing is for the government to recognize us first because we freight forwarders were not recognized at all by the previous government. And if you look at the percentage of our contribution to the economic development of this country, you will agree with me that we are really trying. Without freight forwarders, you can’t clear your consignment in time. Without freight forwarders and licensed customs agents at the ports, you can’t get things done easily. If you import goods today, we bring them out for you in two days. Without us, you can’t achieve that. So, we want the government to accord us the necessary recognition.
I praise Customs officers of nowadays, they have been doing well. They don’t joke with their job. They make sure they don’t delay anything. They make sure all consignments are cleared at the appropriate time. They always ensure you pay the right duty. They are always at your service to ensure that you get your job done easily.
How does the high tariff on imported goods affect your business?
No, it doesn’t affect my business and it can never affect it because what the Federal Government wants on this importation of vehicles that have attracted high tariff is because the government believes we can do the same thing they are doing in Japan and other developed nations manufacturing cars. The government wants Nigerians to invest in Nigeria. They want everybody over there to come and invest in Nigeria as well because if they do, the more our economy will be better. But people are running away from home because of poor power supply and insecurity. But if the government can provide electricity and good security, more people will be encouraged to bring their investments down to Nigeria.
For instance, companies like Toyota are here already importing their vehicles but when there is high tariff, they can come here and produce their vehicles. With that, there will be generation of more employment and income for Nigeria. So, that’s why government increased the tariff on new vehicles. The government wants to encourage local manufacturing of automobiles instead of patronizing foreign markets. So, that’s why the Federal Government imposed 35 per cent levy, 35 per cent tariff on new vehicles. But some people don’t understand the policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria on that, and that’s why they are criticizing it. Nigerians want to be importing new vehicles forever and this won’t help our economy.
This is 16 years of democracy in Nigeria, would you say we have enjoyed true dividends of democracy?
I won’t say we have not been enjoying dividends of democracy but one thing is that no one can do it all. Obasanjo did his best, Yar’Adua of blessed memory also tried his best. And when Jonathan came, he also tried his best. It’s just that his best might not be good enough for Nigerians because things are really terrible. But I believe with the new government, Nigerians will enjoy more dividends of democracy. At least, democracy will forever remain the best form of government in Nigeria as it’s all over the world.