Stakeholders in the maritime sector have pinpointed inefficiency, primitive cargo clearance procedures, lack of transparency, manual port operations, high cost of doing business and delays in cargo dwell time as some of the challenges that have scuttled the country’s chances of maximizing the benefits of the 2006 port concession reforms.
The stakeholders highlighted the challenges at the 34th Anniversary and Awards programme of the foremost maritime beat association in Nigeria, the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) themed: “16 Years of Port Concession: The Pains and Gains.”
According to the former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, in his presentation titled: “The Pains and Gains of Port Concessioning,” he posited that the government went into port concession reform to address the several challenges that bedeviled the system, yet, most of the issues still persist, thereby hindering the nation from reaping the benefits of the reform.
He noted that there is a need for constant review and re-alignment of the port concession agreement, especially in light of international trade.
Bello said the country cannot stop or even pause, as the reforms must be continuous.
“The challenges are vast and varied but the prospects are enticing. The maritime industry must be comprehensively executed and strategically run as a fundamental economic factor with the target of contributing massively to the economic growth of the country,” he said.
Bello noted that the port reform in Nigeria was necessary, but crammed without regard to other sectors.
“The reform is critical, but not comprehensive and stands the risk of being derailed, curtailed, distorted or even reversed. This is because the legal framework is not dynamic and wholesome,” he said
He advised the government to perform its part as a major driver of the reform.
“The government must build and enhance critical infrastructure in which the port reform is anchored. Those critical infrastructures must be deliberately sited to make for coordination and linkages, especially inland connectivity. Transport infrastructure cannot be located haphazardly or anyhow.
The Federal Government must provide a conducive operating procedure, ease t cost of doing business and fight corruption that threatens to put brakes on reforms.
The regulatory institutions must be assigned specific roles.
“Concessioning is give and take, the involvement of stakeholders is necessary not only in drafting agreements but in monitoring the tenets of the agreement,” he added.
Also speaking during a panel session at the event, Dr Bolaji Akinola, the spokesperson of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), said the pains of the concession were the fact that people lost their jobs while urging the government to ameliorate the suffering of the people.
While saying port concession led to loss of jobs, Akinola said should be ameliorated by the Federal Government, and whatever is due to them should be given.
He, however, agreed that before the concession, dockworkers were casual workers and went home with N1,500, which has changed as they now earn well.
“The pains should be ameliorated by the Federal Government, whatever that is due to them should be given to them” he said.
Responding, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo who was the Special Guest at the event said the Federal Government is not owing dockworkers sacked due to port concessioning reform in 2006.
He said the dock workers affected were all paid, noting that the only set of people that were not paid then were those working for the private sector, but were given severance packages.
Sambo also emphasised that the Federal Government would remain committed to policies that would boost the growth and development of the Port Community System.
He said the government is embarking on projects to help the maritime industry, including the Deep Blue Project, which would ensure cost of importing cargo is reduced.
At the event, deserving stakeholders were recognized for their contributions to the development of the maritime sector.
Recipients who went home with awards in different categories included Col Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Special Recognition Award on Customs Modernisation; Dr Bashir Jamoh, Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Maritime Man of the Year; Farouk Salim, DG, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Special Recognition Award for the Suppression of Substandard Products at Nigerian Seaports; Dr Vicky Haastrup, Chairperson, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and Brig General Buba Marwa of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) who was given a Special Recognition Award for the Suppression of Drugs Trafficking in Nigeria 2022.
Others are Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho as the Most Diversified Maritime Operator 2022; Hajia Bola Muse as the Most Successful Female Freight Forwarder of the Year 2022; Dr Taiwo Afolabi, Chairman SIFAX Group as the Maritime Person of the Decade; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, Labour Man of The Year and Comptroller Yusuf Malanta as the Customs Revenue Mobilizer of the Year 2022 amongst others.
Speaking about the MARAN @ 34 Awards, Acting President, Mr Gboyega Oni disclosed that MARAN @ 34 provides the association as the foremost Maritime Association in the country the opportunity to recognise critical stakeholders in the maritime sector.
“MARAN @34 is an opportunity for us to appreciate the grace of God since its establishment in 1988.
The event is also an avenue to appreciate the key stakeholders in the sector, NPA, NIMASA, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigeria Customs Service, Terminal Operators, Indigenous Shipping Companies, Customs Agents/Freight Forwarders, Labour Leaders who have created an enabling environment and opportunities for MARAN and her members to excel in the reportage of the industry’s activities” he said.