.L-R: Dr. Magdalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director Nigerian Ports Authority, Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, and Dr Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency at the stakeholders sensitization meeting on implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual in Abuja on Tuesday.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on Tuesday rated the nation’seaport system very low in the area of anti-corruption, even as it acknowledged that the maritime sector is very critical to the nation’s economy.
The ICPC ‘s verdict on the Nigerian ports system was given by the Chairman of the ICPC; Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye at a meeting in Abuja between the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi and stakeholders on the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual.
The verdict came just as the Federal Government challenged stakeholders in the maritime sector to ensure successful implementation of the newly-introduced Nigerian Port Process Manual (NNPM), to accelerate the growth of the economy.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, made the call also at the sensitization meeting of stakeholders on the NNPM, organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
The manual was developed to address operational gaps as well as improve transparency and accountability in the system. It aims at eliminating operational bottlenecks in the port.
It is a step-by-step trajectory of processes at the ports. It outlines the actors and timelines for each process, it guides the user by highlighting all required documentation, payments, timelines, and responsible agencies.
It equally guides the port operators by detailing the implementation chain and provides clarity on the time required for each process.
According to Amaechi, the successful implementation of the NNPM, would complement the modernisation of critical transport infrastructure being driven by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The maritime sector offers the best alternative for economic diversification, as it has the potential for employment, investments and as an outlet for the facilitation and strengthening of Nigeria’s international trade,” he said.
The minister also called on other organisations at the port to cooperate with Nigerian Shippers’ Council saddled with the responsibility to drive the process and implementation of the process manual.
Amaechi urged regulatory authorities, operational agencies, service providers, users of shipping services and other stakeholders to support and comply with the Government extant directives and provision of the NPPM.
“The NSC, being the lead agency for the implementation, shall coordinate the implementation of the manual and ensure strict compliance with the rules.
“NSC also reserves the right to handout sanctions to any agency, service providers and users of shipping services for non-compliance as provided under its economic regulatory mandate.
“The ministry shall lend its support to the NSC in ensuring compliance with the manual by all stakeholders, not only in the implementation of the manual, but in other areas such as enforcement,” he said.
But, the ICPC chair told the gathering that of stakeholders at the NPPM that, the result of corruption risk assessment of the port that was conducted by the ICPC turned in a damaging verdict that Nigerian port is a cash cow.
“We have even received petition from outside Nigeria about corruption in the ports”, he stated, even as he disclosed that in one of such petitions, the Nigerian Immigration Service was indicted severally.
According to him, it was not that the ports and the agencies there do not have documented punishments for infractions, but stakeholders have always circumvented and jettisoned them. He added that all government agencies in the ports have enforcement powers.
On the recently announced electronic call up system by the NPA, the ICPC chair said he was excited about the innovation and the anti-graft agency looks forward to its commencement.
“I look forward to the deployment of the electronic call up by the NPA, I am excited about it”, he told the gathering, even as he explained that, with the introduction of the electronic call-up of trucks, any trucks are not supposed to be on the road, and anyone found on the road has committed an infraction.
The Nigerian Port Process Manual which was unfolded yesterday was put together by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as a manual to guide activities of agencies in Nigerian ports.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr Hassan Bello, said that the essence of NPPM was to ensure transparency and efficiency.
He said that the whole essence was to attain world class standard in the maritime sector through the implementation of NPPM.
The manual, he said, was to be instruments of promoting transparency and efficiency in the business environment, and designed to facilitate the ease of doing business and cost reduction.
“We should do as it is done everywhere and it is to make it electronics so that it will be simply adapted,” he said.
Bello said that an effective successful systemic intervention in the port sector would rapidly change the narrative, the perception and the ranking of Nigeria in the Corruption Perception Index.
“This is not just shipper council as the lead agency to coordinate because many agencies had been doing that but we need to make it perfect, we need to reduce the time cargo spent in Nigeria which average is about 21 days now to average of seven days, that is our target.
“As you know that Federal Government is building infrastructure towards this, because it involves so many things, we need to have infrastructure, we need to have the port processes, we need to have attitudinal changes,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the NPA electronic call up system will go a long way to curb arbitrariness in the ports, even as he explained that the new manual will equally aid operations of the Nigeria Customs Service as well as aid night operations in the ports.
While also speaking, the managing director, Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA); Hadiza Bala-Usman, expressed happiness that at last the port system now has a Process Manual, she however called for its compliance.
She acknowledged that activities of agencies in the ports have been overlapping for quite a long time, but she expressed optimism that the new manual will see to the end of the friction and overlap.
Apparently apprehensive that some agencies may discountenance the manual, the NPA boss asked what should be done when an agency does not comply with the manual.