- Under-the-table transactions still occur at Nigerian ports
The immediate-past Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello has revealed that he considered resigning as helmsman of Shippers’ Council at a point when the Apapa Port traffic gridlock defiled all solutions few years ago.
Bello disclosed this while delivering a paper at the 34th Anniversary and Awards of Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), themed: “16 Years of Port Concession: The Pains and The Gains”, in Lagos on Friday.
According to the former NSC boss, the logistics quagmire at the time prompted him and the then Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, to wonder if they shouldn’t resign from their offices having failed Nigerians on the thorny Apapa gridlock.
He, however, stressed that the ongoing port reforms in the country must be substantial and sustainable to cater for increase in volume of cargo traffic, especially on intermodal transport system for cargo evacuation.
“Under the table payments still persist making port business difficult and costly. The cargo clearance procedures still primitive, tedious and compromised. The port is still being run as mostly a manual port even though some terminals are operating digitally. Thus, we have ports that are still plagued by human contacts which is inimical to transparency,” he said.
Noting that efficiency and transparency are optimal in port operations, he lamented that Nigerian port operations are still characterized by delays leading to high cost and stated that there are still opaque areas on charges leading to demurrage.
Bello equally highlighted the importance of Port Governance, positing that the adoption and enforcement of rules, governing conduct, authority and international resources should be targeted towards managing port activities to benefit society and the economy.
According to him, the 21 days cargo dwell time is Nigeria is too long, especially when competing neighbouring ports in Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic have an average of 12 days to 15 days.
His words: “Maritime industry is nothing but the contributions it brings to a nation’s economy. Ports link global economy to a nation’s economy. Reduction in transport costs, increase in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) diversification of monolithic economies, among others are benefits of an efficient port system and these should come with port concession”
“An ideal port environment should have ease of operations for vehicular movement, speedy cargo examination and fully automated processes. The kind of reforms witnessed in Nigeria’s banking and communication industries should be attained at the ports. There should be high-level competition hinged on efficiency, timeliness and customer service. How many terminal operators have we seen placing advertisements in the country? It shows that there is no competition among the operators.”
On his part, the President-General of Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) recalled that the Union initialled resisted the port concession exercise in 2006, but changed its position after the intervention of NSC and other reputable organizations.
Adeyanju, however, expressed delight with the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) which has ensured better welfare for workers at the seaport terminals in the post-concession era.
Speaking earlier, the acting President of MARAN, Mr. Gboyega Oni stated that the essence of the topic was to highlight the pains and gains in port business since the concession of seaport terminals occured in 2006.