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Corruption, regulatory inconsistencies worsening cost of ports operation

By Adaku Onyenucheya
29 September 2021   |   4:19 am
Corruption, weak reforms, regulatory inconsistencies, duplications of roles and overlapping functions are compounding the cost of transactions at the country’s seaports.

Lagos Ports. Photo: STEARNG

• Nigeria bound cargoes paying double insurance charges, says LCCI

Corruption, weak reforms, regulatory inconsistencies, duplications of roles and overlapping functions are compounding the cost of transactions at the country’s seaports.

These were the submissions of stakeholders in the maritime sector during the Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) Integrity Alliance Inaugural Meeting held in Lagos.

They said despite the opportunities in the maritime industry in trade facilitation, poor law enforcement, lack of transparency and unfavorable government policies have remained major challenges to the development of the industry.

Chairman of the Maritime Group, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Aminu Umar, lamented that shipowners in Nigeria were faced with many challenges, ranging from multiple approval processes to payment procedure challenges.

According to him, about five approvals are required from different agencies to bring in dry and wet cargoes into the country through the ports.

The agencies he listed were the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian Navy.

He lamented that discharge of cargoes at a different port from the originally scheduled one was practically impossible, as it would require fresh payment.

According to Umar, such an arrangement should be avoidable since the port is a single entity. He said services should be made possible in any of the ports since the same authority manages them.

“If you look at the payment procedure in the ports today, for example, if your vessel is supposed to berth in Apapa port and cannot because of congestion, and you want to berth in Tincan, the approval process, if you have made a payment, is impossible. Or if you want to move from Lagos to Port Harcourt because your customers are there – to avoid delaying for 10 days, it is impossible if you have made payment and it means you have lost the payment.

“You will need to make another payment and it is not supposed to be so because the port is a single entity and once you make payment to the authority, you should be able to use their services in any of their ports,” he stated.

He said the challenges constituted losses to shipowners while causing vessel crews’ psychological trauma, as some of them die in the process.

The LCCI boss further urged government agencies to look at issues of safety and security as one of the main issues causing a lot of losses and delays, especially the high insurance on Nigeria-bound cargoes.

He said since Nigeria is considered a war risk zone, ships and cargo owners pay double insurance than any other country in the world.

“The moment your vessel cross the 200 nautical miles into Nigeria, immediately you would be debited with double insurance,” he said.

The Programme Director, Convention on Business Integrity (CBI), Emmanuel Bosah, said over the years, users and operators at Nigeria’s ports have faced degrees of lingering challenges and administrative bottlenecks, many of which have truly hampered the ease of doing business.

He said infrastructure challenges, regulatory inconsistencies, duplications of roles and overlapping functions by a myriad of government agencies are all making work at Nigeria’s ports difficult and expensive.

Bosah said based on this understanding, there is a need to strategically place an Integrity Alliance steering committee at the forefront to support reforms and build collective voice and actions required to improve transparency, accountability and operational efficiency at the nation’s ports, thereby prioritising cost-efficiency.

He said the plan for this Integrity Alliance is that over time, stakeholders’ collective efforts and successes will enable port users to demand, track, and ensure greater compliance in Nigerian ports.

He said it would also help strengthen government capacity to establish compliance systems and collaboration between business, government and civil society.

Also speaking, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said there is a need for collective action approach to the fight against corruption and promotion of integrity in Nigeria’s maritime sector,

Owasanoye, who was represented by Assistant Commissioner, ICPC, Jimoh Sulahiman, said the maritime industry represents a goldmine for Nigeria in terms of trade and mineral resources.

He said with an economy that is largely import-dependent, the seaports, which are means of moving cargo across the globe, undoubtedly play an important role in the socio-economic development of coastal nations like Nigeria.

He said, unfortunately, ports inefficiencies arising from integrity breaches, official collusion and poor law enforcement, are not only disincentives to trade but also remain inimical to the health of Nigeria’s economic activities.

Owasanoye, noted that turn-around time (TAT) of vessels/cargoes was key measurements for ports efficiency and basis for measuring port performance, adding that time has serious implications for the shipping business.

He said the ICPC intervened in the challenges hindering port operations since 2012, through sanitising the ports of corruption and corrupt elements, by infusing ethics and integrity into port processes, mitigate negative impacts of lack of integrity on international trade and promote Nigeria’s ease of doing business policy.

According to him, the ICPC was able to achieve this successful intervention mainly due to the reform-mindedness and zero-tolerance policy on corruption by the government and its agencies at the ports.

Owasanoye further added that the Nigeria government has also risen to mitigate the pervasive official inefficiency, mismanagement, lack of integrity and corruption in its ports

On his part, the Executive Secretary, the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, urged maritime stakeholders to embrace the many reforms put in place to help bring sanity to the port system.

Jime, who was represented by Director at NSC, Moses Fadipe, listed some of the reforms to include, Port Service Support Portal (PSSP), the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) and the Advanced Cargo Tracking System.
He, however, charged the integrity committee to monitor and assist to promote the present reforms and initiatives that would enhance port processes.

Those inaugurated in the committee are Aminu Umar as Chairman; President, Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), Jonathan Nicole as Vice Chairman and Registrar, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Academy, Francis Omotosho, as Treasurer.

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