I served on 167 presidential, other committees in the country —Amiewero
Lucky Hector Amiewero is the national president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents. TUNDE ADELEKE had a session with him.
HOW were your growing up years?
My father brought me up. He is an Itsekiri and his name is Arukuyo from Koko, Warri North, Delta State. My mother is from the Iboroma family in Bakana, Rivers State. I was born in the East about 66 years ago. I am the second to the last of six of my father’s children – three boys and three girls. Growing up was wonderful. I grew up in Ajegunle, Lagos State; Sapele, Delta State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State. I also attended schools in the three areas. I was a disc jockey and I was president of Ajegunle Youth Club. I was also an activist. I went into politics as a member of Community Development Committee (CDC) in Lagos State under Alhaji Lateef Jakande as the governor. I received a certificate of merit award from Chief Obafemi Awolowo. After my experience with the Unity Party of Nigeria, I left politics for good. I was in Egbe Omo Oduduwa. I was among the regulars of Park Lane to see Papa Awolowo. I was very skinny among the people of Ajegunle. I was also involved in sports, organising Ajegunle and bringing the community to life. When Jakande won the election, he gave us three months to harmonise the school system because we were having three shifts. We were the people who looked for land to bring the three shifts together to make a single shift. When they inaugurated the first housing estate in Amuwo-Odofin, I was part of those who were there because we were the Opticom community; the people who were in the forefront of the four cardinal programmes of UPN. I was a footballer, I won a cup and I won a medal. We brought the Ajegunle Youth Club to limelight. We moved to Warri from Lagos, then from Warri, back to Lagos.
You are reputed for philanthropy, what was your inspiration?
Right from time, it has been my life. As a young man, my concern had always been to render service to humanity. That’s why I had to go to people like Awolowo and Jakande because they rendered services. We took permission sometimes to do certain things for the UPN then. There is nothing as good as doing good. The good you do is not supposed to be for people who can pay you back, but for people who cannot pay you back. That’s the good that brings about the glory of God.
What about your education?
Most of my primary school years were in the East – Township School and Centre for Business Studies. In fact, my education was informal, as most of my courses were run at home. Most of the times, I was working and schooling. Secondary school was in Lagos. Most of my schooling was in the night. I have six fellows; I have fellows in shipping, transport, so many of them. Some of them are fellows you don’t even recognise. That’s in the area of academics. I did a lot of advanced studies and management studies, including shipping and marketing. I have almost all of these papers abroad. The few ones I did here were during very difficult times, going to work and schooling.
Can we know more about your career?
Having paid my dues in the various companies that I worked, I set up my own company – Ayis Resources Limited. I left as operations controller, the highest I could go in UMARCO, to set up the company. We have been involved mostly in training agents since 1999. We have successfully run seven different kinds of training, free of charge, for customs agents because the type of training we give are of WTO and UNCTAD training standard, and Ayis Resources was in partnership with UNCTAD when ASSYCUDA was introduced. The council, when I was a member, had to move ASSYCUDA from 2.7 to 2.3. We were involved in all those training. We are members of the Presidential Committee on Destination Inspection; we introduced most of the changes in the import trade. Ayis Resources has been involved in the training of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) staff. We started in 1996, then, Shippers Council and other agents. The one for the agents was started 1999. We trained old men who had never seen the four walls of the classroom in their lives for free. Most of the time, we are involved in consultancy, most of which was not for money. We make sure things are done properly.
Basically, it has been a life of service for you.
I have served in 167 committees, nine of which were presidential; one was to reform the Customs, one on ports problems – 48 hours clearance, review of port charges and others, so many of them, including committee on import clearance procedure, ministerial and inter-ministerial – Shippers Council, cargo backlog and so on. The last one was in 2013, inaugurated by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then finance minister.
Did you inherit your traits from your parents or grandparents?
It’s only God who has influenced my life the most. My father is a loved man, his vision about life is quite different. But God is more because I started searching God, not because of church. I have in my library over 2000 books, all Christian books. I am a God chaser, I love His principles, I read the Bible and I enjoy it. I love the drive. And God has been so wonderful.
Reflecting on your past now, what kind of friends did you keep?
As a leader, leadership is not rulership, leadership is working for your people. The Bible says “If you want to be great, you’ll have to perform service.” So, all my life, I live for the people and I like it. But I have friends who don’t like the life and I have many friends who like the life. You know it’s not easy to find a man who thinks the way I think. We fight a battle, we are committed and they were not battles to make money for yourself. I don’t run those programmes for any benefit, it’s selfless. It costs me money. I set it up and a white man came in there, he cried. Also, the deputy managing director of Cotegna, he has never seen it in life. Another man told me the kind of school I run was what they did in the United Kingdom. In the school, apart from free lectures, I give them free food and free handout. The rooms are fully air-conditioned, but the roads have made my office inaccessible now. We are trying to relocate. Two, it’s not profit-oriented; we run it free – we buy food, diesel, handout and so on. They are my people, I have to make them comfortable, and it’s an experience they will never forget in life because when you educate a man, you take him from the present level to the next level. The Bible says don’t be conformed to this world, but transform in the renewal of your mind. It’s through education you transform a man. It is not by giving money. So, when you look at the NCMDLCA members in the port, they are different, they are disciplined, they are focused and respectful.
