As implementation of Executive Order begins, dilapidated access roads, poor lighting mar take off. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
Aparently desired to improve ease of doing business in Nigeria the acting President had signed Executive Order compelling a 24-hours port operations in the nation’s seaports.
The Executive order was also to enhance ease of doing business in land borders and also to facilitate trade. But, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman has been at the forefront front of implementation may hit as the rock over absence of some infrastructure at the seaport.
Dilapidated Ports Access Roads
The access road leading in and out of both seaports in Lagos, Tin-Can and Apapa- are presently in shambles. Even though, the government has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some firms Dangote and Flourmills to rehabilitate the roads but the present state cannot allow a 24-hour port operations.
The roads presently is in a shadow of it selves that truck drivers spent days to move out cargoes from the ports to owner warehouse.
The truck drivers described the harrowing experience they endure daily to enter or exit the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos As harrowing.
The truck drivers, who spoke in separate interviews while being held on the long queue, said they spend as much as three to four days on the Ijora-Wharf road enroute to the Apapa port, which is a distance of about two kilometres – a journey that should normally take less than five minutes.
They said they wash on the road, eat from hawkers and answer the call of nature on the curbs.
Lamenting the sufferings they go through, one of the truck drivers, Anas Abubakar said, “The bad road is what is causing the traffic. I have spent three days here just to pick a consignment at the port. We want government to fix the road so that we can easily go to wharf and drop our containers. The suffering is too much for us. The police and army also collect money from us.”
Another truck driver, Ademola Adebayo appealed to the government to fix the bad road to ameliorate the plight of commuters.
“The bad roads are the major cause of the traffic. If those leaving the port do not have chance to come out, we that are going in can’t also go in. We are appealing to the government to repair the road. If the road is ok, there will be free flow of movement and there won’t be traffic. We eat from hawkers and bath on the road on a daily basis,” he said.
Lack Of Functional Scanners
In the whole of Nigeria Seaports, only one scanner is working and the only scanner working wasn’t working to capacity. To this end, the Nigeria Customs Service perform 100 percent examination on cargoes that are imported into the ports.
This, according to clearing agents do not facilitate trade but stifles business and trade and increase chances. Maritime experts who are alarmed by the state of scanners at Nigerian ports say they have frequently caused delays in goods clearance as well as escape of contraband goods into the society.
Also, the Controller, Port Harcourt Area II Command of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Onne, Comptroller Abubakar Bashir, decried the high level of physical examination of containers in Nigeria, describing it as “very tedious” and “usually not very effective.” Bashir said that manual un-stuffing of containers for physical examination is fraught with myriads of challenges, blaming the situation on the non-availability of scanners at the port.
Stakeholders also say one scanner is grossly insufficient to handle the number of cargoes being discharged at the Apapa Port and worse is that Tin Can Port has none.
According to maritime experts, busy ports like Apapa and Tin Can, need four functional scanners each in other to handle containers coming to the ports. Aside this, lack of scanners expose the nation’s to risk of allowing dangerous items slip into the country.
For instance in January 2017, the operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) A, Ikeja of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) intercepted a 661 pieces of pump-action rifles that have exited the port for owners warehouse.
The pump-action rifle exited Apapa port undetected before it was intercepted on the highway by eagle eye Customs Officers who probably may be working on intelligence.
Also, last year, customs raided a warehouse in Lagos where imported furniture which is on import prohibition list was warehoused after making its way through the Lagos seaport into the country undetected. These and many more are ways port prohibited items and dangerous wares exited Nigeria ports due to absence of functional scanners.
Need For Single window
The NPA MD, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman in a way to begin the enforcement of the executive order, sacked some agencies of government from th port.
According to her, the sacked agencies would not be allowed to operate at the port but will be called upon to inspect only on cargoes within their jurisdiction.
The agencies to operate at the ports are the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Ports Health Agency (PHA), the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Department of State Security (DSS).
Single window system in the form of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) aims to facilitate the import and export of goods. A single point of entry for the exchange of electronic information between regulatory agencies and trading participants is simpler, faster and more efficient.
Also, many key development agencies and financial institutions across the globe, including the World Bank, now see it as veritable tool for trade and economic competiveness as it is the case in many developed world,But stakeholders have argued that the federal government should make single window available for easy interactions among agencies of government.
They opined that instead of having agencies domiciled at seaports, they should instead interface at single window which will reduce costs, cargo dwell time and facilitate trade.
The implementation of SW in clearance of goods and trade has many benefits such as improving the gains of African nations by 50 per cent. Trade processing in Nigeria at the moment is limited by excessive bureaucracy.
Nigeria needs to embrace SW in order to enhance trade and competiveness in its economy. The world is now a global village and those who do not see the need to embrace change in line with international standards and practices may be left behind.
Trade facilitation is basically about ‘process reforms’ that would improve documentation and reduce cargo dwell time.The reforms would enhance national trade competitiveness by improving import/export procedures and document handling among government agencies.
For 24-hour operations at the port to be successful in Nigeria port environment there is need for automation of the port system.This will reduce human contact and ensure efficiency of services. The automation, which will align the ports with ports in other countries, will reduce clearing time, encourage transparency and boost revenue. The automation, which will align the ports with ports in other countries, will reduce clearing time, encourage transparency and boost revenue.
The automation of services is believed to be the only way to improve trade facilitation at the seaports. It is through such technological advancement as automation that one can remain in any part of the country and operate his or her account irrespective of where it was opened. With automation, one can pay for services and even purchase products within and outside the country without having to go to the bank or shops.
Automation is the only way to bring the industry at the same level with other maritime nations.
In the ports of advanced nations, clearing of goods and services take place without the physical presence of the brokers at the ports. Those at the ports are mainly key security staff, who monitor operations.
Lighting Of Port Access Roads
For the Executive order to be effective there is need for the Federal Government to lit up the port access roads for effective night operations. It is believed that the road leading to the nation’s seaports is badly lit that conducting night operations may be dangerous. For instance, Truck drivers have complained of hijack of cargoes in a badly lit area. Hence, to put confidence in the kind of port operators, there is need for proper lighting of access roads leading to the port nationwide
The President, Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporations,(SSACTAC), Benson Adegbeyeni has complained of inability of the port to operate 24-hour because of lack of infrastructure like good roads and proper lighting of the ports. “Talking about 24 hours port operations, where is the lighting? Can you work inside the ports at night? No, because of poor lighting of the ports. My people are complaining that they always sleep inside their cars.”
However, to arrive at 24-hour operations at the ports, there shouldn’t be physical presence of clearing agents Customs Officers or even shippers. Rather, those at the ports should mainly be key security staff, who should only monitor operations. Therefore, automation should be given priority attention as implementation begins in full term. There is need for proper lighting of the port access roads and provide scanners for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service for easy turnaround time cargoes.
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