Nigeria considers Benin, Ghana model as cargo diversion rises
With the continued diversion of Nigerian-bound cargoes to neighbouring countries, the Federal Government is set on replicating the Ports Community System (PCS) in operation in Benin Republic, Ghana and other neighbouring countries.
Following this, the Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, directed the Nigerian Shippers Council to establish a port community system in the country, while considering a working model from the Republic of Benin and other countries.
Already 60 per cent of containers shipped to West and Central Africa destined for Nigerian markets are diverted to ports in Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic and Cote d’Ivoire, which caused a yearly revenue loss of about N136 billion.
Also, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has mandated all member states to implement the Maritime Single Windows (MSWs) from January 1, 2024, as a significant step towards accelerating digitisation in maritime trade and the decarbonisation aspirations of international shipping.
Recall that IMO consultants had visited Nigeria last year to understudy the automation platforms at various government agencies, including the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Immigration Service to harmonise them under one port community system.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, had disclosed that the port community system, a single-window IT platform being developed by IMO in partnership with the authority, had reached its second phase and will be completed and deployed in 2023.
Bello-Koko had disclosed that IMO is funding part of this, while the final part will be funded by the NPA with the international body consultants expected to return and visit every port in the country.
The leader of the IMO team, Gadi Benmoshe, assured the NPA management that the team would do a good job for the country, which is believed would launch Nigeria’s seaports into a new realm of efficiency, user-friendliness, operational cost reduction and global.
Bello-Koko said the port community system is a platform that everyone can plug in to reduce human interference, improve port efficiency and block leakage.
According to him, the system will be a game-changer for the country as it will reduce wastage and waiting time of vessels, as well as make the ports very competitive, noting that NPA has set 2023 as a target to fully automate the ports.
But Nigeria is yet to deploy the system despite assurances of including provision for its funding in NPA’s 2022 budget.
The minister, worried by the situation, exercised the powers conferred on him by all extant laws empowered the NSC as the regulator of the ports, to ensure the establishment of the port community system.
“You are the regulator of NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other agencies that have anything to do with the port. The responsibility is on you to ensure we have a port community system. I think it is because we have not placed the responsibility on somebody, that is why we have not been able to achieve the system,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Emmanuel Jime, stressed the need to strengthen the legal framework of the NSC to perform its functions and bring about efficiency at the port.
Jime also noted that the funding source of NSC is completely inadequate, adding that the one per cent freight stabilisation levy is the main source of funds, which NSC has never been able to access.
However, the former member of the Presidential Committee on Destination Inspection and Ministerial Committee on Fiscal Policy and Import Clearance Procedure, Lucky Amiwero, said for Nigeria to get it’s ports operations efficient just like other countries it wants to replicate, it must first change and upgrade the laws of the NSC as a regulator, just like the other countries have changed from being council to authority.
“NSC spend the whole time dancing around the port without looking at the law, it is more concerned about council for regulation and its laws have not changed, it will be very difficult. If they had spent their time to change their law, by now NSC should have been like Ghana that is an Authority now. Ghana changed their laws bringing in Ghana Shippers Authority as people that provide service and regulate the port system. They regulate terminals, shipping companies and most of the tariffs. You cannot compare them to Nigeria because they have a law.
“There is nothing that can be done now, the minister and other stakeholders should allow the new government to come in and do something new. If anything is done now the new government will jettison it because there is no law on document. It is not about bringing shippers council, it is about bringing experts that understand the ports operations and regulations,” he stated.