Are friends who like your lifestyle finding it difficult coping with your pace?
I don’t have friends because if you come, you might be disturbing me. Most of my time is spent making memos to government to effect a change that can make life better for generation yet unborn. My driving principle has been God and so many fathers went through this system. Some of them are up to 90 now and their children have taken over. If you see some of these people in class, they are wonderful. Some of them are now better educated, energised and better equipped to do the job. We started in 1999 and we have run almost seven phases. I had to buy almost 25 computer units. Most of them have got their certificates. Now, they have five certificates – four international and one local. They can now go anywhere and work. The certificates are government certificates issued by service providers.
Don’t you think you need the support of foreign donors for such a laudable project?
Yes, we need the backing. I remember I went to Ghana in 1999. Some of my colleagues met me and said I should come there and teach them and that they would pay, but I said I had not started this thing in Nigeria, why should I start it there? So, I came back and started it here. When you start to think about foreign donors, you are not committed to seeing how to lift people out of poverty. You have to use your resources, not government resources, to change the people. That is what I have done. Nobody has contributed to the development of the capacity we have built over the years. This thing would cost over N200 million. When I was invited to the finance ministry to lecture them on CEMA, you need to see how all the directors, after the session, were dancing. Today, when you go to finance ministry, they are using the knowledge. So, education is second to God. We have one of the best schools. You come into the hall, you appreciate the beauty. We have interactive board from Canada. It’s an international school and everything is there. I don’t always like international donors. But if they are available, I’ll be glad because there is a difference between taking money and doing it for the glory of God. What we need in this country is capacity building in every facet of the economy. I remember when I ran the three-day training for the press, many of them have been in the industry for years, but they were hearing certain things for the first time, they were agitated.
Who are your heroes?
My hero is God. I don’t have any hero apart from God because I don’t look unto anybody. In Ajegunle, I was a leader and not a ruler. I set up the Ajegunle Youth Club which grew a lot of people. I was a disc jockey that grew a lot of people today. I look unto God alone. The inspiration I have was deposited in me by God. I thank God I have used it for His glory and I will continue to use it for His glory because most of the things I do are selfless. There was a time I was in Abuja for five months and three weeks intervening on behalf of the maritime community and I paid my bills myself. I have intervened on behalf of importers in this country many times. I have changed so many things and I have been arrested because of that. I stopped the benchmark, introduced the protocol on valuation, Shippers Council, sponsored it and it was passed into law. It was not customs that did it. I was involved in the cancellation of pre-shipment. Somebody threatened to shoot me and that’s what brought about destination inspection. In 2001, I wrote the memo that brought about destination inspection.
How did you meet your wife?
We met ourselves the way people meet, not that papa and mama give you. We just met and that is it.
How is Lucky Amiewero as a family man?
I have nine children – four daughters and five sons. One is a geologist, two of them still in school, but the rest are graduates. I have almost nine or 10 grandchildren. So, as a family man, I have tried for my children. Some are married while others are waiting for wives and husbands. I have done the best I can do. It’s not easy to have nine and bring seven of them up as graduates. Some people say I don’t have children because they say if I had children, I should be collecting bribes. But they are surprised God has blessed me in every area.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I don’t have leisure time, I don’t have time to go to clubs. If you see me around, it must be that somebody called me. Before I left home, I had something I was doing. I am occupied for the next 10 years. So, there is no time. Most of those things are sacrificial and I commit my funds to it. When I go to Abuja, after meeting government, I retire to my hotel. If not, I won’t be able to make my memos. Even in my toilet, I read. When I have stress and I’m on drips, I must have a book beside me because that’s a free time for me. Most of the time, I don’t sleep for more than two hours and even, during that time, I’m working.
What gives you joy?
It gives me joy to fight for the people. I have intervened in many instances for the purpose of changing policies for this country. I was once arrested because I stopped the benchmark by the former Comptroller-General of Customs. I was also arrested when the Shippers Council was being run by one Captain (names withheld) and I went to court and won the case in the Court of Appeal. In Ajegunle where I grew up, my activities had been built around how to build the area and bring changes and we did that during our time. When I was in Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), that was my focus and when the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) came as a child of necessity, when licenses of agents were revoked, we said we didn’t want an illiterate to rule us again, that’s why we came up with the NCMDLCA to bring and maintain progress in the industry.