Mr. AKPOMEJERO AKPEVWE BATARE is the Managing Director/CEO of Rockston Dredging and Allied Works Limited as well as the sister companies : Rockston Shelter Company Limited, Madodel Engineering Construction Limited, Madodel Investments Limited and Madodel Holdings Limited.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
He received a Business Executive Training (OMP17) at the Pan Atlantic University (Lagos Business School), Lagos. He has also attended a Business Leadership course at Stratmore Business School, Nairobi, Kenya. He is the President of the Dredging Association of Nigeria. Mr. Batare is a versatile, resourceful and well-travelled businessman with a business repertoire spanning decades. He is responsible for the general administration of the company.
He spoke recently with Cliffsimeon Akalonu
Why is the dredging association silent for some time now?
We are not silent because we have been moving on with our normal activities as an association, advocating for good welfare packages of our members, having several meetings with ministry of Mines & Steel on the way forward and we have also been having fruitful engagements with the Lagos state government. But what you can say is that all these moves are not in the news, but that does not mean we are silent.
How do you relate with the public about dredging activities?
There are a lot people need to know about dredging activities. First, some people understand dredging of sand alone as to be the a-z of dredging but it is beyond that. Some of the key activities of dredging include the maintenance of all the channels for water transportation, beach replenishment, it is also our duty to create channels on lagoons where there is none to create navigation and we also make the lagoons deeper to be able to hold more water instead of over flowing in terms of flooding.
In what areas can government assist the association?
In the area of patronage. This is the area we want them to consider the association when they are awarding contracts. They should remember we bought the machines we are using and as a matter of fact, they were not produced here in Nigeria but imported from abroad. Since they cannot fund us, they should patronize us at least for once.
Can you explain more on this?
The problem here is politics and its favouritism by “who will give us our share”. But even at this, we were not against them going for their choices but they should as well give us a role to play as indigenous operators because you cannot go to foreign countries to do business without her indigenous operators carried along. We also want to use this opportunity to let the government recognize us as a body that have all the dredgers with different areas of specialization and there is every need for serious attention to be given to us.
Who are your partners locally and internationally?
We partner with NIWA and LASWA locally and internationally, we partner DLC America and R&D.
What are the challenges facing the association and you as an individual?
As an association, we have been facing the challenge of illegal miners and dredgers. For example, if you are licensed to dredge within 10 square kilometres with geographical values in the water where your GPS coordinates and everyday people are encroaching on it, how would you meet your ends and that of your family?. Don’t forget that after being licensed, you will still buy machines for the activities and after all these, people will come and be doing businesses there even when they are not paying to the government and are willing to crash prices. Secondly, as an association, we are having a problem of lack of coorporation from members. Then as an individual, the problems here are the issue of high rise in dollars. This has made it difficult for some individuals to be able to acquire equipment for operations and by so doing, we have solicited to the government to encourage local builders because it cost more to get this machines from abroad. Another challenge as an individual is, foreign investors. You can imagine going into contract with foreign investor for 70/30 and they would still want to share diesel cost of running the business with you 50/50. Ordinarily, we would love to stay on our own, but it is very difficult.
In what ways do you think the association and its members have added value to the Nigerian economy?
First, sand is the major component of any construction activity in the country when it comes to civil and building works and by so doing, we have been playing a major role in the production of sand to the construction industry because you cannot build most infrastructures and structures without sand.
How is the government policy on water mining and dredging activities affecting members of your association?
Well, nothing to complain about, because in this part of the world where we are, you cannot fight the government, but all we wanted is the best to be done. But as a matter of fact, they have done well in the areas of policy making, but all areas including the external and internal part of what we are doing should be touched. For example, we don’t have anything called mining bank and we have been lamenting on this because business development is different from import trade and the commercial banks we have here are not encouraging. So, the government needs to stop making policies that are only aimed at generating revenue.
As the president of the association, what are your achievements since you assumed office two years ago?
Since my two years in office, I have been able to restore peace between us and Lagos state which was a great challenge to the association before my assumption into office as the president of the association and now we can carry on with our businesses without fear or threats. Secondly, we have been able to achieve a slash down in operation charges. Thirdly, I have been able to transform some illegal miners to become members of the association even though we still have a long way to go.
What is the numeric strength of the association?
We are up to hundred in number.
What is the relationship like between the association, government agencies and sister associations?
Well, our relationship is wonderfully cordial.
What program do you have for the rest of the year?
We are looking up to hold a convention or Annual General Meeting aimed at celebrating the Lagos Area Manager NIWA on his retirement coming soon.
What is your message to your customers?
My message to them is that no matter what, they should hold on to us for a better tomorrow as we promise to continue providing best services to the general public because if they are not there, no one we will do business with.