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How bureaucracy led to NNSL demise — Chidi
NIGERIA National Shipping Line (NNSL)’s former Managing Director, Mr Gerald Chidi, has explained how bureaucracy led to the death of the Nigerian National Shipping Line, adding that the demise of the national carrier might not be unconnected with failure to respond timely to unfolding industry developments.
The revered shipping operator also noted that despite the spirited efforts of those who steered the direction of the now defunct shipping line to grow, turbulence came the way of the carrier after the Federal Government acquired a 100 per cent share of the company in 1961. The government initially had a 51 per cent share while 49 per cent was owned by two British companies, the Elder Dempster Line and Palm Line as technical partners, and the absence of the companies denied the NNSL the privilege of being run as a pure commercial concern.
“Regular changes in the headship of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the company brought inconsistency in the focus and vision of the company. For instance, during my tenure as the managing director of the company from 1990 to 1993, I worked under four ministers of transport and my successor (1993-1995) also served under four ministers of transport and every minister had his own ideas,” he observed, recalling that the turbulence actually began in 1961 after full take-over by government.
“In 1961, either in the euphoria of political independence or selfish interest of the Nigerian management of the company, the non-Nigerian equity holdings were bought out rather prematurely and the company became wholly owned by the Federal Government with Nigerian management in total control,” Chidi noted, observing that bureaucracy thereafter seeped in, robbing the firm the capacity for quick decision making and implementation.
“The company and government could not react without delay to situations dictated by market and technological changes or development in the trade. For instance, it took the Federal Government almost five years to approve the tonnage expansion programme and modernisation of NNSL ships in the seventies. Perhaps the post civil war demands contributed to this.
“By the time the vessels were eventually built and introduced into the market, a measure of obsolescence had set into the original concept. It took another five years to convince the government about the need to phase out the19 combo vessels with a view to introducing appropriate vessels that were technologically up to-date as well as meeting market demands.
“Other decisions such as rationalisation of staff were dictated by government policies while services performed for government by the company were not paid in time when the money would have been more beneficially used,” he explained further, noting that the frequent changes of supervisory ministers and managing directors of NNSL worsened the fortunes of the organisation as each new appointee brought in different styles and ideas which never endured let alone yield the desired fruits” he recalled, explaining that in some cases changes in the headship of the company were engineered by the officials of the ministry, not necessarily by the minister, but for selfish reasons.Share