"Transformation Agenda should be extended
to the Shipping and Port Industry" - Musa Danjuma.
Chief Musa Danjuma does not need
introduction. As the younger brother of retired General T. Y. Danjuma,
he was entrusted with supervising the growth and expansion of the first
family heirlooms - the Comet Group of Companies. To say that he has
succeeded in this task is to put it mildly. With the recent addition
of five years to Fivestar Logistics Ltd's concession at Ro-Ro Port,
Tin Can Island Lagos, Chief Danjuma's Comet Group of Companies has imprinted
its logo on the sands of time in Nigerian maritime trade. In this interview,
he speaks of business prospects and worries in Africa's largest economy.
Pointedly however, he laments the decay in infrastructure and amenities
which clogs the wheels of portland-to-hinterland flow of cargoes and
therefore makes the case for a special transport master plan for Nigeria's
busy port cities.
Comet Shipping Agencies Nigeria Ltd turns
30 this year. What memories does this evoke for you?
Chief Danjuma: The name Comet evokes happy memories
for me. As you know, it was the passing of Halle's Comet in 1984 that
prompted our founder and my senior brother, General T. Y. Danjuma, to
name the company Comet and since then, by God's grace, the company has
soared high and given rise to many more companies. So, naturally, it
gives all of us at the Comet Group of Companies a lot of happiness and
joy that the company turns 30 this year.
How many companies have been formed around the original
first companies? Is it true that the Comet Group of Companies hardly
retrenches staff because you see the increased burden of the workforce
as part of corporate social responsibility?
Chief Danjuma: As of today, nine companies have been formed
in the group. Before Comet Shipping Agencies, Nigeria America Line Ltd
(NAL), was formed which took part in the Nigeria Brazil counter trade
of the early 1980s. Comet Shipping Agencies was actually formed to provide
agency services for NAL but after it took off and was doing well, we
expanded and began to provide same agency services to the industry and
even to lead other indigenous agencies in this type of services. But
to answer your question directly, other companies in the group now include
Plantgeria Company Ltd, Tethys Plantgeria Ltd, Tarabaroz Fisheries Ltd,
Danelec Ltd, Best Trade Nigeria Ltd and Fivestar Logistics Ltd. To explain
why we don't retrench, we believe that we should be creating jobs. As
a patriotic Nigerian, I put myself in the shoes of my workers who have
families. We don't want to disrupt their sources of livelihood for slight
Some of your operations are in the Niger Delta which was a hotbed
of militant activities since the new millennium. Is it fair to say that
militancy has largely been curtailed? How did the disturbances of militants
interfere with your companies' activities and how did you cope with
the demanding situations?
Chief Danjuma: Yes, it can be said that militancy has reduced
in the Niger Delta following the federal government's amnesty programme.
However, during the time it was active, many of our operations suffered
their depredations. As you know, the attacks were against marine activities,
boats and other maritime targets. Even now, we still get attacks from
the pirates and the Nigerian Navy can help with that. So, overall, it
was not easy coping with their attacks but we managed to survive them.
Since the establishment of Fivestar Logistics Ltd and the
operation of the Ro-Ro terminal at Tin Can Island Port in Lagos, the
Comet Group joined the elite group of companies that took over NPA's
cargo handling activities. Has this helped to uplift the profile of
corporate activities in the Comet Group of Companies within the maritime
Chief Danjuma: As you know, the ambition of all operators is
to reach the zenith of their career or the higher echelons of service
provision in their industries. For the maritime sector, terminal operation
is a kind of higher echelon because you are in a position to do more
by way of hosting calling ships at your berths, receiving and storing
cargoes on behalf of consignees and other customers, managing the offloaded
cargoes or other cargoes on your terminal with a view to maximizing
the use of space, etc. So, our winning the bid to operate the Ro-Ro
terminal at Tin Can Island Port Lagos in 2005 was one such opportunity
to showcase our capabilities and expertise in cargo handling operations
and we have been doing it well. Our concession originally was for fifteen
years but since we spent the better part of five years developing the
infrastructures, the federal government has graciously added extra five
years to our concession.
What are some of the problems of running the Ro-Ro terminal?
Chief Danjuma: Firstly, one of the problems we had was
space constraints for storage of break bulk cargoes, vehicles and containers.
As the name implies, one of the core areas of our operation is receiving
vehicles, mainly cars, fairly used and brand new. As at 2013, for example,
we offloaded 114,000 vehicles, 48,000 containers and 193,000 metric
tonnes of general cargoes. So, this has necessitated our search for
appropriate off-dock terminals as a relief accommodation for our cargoes.
Aside from space, we also have problems sometimes with the shallow draught
of the terminal. Some of the big ships that would have called at our
terminal were diverted to other Lagos terminals of our neighbours because
our draught is about 10 metres whereas these big ships are drawing draughts
of 12 or 13 metres. So, we would like to commend the work of NPA in
dredging the channels and berthing areas but we would like to appeal
for more attention to the draught problem.
At this 30th anniversary of the founding of the Comet Group,
what activities will be used to mark the event?
Chief Danjuma: We have planned some corporate activities to
host our customers and workers in various forums. We shall reveal these
activities at the appropriate time, including mementoes to our long-term
customers and major stakeholders in the industry. Definitely, we are
not lying low about this.
