by Steve Agbota
Recently, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) to boost efficiency and accountability in Nigeria’s port industry. The VP also announced the appointment of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as the lead agency to implement the new policy.
The main purpose of the NPPM according to Osinbajo, is to ensure predictability, promote efficiency and accountability, reduce corruption in the port processes, eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks faced by port users and reduce the opportunity for illegal demands in the ports.
Daily Sun learnt that the implementation of NPPM would enable Nigeria improve its ranking on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and to reduce cargo dwell time at Nigerian ports from 21 days to the regional average of seven days.
Meanwhile, all Federal Government agencies in the maritime sector have pledged to support the smooth take-off of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) as the government begins its implementation.
As the Federal Government commences the implementation of the NPPM, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Iju Nwabunike, warned that continuous corruption and insecurity in the Nigerian port system and maritime environment may dample the implementation of NPPM.
According to him, If the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) must be seen as a document of high value beyond the paper on which it was printed, it’s initiators and drivers must continually practice an all inclusive implementation mode devoid of personal ego or one government organisation trying to assert superiority over the other.
However, he lamented that narrow-minded interests and corruption, which is allowed to reign in the country’s maritime environment for long, might serve as obstacles to actualising the mandate of the NPPM, which seeks to ensure port efficiency and effectiveness.
On corruption question mark, he said Nigerian port processes have been largely manual, analogue, archaic and not in sync with modern realities. He said from access control to cargo examination and submission of manifests by ship masters, “we have remained complacent with a system on slow mode by default.”
He lamented that accessing the ports and physical examination instead of using scanners have been lucrative areas of corruption and inefficiencies in the nation’s port system, adding that one finds it difficult to understand why “we allowed such unproductive methods to thrive for many years.
“We can only imagine our losses as a country from this high degree of complacence considering that concealments could escape detection by physical modes during examination and time spent to physically examine five containers could be used to examine 100 containers when you apply the right machines and human capital expertise,” he added.
Speaking further on the NPPM, he said since the manual itself and the ports economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council who is to implement it are not backed by any law, except by executive fiat, it is important that it’s provisions are not in conflict with any extant law governing our maritime activities.
He said the process of making Nigerian Shippers Council a stronger economic regulator by an Act of the National Assembly should be activated and expedited.
He hinted that there is the need for a more robust inter ministerial interface in making the NPPM work better , faster and more seamlessly.
He maintained that the NPPM is in itself not an end but a means to an end which should be flexible and adjustable with time in line with current realities.
He said ANLCA under his watch has a resolve to support government in achieving its laudable objectives for setting up the NPPM.
“We should critically pursue solutions to the problems of security on our waters, strengthen our use of technology for faster and more secured system as well as resolving to pursue national interest beyond personal gains.
“When people don’t get punished for corruption, tendencies are that they will come back to commit the same ‘profitable’ crime over and over again. Meeting illegality with stiff sanction is the way to go,” he said.