From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
The Federal Government moved a step further at achieving transparency and efficiency in the maritime sector with the regulators and private stakeholders in the sector backing the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM).
The NPPM, which was launched on December 9, 2020 outlines the actors and timelines for each process, guides the user by highlighting all required documentation, payments, timelines, and the responsible agencies.
It is expected to ensure predictability, promote transparency and accountability, reduce corruption in port processes, eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks faced by port users, and reduce the opportunity for illegal demands in the ports.
Addressing a sensitisation programme for maritime agencies and stakeholders on the NPPM implementation, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, noted that the agency has enormous responsibility to drive the process.
“The maritime sector offers the best alternative for economic diversification as it has the potential for employment, investments, and as an outlet for the facilitation and strengthening of Nigeria’s international trade,” he said.
“The NSC is to drive the process and implementation of the Process Manual. However, I urge regulatory authorities, operational agencies, service providers, users of shipping services and other stakeholders to support and comply with government’s extant directives and the provisions of the NPPM.
“The NSC, being the lead agency for the implementation of the manual, shall coordinate its implementation and ensure strict compliance with the rules. NSC also reserves the right to hand out sanctions to any agency, service provider or user of shipping services for non-compliance as provided under its economic regulatory mandate.”
On his part, the NSC Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello, described the policy manual as key to improving efficiency and transparency in the Nigerian ports, according to a statement by the NSC Head of Public Relations, Rekiya Zubair.
Appealing to sister-agencies for cooperation to achieve full implementation, Bello said the NSC was not only interested in the ease of doing business but also reducing the cost and improving the nation’s ranking in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
He stressed the “need to reduce dwell time of cargo from 21 days to the regional average of seven days,” adding that the electronic call-up system by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) would aid in easing the current traffic situation around the ports.
Giving support, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the methods of addressing the challenges in the sector, including insecurity and corruption, are embedded in the NPPM.
Therefore, “our industry can only be sustained in terms of economic growth if we have sustainable systems in place to make our ports attractive.”
Similarly, the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, who promised to enforce compliance and sanction defaulters, emphasised “the need for seamless cooperation and integration of relevant agencies” since the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the various agencies in the maritime sector are closely tied.”
Also, the Nigeria Customs Service, represented by Ag. Compt., Tariff, Suleiman Chiroma, stated the need for the agency to deploy sophisticated and modern scanners to replace physical examination, adding that all relevant agencies should be present at physical examination, and failure to comply should mean exemption.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, has urged the regulatory agencies to enforce compliance, reminding them of their “enforcement power. It is time to effectively use these enforcement powers.”