*Demand Consequences for those who violate the rules in the cargo chain

Stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy have called for Federal Government intervention to make the nation’s seaports situated in the Eastern parts of the country to be more attractive for port users.

To this end, they demanded for an increase in the incentives provided for those using the Eastern ports even as they pointed out that the present incentives are not good enough to attract port users.

They also called for consequences for those who violated the rules of the game in the cargo chain clearance, saying that impunity has become the bane of the maritime industry because no one is ever punish for any violation of the rules.

In the same vein, they also called for more awareness on the introduction of the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP), especially in the ports situated in the East to promote transparency and consistent application of standards in the nation’s seaports.

These were some of the positions taken by stakeholders at one day roundtable to ensure effective and efficient service delivery in Nigeria’s seaports organised by the Maritime Anti-corruption Network (MACN) in conjunction with the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

The roundtable with the theme “Towards Standard Operating Procedures That Works in Nigeria’s Sea Ports and Terminals” took place at the Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt.

The event which attracted stakeholders in maritime industry and beyond was coming on the heels of similar ones in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

In his welcome remarks at the occasion, the chief executive officer (CEO) of CBI, Mr. Soji Apampa said the portal was targeted at eliminating corruption and “elements of delay” in the turn-around of ships in the country’s ports.

He said the challenge of gratifications and maritime corruption had been the bane of effective and efficient service delivery at the ports over the years.

Apampa noted that MACN had implemented collective action by launching several serious procedures in cargo clearing in the ports, adding that through joint action, more efficiency would be achieved in the system.

In his contribution, the Deputy Director, Complaints Unit of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Moses Fadipe, pointed out that the support portal would help to submit and track complaints, recalling that the portal was launched in June 2017 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

He said that apart from poor infrastructure at the ports, other challenges identified include time and cost of doing business at the ports, government agencies and terminal operators efficiency to duties, government official documentation, berthing of ship and discharging of cargoes processes.

He noted that other challenges involve the efficiency of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) personnel that operate in the nation’s seaports.

His words: “At what time do they go on board ships, and what time is the ship operating? Also discharging time of the ship, instead of six hours turn-around, we have 24 hours incurring much delay due to official delay and all the cost were borne by consumers. Today, people are becoming aware and a lot of government agencies are becoming indicted since the introduction of the Port Service Support Portal.”

An anti-corruption crusader, Mr. Vebek Menon, said that so far only five cases of complaints had been reported through the portal and that the matter raised would be addressed without prejudice.

Former National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Chief Ernest Elochukwu in his own contribution, queried why government could not fashion out ways to stop corruption in the maritime sector and why there are no harsh consequences for failure to deliver.

Elochukwu who represented the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA) at the round table argued that as long as there are no consequences for the violations in the rules of engagements in the cargo clearance chain, impunity would continue to be bane of the maritime industry.

He thanked the organisers for what it has done so far to rid the system of corruption, especially in the East just as he demanded for more to be done in the months ahead to ensure efficiency in Nigerian ports.

Maritime Bits had reported that in 2012, the MACN in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Technical Unit on Government and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) commissioned a corruption risk assessment (CRA) in the Nigerian port sector.

It had also reported that corruption risk assessment report made specific recommendations for action to eliminate corruption in the Nigerian port sector. Amongst the recommendations was a proposal for ethics training and capacity-building programmes to strengthen transparency and accountability of port stakeholders.

They noted that the CBi released what it called “Ports User Survey Report” in August 2019 following a customer survey done in December 2018. 

One of the recommendations proposed is the need for experienced sharing sessions among Nigerian ports/terminals customers/users, officials/officers, management, government and their West African/European counterparts, in order to enable the Nigerian groups learn how to build and deploy integrity, anti-corruption governance strategies and build positive business environment going forward.

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