Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Two months after the executive order on the resumption of 24-hour operation in the ports, operators in the maritime sector have not complied to the directive.
The government agencies who were asked to vacate the ports to facilitate a seamless business operation are still fully operational. The officials of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) are going about their businesses as if there is nothing at stake.
NDLEA had vehemently protested its exclusion saying that it has a constitutional right to remain in the ports. The chief executive of the agency, Muhammad Abdallah, threatened legal action for any attempt to exclude his agency from operating in the ports
“The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will take legal action against any act of misinformation calculated to obstruct its activities at the seaports” the chief executive, said in a statement.
According to him, the agency would remain vigilant in preventing the use of the seaports for drug trafficking.
“The operations of the NDLEA at the seaports is statutory and it is pertinent to set the records straight.
This clarification is imperative in the light of conflicting reports intended to mislead members of the public on the official position” he said, claiming that its activities at the ports had been endorsed by the federal government in an executive order issued by acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Apart from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) who does skeletal rotational operations in the night, all other operators shut down operations by 6 O’clock
The operators said that it does not make any business sense to run generator 24 hours when business activities are at their lowest ebb.
To this extent, most of the terminal operators are operating skeletally after they had retrenched many of their staff because of the harsh business environment in the ports.
Director General, Association of Nigerian Customs Licensed Agents (ANLCA), told Daily Sun that the 24 hours operation is not achievable given the fact that there are no scanners, no power, no security and the roads are simply in bad shape.
“The 24-hour port operation is not feasible. Some of the cranes are very dilapidated. The scanners are not functional. There is no adequate security in the ports and on the road. Two months after, there is no meaningful difference. Of course you know the port access road has been in terrible state. You see some containers on the road. I don’t think that they have taken time to ask the real operators what and what will be put in place so that we can achieve a good result. All along we have been talking about 48 hours clearance. Uptill now, that 48 hours clearance in the ports has not worked. So, how can you be talking of 24 hours where there is no security. None of us can afford to operate in the night. The shipping companies, terminal operators, the doctors cannot function in the dark. What the order means is round-the-clock operation. So, it (24-hour operation) is not possible. Let us tell ourselves the truth. Let them put the needed infrastructure in place. Then, let there be a new orientation among the operators especially the government agencies—–from customs, down to the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other agencies. If you give them your work, the government agencies will sit on it because you have not ‘greased’ their palms. So, all and all, the 24 hours of port operation is not feasible for now until adequate arrangement is put in place” he said.
National co-ordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Osita Chukwu asked: “How many executive orders have been obeyed? It is always like that. Every government will do his own and go. What is executive order? Who is the owner of the order? Who is the owner of the trailers? Who is the owner of the roads?
Nigerian system has collapsed. Nigeria has not taken anything serious at all. What do you expect when Nigeria does not have even one vessel?. If they don’t have vessel, what do you expect?” he asked.
However, a freight forwarder, Mr Olusegun Ologbese argued that NCS is the only agency complying with the order while the rest agencies have failed to obey the order. He, therefore, suggested that the defaulting agencies should be sanctioned in their own way.
“Initially, the agencies and the customs had a problem with some terminal operators. But later they picked up and everybody has been playing his part. But on weekends, they are not forthcoming. All over the world, port operations have been on 24 hours. That is how we have been operating in the ports in the past here in Nigeria. By the time you get to the gate you don’t know the difference between the day and the night. But it is no more like that. So, we have to thank the Acting President for restoring it.
On the issue of power, Ologbese agreed that it is a problem noting that the authorities should fix the power problem to facilitate the operation. He prescribed penalty for non-compliance of the order
“These are the issues the government has to address. If the government can fix the road and power issues, it will help the operation. The heads of those agencies should be given marching order. Every agency has a way to discipline their subordinates.
Recall that on May 19, 2017, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo gave the relevant authorities 30 days to resume 24 hours operation in the ports.
“The Apapa Port shall resume 24-hour operations within 30 days of the issuance of this order and there shall be no touting whatsoever by official or unofficial persons at any port in Nigeria”he said.
Regrettably, two months after the order was given, the authorities have not complied with the order.