Cargo Defence Fund recently organised a forum in Abuja to discuss and agree on measures to be taken to ensure redress or recovery in view of the problems encountered in the Stockfish trade between Nigeria and Iceland and to agree on steps to be taken to prevent or minimise future occurrences.
In this interview with Ms. Azuka Ogo, the secretary of Cargo Defence Fund, she speaks on the fraud, fraudulent practices and other problems facing importers of stockfish in Nigeria.
Can you tell Nigerians what Cargo Defence Fund is all about?
Cargo Defence Fund (CDF) is a public- private synergy set up by the Nigerian Shippers Council with the approval of the Federal Government of Nigeria for assistance to importers and exporters in pursuit of their Claims Recoveries and Legal Remedies.
What is the essence of the forum?
The stockfish as an old trade which we believe started in the sixties but we are looking at the trade between Nigeria and Iceland. Over the years, they have some certain problems but we have not looked at them critically. Occasionally, they have problems with shipment but our concern is not with those problems but with the frequency in which the problems were occurring and that is why we decided to organise the forum so that we can bring stakeholders in the business together to address the issue and proffer solutions to the problems.
What are the problems facing importation of stockfish in Nigeria?
Stockfish trading is faced with series of problems and the complaint include mixing of orders or types of stock fish unilaterally without agreement to change same, non performance of agreed contract terms, unilateral change of fixed or agreed contract prices and fraud related practices which I call cheating. There is also problem of the use of unseaworthy containers, allowing water to soak consignments, continuous occurrence of wetness and the impact on the insurance industry, resultant jurisdictional issues in the pursuance of claims, increased legal costs, arbitration cost and other costs.
From 2006 to 2009, we receive complaint related to fraud where Nigerians entered into a contract with company for the supply of certain amount and quality of stockfish but discovered that product sent is of lower quality and not up to number of tons of stockfish expected without refunding the money paid for the product by the company.
For instance, a Nigerian importer entered into a contract for the supply of 1,280 bags of stockfish heads in October 2007, only 1,030 bags were received, 120 bags were damaged by sea water due to leakage in the container while the importer also alleged unilateral upward review of agreed price of goods and short shipment of 250 bags leaving the value of the importers claim at $42.650.
There is also a pure fraud practice where an exporter collects money from importer but did not send any good at all and damages caused by wetness of the goods. So, we wanted to find out if it is from whether as a result of poor quality containers that are not sea worthy, because is not every containers that can be sent to sea between Iceland and Nigeria or is it because they don't dry the fish well before packaging them for shipment.
But we equally gathered that there is always condensation when goods that are sent from cold area reach warm weather like ours which usually cause dampness. There is also the problem relating to letters of credit because we wanted Central Bank of Nigeria to talk to us about the responsibilities and liabilities of local banks and corresponding banks.
We are examining all the possible causes of the problems and ready to give recommendations to one of the stockfish exporter who came for the forum from Iceland.
Is there any contribution from Nigeria Government to stockfish importation into the country?
No, Nigeria government does not have any financial contribution to stockfish trade, it is the trader who contributes but government only set up cargo Defence Fund to look after the trade with a private board managers which is set up by the Nigeria Shippers Council.
Looking at the problems of Stock fish importation, how much has Nigerians lost in the course of the business?
This particular trade on stockfish is of immerse benefit to both Iceland and Nigeria and our desire is to ensure that it is not frustrated but encouraged to grow. According to the Secretary Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Shippers Council, Capt. Audu Adamu Biu, the council was reliably informed that Nigerian importers have lost over one million pounds sterling as a result of problems encountered with this particular trade.
What is the reaction of Iceland stock fish exporter at the forum?
Well, the Iceland woman at the forum is an agent to about twelve fishing company in Iceland and they called them fish producers and exporters and is the managing director of the agency to those companies but interestingly, she is strict in her our agency because she controls the price for those she is acting for and very careful with their shipment and Nigerians said they don't have problem from her goods and where there is she quickly addresses it.
We invited her and other exporters from Iceland for the forum but they didn't come except Norfish Director. She also came to Nigeria for market survey to inspect prices of stockfish in Nigeria market to know the price. She fixed the price from what they sell in the market here and our traders here also confirmed that her price is low.
She feels bad about the allegation and has been tremendously assisting us with investigation in her country.
Why the choice of Abuja for the event?
We choose Abuja because of the policy issue that is involved. We wanted CBN to be there, ministry of commerce and industry and Nigeria Shippers Council because the problem has gone beyond the individuals because of the loss incurred in the business. to find out what is going wrong and intervene to make sure that it doesn't continue so the whole essence of this event is to prevent future occurrences.
What is your comment about Nigerian's importation of stockfish generally?
Nigeria is doing well as a country but there is always room for improvement because we are trading with the world and the world is dynamic where things change fast. So we have to work hard to catch up. If one has to stay on top of others, you have to get yourself ready to be ahead of issues and that is what we are trying to do with the traders who are into import and export, to get them to sit up in the sense that if they have been in the business for many years now, they have to change their strategies with the business terrain of the world as things change.
To that effect, we usually organised training programmes for importers and exporters to learn new skills and new ways of doing things to keep in touch with the world in the areas of interest to them like shipping and movement of cargos. Logistics is the big thing now in the world and we keep in touch with the industries worldwide to know what is new, what is happening and we bring it back and we inform those who are importing and exporting so that they in turn apply it to their business but in that area we have to work hard especially for our export trade to get our goods in the form that the world will receive it and that implies packaging, value adding by preparing them in scientific way which will be acceptable to the world so that they can meet international regulations and that is why we are preaching international best practices.
Nigeria has variety of commodities that can be sold to the world but we have to send them in the form that will be acceptable so that they can be marketable and profitable to us at the international market.