There is a popular saying that “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers” this scenario could better explain what has come to be of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) with the policy of ports concession introduced a few years back after a very serious clash of interest between the government and the Maritime workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), over the policy.
The federal government embarked on privatisation and commercialisation of Nigerian ports, policy in 1991 which eventually disengaged over 8,000 officers and staff of the authority.
Out of this number terminated that year, about half were professionals, trained by the authority in various universities abroad and two-thirds of the remaining number were people who understudied the Hamburg Port Consultant (HPC), according to records.
Port experts from Germany had operated the Nigerian ports effectively, before some greedy Nigerians who envied their position maneuvered to chase them out of operations and quickly occupied their quarters which were given to them for their services as consultants.
When these foreigners were in service as expatriates, both revenue and operations were not disrupted, as operating cost and wastage in term of fraud was almost absent.
From records, operations of the NPA began to dwindle when Nigerians who understudied the expatriates with the view of taking over from them, as well as the majority of the middle-level manpower who were trained in various universities and ports all over the world were disengaged, leaving about one third of the workforce.
As a result of this, much pressure mounted on the remaining workers, and there was serious cargo and ship congestion to the extent that office staff, including typist were deployed to the traffic department, on board ships, at shore quay apron and staking areas of operations.
As unskilled labour then, a lot of things took place among shipping companies, freight forwards and stevedoring companies. A lot of losses were recorded by the NPA, forcing the authority to go into mass employment of graduates, secretaries and other required officers, who were used to fill the gap so created by the rationalising policy.
That apart, today, another policy popularly known as port concessioning has been introduced, without minding the consequences, not only to the maritime sector, but to the economy also. Developed economies that opted for concessioning did put their economic indices intact, but our economy is so loose and almost unregulated.
The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) we thought would improve our economy just led to more debt and borrowing, whereas in other developing economies, the policy improved their economy, and we are living testimonies that the negative effect of SAP is still telling on the Nigerian economy.
Then military head of state made a significant statement that “Nigeria’s problems have defied all economic principles, and are we sure the leakages that pushed SAP to our optimal financial mess will not repeat itself?
Port concessioning chronicled from port privatisation, which means that most of the area of services in the port will be privately operated under a lease agreement.
The term concessioning agreement means that NPA is restricted to being a regulatory body of the port (landlord) and will no longer offer services, as the role of NPA on the new arrangement could be said to be mere fanciful.
The NPA lack the political will and could not check the concessionaire firms, even the charges they impose on importers for one service or the order. Importers who may be compelled to use the services of these private firms cry over high charges, as the NPA can not dictate how much charges the firms should impose on their client.
Such scenario will also lure the multinational shipping companies to introduce multiple charges on Nigerian importers and the effect will be transferred to the Nigerian consumers.
Talking about duplicated charges by shipping operators, it was sometime reported that the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) detected about eleven charges imposed by the multinational shipping firm, some of which are not applicable in Nigerian ports.
Such charges include: Shipping companies terminal charges, terminal handling charge; transfer charge; port operations surcharge, commission on turn-over charge, documentation and administrative charge, manifest amendment charge, container deposit, container demurrage and rent/equipment charge. Apart from the above charges, NPA still collect some of their charges from importers.
In the Rivers Ports, especially the Port Harcourt port complex, the activities of some concessionaires create room for one to question the viability of the policy in terms of accelerated development and employment generation.
The Bua ports and Terminal Limited, one of the concessionaires in Port Harcourt wharf had apart from reducing the workforce it inherited which are mostly dock labour workers, it has also up till now failed to rebuild the collapsed quay apron (Berth) in its area of operation.
One could begin to wonder if the terms of concessioning agreement did not cover the aspect of port development and other areas like development of the host communities within which the concessionaires operate.
Rather than pursue programmes that will upgrade the general port condition to make it better than how they met it, some of these concessionaires had remained adamant to issues of port development and employment generation, and this simply suggest that their focus is only on how they will maximise profit, and whatever the effect, implication with respect to their activities on the environment is not much of concern to them.
On the part of the NPA that has lost substantial number of their professional manpower to the concessioning policy, it has now known that most of those staff lost through retrenchment in concessioning are still needed to run the organisation, particularly for those vital technical and specilalised areas that could not be easily be replaced.
In that regard, the NPA had turn-around to re-engage some of these old staff so as to enable it cope with the work load and dire demand for adequate manpower to accomplish stated goals.
From all indications. The new regime of port concessioning has not yeilded the desired objective so envisaged. In the past six years of its implementation. Rather than create employment, it has reduced the workforce, and on the other side, the development of both the port environment and the host communities have not been properly attended to.
