'Ports Reforms On Course'

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Contrary to insinuations that the committee set up by the government to reform the ports has gone to sleep, the committee made up of some key stakeholders in the nation’s maritime sector, has been working tirelessly to transform the port from its current state to a system that works for both port users and operators.

Prince Olayiwola Shittu, President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA disclosed this during a courtesy visit to the secretariat of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN. As the head of the technical committee, Shittu explained that what was paramount is, “to fashion for the nation a seamless port system, though stakeholders in the sector are not well represented in the committee set up by the Federal Government”.

Shittu informed that the sub-committee which he heads is working on five areas to achieve its goals some of which are to decongest the port, clear traffic, facilitate cargo clearance etc. He, however, said the committee’s work may turn out a waste if major industry players are not engaged or factored in properly. This, he said, formed the reason why stakeholders in the industry were carried along by the committee.

According to him, “we are working with the National Association of Government Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF and other associations. This is to avoid a situation where key stakeholders would be isolated and therefore barred from contributing their quota, like the situation in the past”.

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He said requisite government ministries had delayed the committee’s work by simply refusing to come to Lagos to observe the situation first hand. This, he said, would have presented the committee an opportunity to harmonise its work. Shittu said the committee is also working on removing artificial bottlenecks and corruption from the port clearing process, as it was bent on eliminating all interpersonal relationship between agents and customs officials.

On the concession of the nation’s port the ANLCA boss said the average Nigerian was yet to benefit from the policy several years after. He, however, blamed the Nigeria Ports Authority for the failure of the concession regime, adding that the concessionaires are faced with many challenges.

Also on benchmarking Shittu said the policy was a laudable one that could have benefitted the sector and the nation’s economy as a whole. He said benchmarking would have encouraged the importation of quality goods into the country and also promote uniform duty payment on vehicles.