L-R: Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria [SAN], Mr Val Usifoh, Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council [NSC], Mr Hassan Bello, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade & Investment, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, during the meeting of Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council [PEBEC] at the Shippers Council office last week in Lagos.
….Council solicits cooperation of stakeholders in ridding the ports of sharp practices
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has confirmed that it will be partnering the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to promote a conducive business environment and global best practices in the maritime sector.
Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, disclosed this in Lagos on Friday at a meeting with PEBEC and representatives of shipping lines operating in Nigeria.
According to Bello, the NSC is assigned the responsibility of moderating and transmitting the manifests of shipping lines to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
“In line with the action plan to drive the Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business policy, critical initiatives have been assigned to different agencies.
“The Nigerian Shippers’ Council is assigned the task to look at some operations of the shipping companies in a bid to ensure transparency,” the NSC boss said.
Bello said the essence of the meeting was to seek the inputs of the stakeholders on the way forward and that PEBEC was critical to investments in the country.
He explained that it was the duty of the government to create and maintain a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive in the country.
He also said that the support from the stakeholders would help move the industry forward.
“Today, the intimacy has started with this interaction with both PEBEC and shipping companies.
“They have heard many things about Nigeria and they have always been proffering solutions, they are critical stakeholders and partners,” Bello said.
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Industry Trade and Investments, Dr Jumoke Oduwole, said the meeting threw up some challenges faced by the shipping companies.
She said that the government would tackle them.
Oduwole said the committee asked for global best practices, which was obtainable and that the initiative would boost the economy.
“What we are asking for is global best practices and it is not beyond the shipping lines.
“They operate in other places and they made commitment to us that they will, indeed, be turning in their manifests as requested.
“The core objective of this initiative is to work with stakeholders and ensure that things are properly done to boost the Nigerian economy.
“It was a very productive meeting. The shipping companies are definitely going to fall in line and will be more committed,” Oduwole said.
In a related development, the Council has also appealed to stakeholders to key into the Federal Government anti-corruption drive and to embrace best practices
The Council’s Assistant Director in charge of Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Mrs Celine Amaka Ifeora who represented the Executive Secretary, said at a forum on port charges last week that corruption is one of the major challenges that the ports are facing. She stated that stakeholders must unite in the fight to ensure a port system that is driven by best global best practices.
She revealed that most of the shipping companies operate on a third party arrangement with bonded terminals, thereby directing trucks to take the empty containers to these areas. According to her, the shipping companies were doing this in order to shy away from the cost of transporting their empty containers to the port.
Ifeora also lampooned terminal operators for frustrating the receipt of empty containers from truck drivers at the port gate. She lamented that truckers are often times forced to part with a sum of N10,000 before they can have access to drop empty containers at the port in Apapa.
According to her, although infrastructure is a very serious challenge at Nigerian ports, one of the major challenges is corruption.
She recalled that: “Somebody who have stayed on the queue for 14 days to enter the port called my attention and reported that he was denied access to the port because he did not pay N10, 000, and when you look at the people who are involved, it is you and I, those in government, and those who are running the terminals”.
The assistant director added that, “on the issue of demurrage, the shipping companies should be blamed, the first thing they should do when they come to Nigeria is to get a holding bay for their empty containers, but they don’t have it, they are pretending that they have it, but they don’t have”
“What they have is a third party arrangement with some bonded terminals, so that whenever you ask of their holding bay they would claim to have one, meanwhile it is not being used, they want to cut cost, they don’t want responsibility, they don’t want to take the containers to port at the right time by themselves”.
She also lamented that 90% of Nigerian cargoes are delivered by road. She also said that increase in charges has further contributed to the diversion of cargoes from Nigeria to neighboring countries.
“After clearing in Cotonou, goods are still sold far cheaper than how much they are sold in Nigeria, this is why you see Nigerians going over there to smuggle it into the country, the way out is a paradigm shift”
“Corruption exists inside the port, if the President is fighting corruption at the top; we on the lower level have to help him by reporting anything going wrong”.
She expressed optimism that, if the charges are abrogated, do away with corrupt practices, put the right infrastructure in place, the importers would come back and Nigeria would become a hub very fast”