NSC, FCCPC to develop framework against consumers rights infringement at ports
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has collaborated with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to establish a Consumer Protection Regime (CPR) framework to address infringement, enthrone sanity, and fair-trade practices in the shipping and ports system.
Speaking yesterday at the sensitisation programme for stakeholders on consumer rights and responsibilities in the port and shipping sector held in Lagos, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Emmanuel Jime, said the council collaborated with the FCCPC to explore avenues towards strengthening the enforcement of the mandates of the two agencies, especially to address the observed challenges and unwholesome practices in the maritime sector.
He said the council and commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last year to bring sanity to the conduct of shipping and ports business, ensure harmony, fair trade practices, and efficiency in the sector.
Jime said the MoU is set to establish the CPR, which when instituted, will address infringements by service providers and users in the industry as well as enthrone sanity and fair-trade practices in the system.
He said the shipping industry comprises of various players, who during daily transactions, are bound to trample and infringe on each other’s rights.
According to him, these players have rights that are spelt out in the FCCPC Act, which include, the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, standards, and charges/rates of services to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
Others, he said, include, the right to be assured wherever possible, access to variety of services at competitive prices, right to seek redress against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers of shipping services and the right to consumer education, enlightenment, and information on services availability.
Jime said as chaos abounds in the sector, the CPR, when fully operational, will bring a change of behaviour in the conduct of shipping and ports business in the country.
He said as a way of developing the CPR framework, the sensitisation programme is held with the stakeholders, to ascertain the challenges of various regulated service providers and users as well as propose solutions that may form the inputs for developing guidelines to achieve seamless operations with little or no infringements of rights.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman, FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, said, there is welfare for consumers whether, freight forwarders, shippers, or any other practitioner.
Irukera, who was represented at the event by the Director of Legal Services, FCCPC, Tam Tamunokobia, said consumers should be first in anything done at the ports.
“At the point of agreeing, we must ensure that the consumer is protected. We need to push the frontiers of our cooperation and collaboration to a higher level to ensure the port users rights are protected and not infringed upon,” he said.
The Director of Programme at Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) Nigeria, Emmanuel Bosah, who spoke on “Ethics and Integrity in the Port and Shipping Sector,” said strengthening integrity in port operations will protect and promote the rights of port users and consumers.
He said achieving and sustaining integrity at the ports require strengthening compliance function within port agencies to prevent, detect, respond, and assess risks associated with non-compliance to standard operating procedures.
Bosah also called for robust, independent, and data-driven mechanism to constantly evaluate the metrics and benchmarks for compliance monitoring and reporting for system improvements.
He recommended provision of incentives to encourage port users and officials to always choose integrity in their operations.
Bosah said this approach also places the responsibility on the private sector to always act with integrity, as much as it requires port officials to correctly apply the SOPs.
He said a whitelist of importers, exporters or agents that consistently comply with the SOPs and qualify for an expedited (fast-tracked) cargo clearance window, will act as a real incentive, and send a strong message to port users that compliance to SOPs pays.
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