Wednesday, October 09,
2019/ 6:40 AM/ Nifemi Taiyese for Proshare WebTV/ Header Image Credit: WebTV
The prospect for improved service quality at Nigerian seaports and terminals came to the fore as the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) in association with the Convention on Business Integrity (CBi), and the Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) hosted a Roundtable Session on Service Delivery at the Nigerian Ports in Lagos.
The roundtable focused on the theme "Towards Standard Operating Procedures That Work In Nigeria's Sea Ports and Terminals."
The event was an opportunity for freight forwarders, importers and exporters, port officials, and other non-government actors and government agencies to establish awareness of newly the harmonized port Standard Operating procedures (SOPs) for all stakeholders at the local ports and terminals.
Giving his welcome remarks, Mr. Vivek Menon Head of Collective Action and Partnerships (EMEA) MACN said that the MACN was formed in 2011 and is made up of 123 companies.
Vivek noted that the Ease of Doing Business initiated by the Nigerian government authorities was to aid efficient domestic business operations.
Talking on the purpose of MACN, Vivek stressed that one of the roles of MACN was to raise awareness of activities done in the maritime sector.
Getting Agencies Talking
He emphasized the need for inter-agency collaboration to create a simpler and more efficient environment for doing business,thereby making maritime activities more attractive.
Vivek noted, the importance of the maritime industry in the economy of nations, and the benefits of maritime trade for economic growth and development.
Mr. Soji Apampa, the CEO of the Convention on Business Integrity, said CBi carried out a study among ship/vessel captains and the outcome of the survey showed a high demand for illicit payments at the local ports and terminals.
Apampa added that standard procedure for operations at seaports were known but were more prominent in their breech.
Also speaking at the roundtable, Dr. Yinka Akande, from the University of Ibadan shed additional light on the Ports Users Survey and stressed that the survey was a comprehensive and discovered that while standard operating procedure awareness was high by port users, compliance with the procedures was low because a sub culture of personal interest had supplanted the goal of operational efffectiveness.
Highlighting the essence of this survey, Akande said it was to form the basis of new policies and discussions that would galvanize action towards improving the quality of ports and terminals service delivery. According to him, the survey raised a lot of positive and negative reactions from officers and other stakeholders in the sector.
Measure And Method in The Data
Primary data and secondary data were used in the course of the survey; qualitative and quantitative data about the ports was also infused in the survey. He said
more importantly, the consensus was that Nigerian ports had the capability to drive national growth.
Dr. Akande noted that Nigerian ports were underperforming and could achieve faster growth if all stakeholders came together to drive the process of service improvement through collaborative efforts.
As action points, he said there must be empowerment of law enforcement officers; port users should be given a collective voice, there should also be strategies put in place that are confidential, credible and effective for people to complain and report issues in the ports, as silence breeds corruption, he noted.
Ms. Abosede Oguntuberu Data Analyst Technical Unit on Government and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) representing the Head Technical Unit Ms. Lillian Onyeawu highlights some of the roles of TUGAR as an organization for research monitoring and evaluation.
She observed that a grievance mechanism portal had been set up, which allows for people to lodge complaints and reports and also to publicize the SOP of government and terminal operators.She said that the portal should be used for making enquiries about SOP.
Speaking on the hope and expectations of TUGAR, Oguntuberu said it is to have Nigerian ports that are transparent, efficient and free of corruption.
Mapping A Path To Progress
Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa, MNI ; Director, Public Enlightenment, ICPC and also the chair of the Project Steering Committee Ports Supports Service giving her goodwill message lauded the roundtable and said it is expected that the roundtable would help to map out a way forward for better business activities at the ports while she recalled the shortfalls in the ports sector since 2012.
Okoduwa noted that the ICPC was working on a project closely with CBi in respect of the implementation of an integrity plan, and that it would be of great benefit to ports and terminal administration and also a step towards solving the problem of training of officers at the ports. Talking on creating user awareness at the ports, she said that it was important to achieve incremental progress, which was one of the important issues for conversations around seaports and terminals.
She called for agencies, ports users and other stakeholders to identify the problem with an open mind towards advancing solutions, which would lead to the growth of the sector.
At a robust panel session moderated by Mr. Soji Apampa, financial experts, private and government agencies examined critical issues facing the seaports.
Mr. Vivek giving his private sector perspective on standard procedures, stressed that there are procedures for ship crew to use that depends on the country, which are regularly updated to allow for efficient port operations.
Furthermore, on issue of information dissemination in Nigeria, Vivek mentioned the regular engagement of MACN to create awareness through local events and conversations held to bring sector participants together to discuss relevant issues concerning port operations. Also, MACN uses social media platforms for sector communication and knowledge- sharing. He noted that it was important to MACN that all persons involved in ship operations are properly trained.
Ports; Need For Clarity
Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, Chairman of Proshare Nigeria, noted that Nigerian seaports required clear-sighted objectives and policies that key into a growth mind-set that relates growth to productivity and efficiency.
He noted that the ports are distressed in terms of location, services and infrastructure because they are not being used as they were designed. Meaning that the ports were developed at a time when Nigeria's population was about 30 million, and since then the country has witnessed a growth in population but minimal improvement in port infrastructure and technology. He, also said that the port facilities were substandard, and it is important that an upgrade was required.
Following the issue of congestion at the seaports, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, noted that it was a fallout of infrastructural deficit, and about 2.5 trillion naira was lost from Nigerian ports alone, which was redistributed informally. He noted that 40% to 45% of businesses have moved to neighbouring countries due to the problems of congestion.
He said the fundamental job of every country is trade, which is a key component as there is trade across borders, stating that if the port issues are not resolved, Nigeria cannot achieve the objectives of economic growth and sustainable development. Part of some of the underlying problems of Nigeria can be solved if the ports were better.
Quoting a 2018 study in the Shipping and Trade Journal he said that a 10% increase in port activities would result in between 6% and 20% increase in GDP.
Ms. Oguntuberu was of the view that there was a need for a clear articulation/vision of how corruption issues should be tackled at the ports.
She said the Nigerian government was working assiduously to ensure that the ports were free of corruption to improve port service quality.
Mrs. Okoduwa said that some of the problems facing the ports could be traced to some port agents with solutions springing up from working closely with Nigerian customs as ICPC has managed to facilitate collaboration.
Speaking on the issue of gift-taking, which posed a major problem, she said that the ports officials had been asked to reject all gift items from ship captains, which was a rampant culture at the docks.
A Case for SOPs
Mr. Apampa, the moderator, in summary noted that all the users of the ports need to have a holistic approach to communication that would lead to change in culture, emphasizing the importance of ports Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to achieve progress in port service delivery, he also and called for a communique to be taken to Vice Presidency to move the conversation to higher levels of intervention.
The MACN Maritime Roundtable Session (managed by CBi) was hosted in Lagos, to promote efficient seaport and terminal administration with efforts directed towards collaboration and implementation of SOPs.