The fact that the NPA is still in need of some of the staff it lost to the concessioning policy, for which it engaged some of them on contract, and the fact that port development so envisaged as well as in employment which had not changed suggest that the concessioning policy though might be good, but the timing and implementation leaves much to be desired.
It is ideal that policy makers take their time to look at the various aspect of the implication, irrespective of the perceived profits.
PTOL Wants NPA To Repair Port Access Roads
The Ports Terminal Operators of Nigeria Limited (PTOL) has called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Rivers Port Complex, to repair access roads leading to the port to enhance easy flow of traffics.
The operators said the bad condition of the roads had negative impacts on its operations and internally generated revenues.
Company Secretary, PTOL, Chroma Okwuanyi, stated this during a facility tour of the terminal by the House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation led by Hon. Victor Kolade Akinjo with officials of Rivers Port Complex, Port Harcourt.
Okwuanyi said that due to bad access roads, heavy trucks cannot access the terminals and the complex.
He appealed to the House Committee and the Management of NPA, Rivers Port Complex, to reconstruct the access roads to enhance its operations and safety.
Okwuanyi lamented that truck drivers accessing the terminals find it difficult to do business in the complex due to bad access roads.
“Many investors and truck owners doing business in the Port had relocated to other ports due to the bad roads as it hugely affects the trucks”.
“We are appealing to the House Committee and NPA management to assist the operators reconstruct the access roads to standard so as to enable us carry out our operations”, he said.
He also appealed to NPA management to provide modern navigational aids to enable the operators carry out their operations effectively.
By: Chinedu Wosu
Nigeria Partners Denmark On Fight Against Piracy In GOG
The Federal Government has expressed its willingness and readiness to collaborate with the Danish government to fight piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the Foreign Minister of Denmark, Jeppe Kofod, made this known at the ongoing 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States.
Onyeama said the renewed effort by both governments took place during a bilateral meeting between him and Minister of Denmark.
He said apart from the Gulf of Guinea, Denmark has been very supportive in the area of humanitarian assistance in the North-East regarding the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The Foreign Affairs Minister described the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Denmark as a win-win situation, even as he said Nigeria was looking for more investment into the country.
He said that Nigeria is trying to diversify and attract more investment.
Collaborating on the renewed efforts, Kofod said Denmark was strengthening its cooperation with all of the countries around the Gulf of Guinea and deploying resources to the Gulf of Guinea to fight piracy.
Kofod also said Denmark wanted to cooperate with all the countries around the Gulf of Guinea to fight the root cause of piracy.
He said Denmark was occupied with safe travel for its seafarers and its ships.
“As a maritime nation like Nigeria, we are very occupied with safe travel at sea for our seafarers, for our ships. So, that is why we are investing heavily in this”, he said.
NCS To Deploy Drones At Borders To Check Smuggling
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), says it will soon deploy drones at the Seme border to check smuggling activities.
Coordinator of Customs, Zone A, Lagos, Assistant Comptroller I, General Modupe Aremu, disclosed this during a visit to the Seme Area command.
Aremu said border management surveillance would be done electronically through the use of drones to ensure that there is aerial overview of the border.
“Seme command visit is the end of my tour in zone A, and I must commend all the commands. They account for over 80 percent revenue collection by the NCS and so they should keep up the good work.
“With the tour of all commands, I have seen that all the officers are doing well but they can do better. And I am telling them that they should expect impromptu visits from the zonal coordinator. So, they should not relax on the job.
“E-customs N300 billion contract, that is, end-to-end automation that is about to kick-off, is about information and communication technology connectivity. When it comes on board, we are going to have electronic signature, drones patrolling the border”, Aremu said.
She said the service was trying to minimise person-to-person contact to reduce human interaction and make the work faster and more efficient.
Aremu urged officers to keep abreast of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol in order to understand procedures.
On enforcement activities, she urged the command to keep up the work done as the country needs the service to properly secure its borders.
Aremu expressed hope that the scanner at the border would start functioning to help simplify processes as much as possible.
She also urged the command to ensure proper compilation of case files and prosecution of arrested suspects to show the seriousness of the service in fighting smuggling.
Also speaking, Customs Area Controller, Seme Area Command, Bello Jibo, said enforcement activities were not affected by the border closure as the command intercepted 1,244 suspected smuggled goods with duty paid value of over N856 million.
“The command has a very good understanding with the host community and in cementing this relationship. The command built and handed over a modern toilet facility to the Badagry West Development Area and partnered with an NGO to equip the Badagry United Football Club.
“The challenges faced has to do with ICT interconnectivity at the joint border patrol, signing of bilateral agreement, connection of the barracks to the national grid, and inadequate junior staff,” he said.
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