Maersk And The Moral Courage To Do The Right Thing, By Suleiman Mohammed
A ridiculous precedent is being set at the moment in Nigeria’s business landscape, which if not addressed has every tendency of rubbishing the country’s efforts to achieve economic growth, especially in relation to the trading between Nigerian citizens and their foreign counterparts. A clear case in point is the incidence involving Seal of Excellence, a reputable Nigerian company that imports rolls of photographic papers and Maersk Line, the global shipping company with offices spread around the world.
In May 2013, Seal of Excellence paid Maersk Line for the shipping of photographic roll papers from the UK to Nigeria. The company used its Malaysian agent, Photolab Digital SDA BHD to ship the goods. However, when the container that is thought to contain roll papers arrive the Nigerian ports, it was discovered that it contains red wine instead.
Being a Good Samaritan with a good business ethic, the owner of Seal of Excellence drew the attention of Maersk to this anomaly, even though it would have paid him more to keep the red wine and sell since the red wine is more expensive. Business colleagues had indeed applied pressure on the owner of Seal of Excellence to keep the red wine and sell to them, where the gain will be much higher. But what he did instead was to lodge a complaint with Maersk and inform them that his goods were mistakenly shipped to Bahrain. Months later, after much pressure mounted by him, his goods were shipped from Bahrain to Nigeria, while the wine was shipped to the owners in Bahrain. But on arriving to Nigeria, the company realized that the roll of papers that was brought to them was already destroyed.
The company thus rejected the goods, which is still in the custody of Maersk, and requested they pay for the damages to their goods. The interesting yet annoying thing is, while the red wine owner in Bahrain rejected the goods, he was compensated by Mersk Line but the Nigerian case is different. I was at the Port a few weeks ago, when I heard this story, with the sources saying several appeals to the company has not met with response from the company. In fact they said Maersk Line is one reliable shipping company but when they fail, customers will cry till the coming of Jesus Crist to get attention talk more of any compensation.
Indeed, this is not a new case at all. Nigerian businessmen have several sad tales of woes to tell concerning cases like this. Clearly this is an impunity which the government of Nigeria must investigate and lay all appropriate sanctions as necessary. While the government is keen about encouraging foreign companies and investors in our economy, it cannot look the other way when such organizations adopt unscrupulous business practices that short-change the citizens of Nigeria. It is not only Seal of Excellence that is at lost here. Think of taxes accrued to the Nigerian government, Nasarawa State and even the opportunities this opened to citizens which Maersk Line’s actions is denying this opportunity to our country’s economy.
Maersk and its ilk can only do something like this in Nigeria because in no other country of the world can something like this be tolerated. Shipping organizations are under clear obligations to ensure that goods put under their care are delivered safely, on time and in good condition. Doing otherwise is tantamount to economic sabotage. While Maersk is foot-dragging on this issue, Seal of Excellence is already counting loses from this ugly transaction. The organization has lost clients’ business running into millions of naira because it is not able to meet its commitments to its customers as a result of this fiasco over the damage to its roll papers.
This brings my attention to Maersk headquarters in Denmark and the UK office, I expect the company’s leaders to rise up and investigate this matter as it is giving it a bad name, especially within the business community here in Nigeria. The story of Mearsk line at the Nigerian Ports should be of concern to the company. There should be sanction imposed on its erring staff members who negligently allowed something like this to happen, and who also seem not at all repentant about the incidence but are rather hell bent on making sure it is swept under the carpet. More worrisome is the fact that the “mistake” happened in Liverpool, Uk but it is the Nigerian office of the shipping company that is bent on ensuring that compensation is not paid.
Maersk should be aware that it is under obligation to compensate importers like Seal of Excellence whose goods they have misplaced or damaged. The payment of this compensation is not only a moral duty but also something that makes business sense. A shipping company that loses the trust of its clients cannot expect another business from those clients in future. And believe me words get around about such failures and clear breaches of contract.
I will also like to reiterate further to the Nigerian government that it should make all its relevant regulatory bodies to sit up and live up to their responsibility. The government, through these bodies, should ensure that all companies operating within the shores of this country are made to abide by their promises, commitments and duty to other players in the economy. It should be made clear to all that Nigeria is not an economy where all kinds of underhanded practices are allowed to go uninvestigated, and without the needed sanctions slammed on defaulters. Indeed, incidences like this are another form of corruption and financial crime that the law enforcement agencies should wade into, because clearly this is a case of economic sabotage. The Buhari administration should begin to beam its searchlight on the activities of companies whose inaction pose a clear threat to the interest and success of Nigerian businessmen.
Suleiman Mohammed, writes from Abacha Road Karu, Nasarawa State
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