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NSC renews commitment to strengthen complaint, arbitration mechanism

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BelloTHE Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has reiterated plans to strengthen complaints and arbitration mechanism as part of measures to make the port environment friendly for business.

Executive Secretary of NSC, Hassan Bello, who spoke in Lagos, also expressed the determination of his management team to end diversion of cargoes to neigbouring countries, make Nigerian ports more efficient and generates more revenue.

According to Bello, effective regulation requires much more than just competent economic and financial analysis “but must also manage often complex interaction with the regulated firms, consumers, politicians, courts, the media, and a range of other interests”.

He said regulator need to provide a level playing field amongst competitors, adding that regulators need to be independent, transparent, legitimate and credible.

On regulation, Bello said Professional development of staff of regulatory agencies is essential, adding that the involvement of stakeholders is an important source of legitimacy and public acceptability for regulatory agencies and their decision-making procedures.

He explained that the global competitiveness of Nigerian Ports has a major role to play in the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment.

He said: “ Port Reform no doubt has brought in tremendous benefits to the national economy. However, there is still the need to harness other potential areas of the Port Sector with a view to bring down the cost of doing business and enthrone efficiency”.

He said a new port has been designed to “eliminate all the wastages in the system so that the cost of doing business is reduced.”

He added: “The owner of the cargo should know when his cargo is due to arrive so that he can prepare well in advance to make arrangements to clear his goods in good time.

“As the ship is discharging, the cargo is also being scanned, and the image is used by the Customs Service to commence clearing process in terms of segregating the cargo for whatever line of inspection in line with customs’ procedures introduced for security measures”, said Bello.

The NCS boss identified Nigeria’s competitors as Cotonou, Ghana, Cameroun, among others, adding that  Nigeria is suffering cargo loss to these countries due to diversion by some importers.

According to him, with improved efficiency and cost effectiveness,  Nigerian importers who use neighbouring ports from where they smuggle their goods into the country  would find Nigerian ports attractive.

Bello said when Nigeria terminal charges are compared with Benin Republic, that of Nigeria is more by N38,695 for 20 feet containers and N39,695 for 40 feet containers.

Explaining further, he said compared with the Republic of Benin, Ghana and Cameroun, Nigeria has the lowest free storage period of three days, adding that this informed the NSC’s decision to increase it to seven days.

According to information made available by Bello, Nigeria also ranks lowest in the free demurrage period when compared with the Republic of Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Namibia at three days. The highest is Namibia with 15 days.

Terminal operators, under the aegis of  Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), have repeatedly described allegations of arbitrary increased in charges as unfounded and a ‘very wrong notion”.

According to the group, after the concessioning exercise in 2006, concessionaires were compelled to cut down on what Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was charging by 30 per cent, adding that since then there has been adjustment of terminal operators’ charges only once “and that was done with the approval of the Federal Government”.

Akinola said: “ We don’t impose arbitrary charges. We operate in a highly regulated environment. Don’t forget that Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) have always been they’re overseeing what we do”.

He added: “When the terminal was concessioned in 2006, concessionaires were compelled to cut down on what NPA was charging by 30%. So, there was an automatic reduction of terminal handling charges by 30% in 2006 and it remained so for a very long time.

“Since then, there has been adjustment of terminal operators’ charges only once and that was done with the approval of the Federal Government. In essence, in eight  years, charges have been adjusted only once to make up for inflation and exchange rate. It wasn’t even an increase”.



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