What new products and services are
being planned for your customers in the various companies going forward?
Chief Danjuma: As you may be aware already, our terminal has
installed many innovations and gadgets to fast-track the clearance of
cargoes at our terminal. As such, we separated the exit gate for brand
new cars and vehicles from the exit gate for fairly-used cars and vehicles
and opened a special air-conditioned cafe for our customers who come
down to the terminal. We also do door-to-door services, etc. As you
know, we have the ISO 9001 which is a very high standard for quality
service delivery. ISO quality management certification is deployed by
companies that want to give high levels of efficiency, maximized quality
of service delivery and high levels of customer satisfaction. The Comet
Group of Companies attained this standard four years ago and it was
a highly orchestrated ceremony held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja
by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON). Since then as we have
been doing before, we are constantly fine-tuning our service delivery
techniques to ensure they are always top of the range.
How is the Comet Group grooming its next generation of managers
and top executives?
Chief Danjuma: Succession planning in our group of companies
is a very big project because we realize that the continuance of our
services, the longevity of our group of companies and the expansion
and growth of our companies depend on good succession planning. Because
of this, we take training seriously at the terminal and at our administrative
offices. We also send our staff to seminars, conferences, trade fairs
and important meetings so as to expose them to the issues in the industry,
to understand the demands of our principals and to facilitate their
interaction with leaders in the industry and other operators. So, we
take the grooming of our younger generation of managers and top executives
How does the serious problem of traffic jams arising from
the ports and shipping activities affect your operations?
Chief Danjuma: This is by far one of the biggest problems of
port cities in Nigeria today, be it Apapa in Lagos or Warri or Port
Harcourt in River State. The volume of cargoes leaving the ports and
traversing the cities constitutes a bottleneck for traffic flow in these
port cities. In Apapa, for example, this has been the case since the
activities of the two seaports enlarged in the late 1990s. However,
our appeal is that the transformation agenda of the President for the
telecoms and power sectors should be extended also to the shipping and
ports industries. If you consider the genesis of the problem you will
see it flowed from the expansion of maritime activities. The volume
of goods from the seaports which is transported by road continues to
rise annually. In 2012 alone, for example, total throughput at Nigerian
seaports was 24,914,764 metric tonnes. From 2007 to 2012, it was over
77 million metric tonnes, with a total of over four million containers,
according to the Nigerian Ports Authority. In the 3rd Quarter of 2013,
9.5m tonnes of general cargo, petroleum products and containers passed
through Apapa Port and Tin Can Island Port into the city. But these
statistics also mean a lot of money for the federal, state and local
governments in the country. In 2013, for example, the Nigeria Customs
Service (NCS) collected N833 billion in duties and levies, mainly from
the seaports, and as at January 2014, NCS had collected N40.5 billion
in import duties and other charges at Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports.
What short- and long-term measures would you suggest as a remedy?
Chief Danjuma: If you consider the sum total of the scenario,
you will agree with me that the port sector is a money spinner that
should be taken good care of. My suggestion is that for the long term,
a new transport master plan for the busy port cities such as Apapa,
should be embarked upon immediately. For Port Harcourt port, Abonema
Wharf, and the city, a renewal of the port itself is called for because
there is a limit to dredging the berths of a 100year old river port.
The road infrastructure of Port Harcourt is also in need of such a new
transport master plan especially since the new dredging achievements
by Bonny Channel Management has made it possible for Maersk Line's WAFMAX
container carriers to berth at the Onne Port. This will cause a spillover
of trucks from the port to pour into the city. As you know, the Onne
road has several failed parts, so if the road network is not enhanced
more bottlenecks will be experienced there. But if the suggested transport
master plans for the port cities are embarked upon, this will ensure
a better future for Nigeria as a maritime nation and secure the jobs
of more people and cut off the scourge of the notorious poverty ravaging
the land. In the short term, I suggest that failed roads and critical
junctions that cause traffic jams such as Liverpool Roundabout in Apapa
Lagos, Oil Mill Junction in Port Harcourt and the Onne road, for examples,
should be quickly fixed by government to ameliorate the problem of go
slows. In Lagos, something must be done to get tankers and trucks to
stop parking along the highways. The Association of Maritime Truck Owners
should be assisted to find a spacious park for their trailers and no
trailer should leave the park unless its number has been called for
loading inside the port. We have to get it right urgently because development
experts have calculated that approximately US$7 billion will be invested
into port expansion in West Africa over the next five years. Nigeria
can only benefit from this foreign direct investment to the fullest
if her port facilities have functional road and rail networks for seamless
cargo delivery from port-land to the hinterland.
Trends in Nigerian Maritime and Dredging Sectors
major focus in this edition is the trend of harbor dredging activities
which are on an upward tick. It is no longer news that the current stock
of river ports in Nigeria are overstretched due to the increase of Nigeria’s
economy and the inadequacy of road and rail infrastructure to cope with
cargo delivery from the quays. In July, the Apapa-Ijora road was blocked
for two straight weeks as all hell was let loose on account of the number
of trucks and trailers jostling for the limited road space. Even though
the Lagos State Government is fast-tracking road reconstructions, albeit
belatedly, there seems to be no solution in the short term.. Read
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