Prior to the introduction of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) by the Federal government in 2021 to smoothen port operations in Nigeria, government agencies saddled with inspecting vessels at berth, took laws into their hands.
It was an era marred with carefree attitude to work, bribery, negative inducement, among others.
PSTT was inaugurated principally to exterminate the aforementioned anomalies and to implement other contents of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM)
The PSTT is constituted by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Department of State Security (DSS) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Moses Fadipe, a Deputy Director in the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is the Coordinator of the NPPM.
Under his watch since inception of the application of the manual in port operations, the team according to him had achieved between 80 to 85 percent success in ensuring that agencies of government abide by the rules of engagement.
On the cargo side, he stated that terminals in Lagos such as AP Moller Terminals, ENL Consortium and Eko Support are now complying to the new regulations of starting examination by 9am and ending it at 4pm. This is a departure from what obtained in the past.
He has severally stated that the present Chief Executive Officer of the Council, Hon. Emmanuel Jime played a prominent role in the success of the team.
At a forum, he said that if the ES did not give the needed support, the platform would not been able to go as far as it has gone. He quipped that Hon. Emmanuel Jime is desirous to seeing to the end of the many ills that bedevil the sector.
NPPM was launched in December, 2020 by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and announced the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the lead agency to drive the manual. But it commenced operation in 2021.
The team has as its references term, ensuring standard procedures are followed by concerned parties in carrying out transactions at the port.
The content of the manual is to engender a new order devoid of corruption and substandard practice in the nation’s maritime industry.
It was specifically to enable Nigeria improve its ranking on the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
Prior to introduction of NPPM, it was an era when ship captains had to set aside souvenirs for agencies’ personnels assigned to board their vessels for official assignments. It was a nauseating practice that earned Nigeria a negative publicity.
Not only did the personnels seek gratifications, they strolled into the vessels at their convenient time thereby increasing cargo dwelling time.
The debacle featured Nigeria prominently on the negative side of Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Nigeria ranked 149 out of 180 countries under watch.
Seeking an end to the menace, the Vice president introduced the manual that will serve as a guide to port operations. This is solely to engender sanity and cohesiveness.
Prepared to take off, the immediate past Executive Secretary of NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello called a meeting of the agencies imploring joint boarding of vessels at berth to save time
He warned that the agencies should not take more than thirty minutes even as he admonished them to stop asking for gifts from ship captains or any crew member.
In readiness to achieve its purpose, the Council communicated to all the shipping lines to inform their ship captains coming to Nigerian Ports, to stop giving souvenirs to representatives of agencies boarding their vessels at berth for official assignments.
Bello admitted that technique is the bedrock of the success of the manual.
Bello lamented that Nigeria is ranked 149 out of 180 countries in the global corruption index perception in 2021.
Bello said, “Doing things in the practice accepted internationally is good for Nigeria. The procedures must be transparent, this is war against corruption at the port.
“If we get it right, it will breed efficiency. Today, you see the array of those who are to board vessels and there is a resolve that we are going to do it right.
“Time is of the essence in boarding the vessels and so, there are time-consuming issues that we must adhere with.
“Compliance is very important that is why we have the complement if security agencies like ICPC and the DSS.
“The most important thing is that we must adopt technology to solve most of these problems, human contacts breeds corruption . So, it is very important we digitalize out ports.”
Also speaking the the meeting, the immediate past Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman said that the country desired to be the leading port in the continent, hence the need to do the right thing.
Usman who was represented at the event by Eniola Williams, General Manager, Public Private Partnership (PPP) of the Authority who added that SOP would guide each agency on its limit and served as guide for its operations.
Her words, “We know that for every transaction, integrity is key and the essence of having Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in any organization is actually to eliminate discretion.
“If discretion is eliminated, you are already on the pathway to integrity. The main purpose of having this manual is to entrench integrity”.
Since it took off, the team has successfully achieved joint boarding on the ship side. The turnaround time of ship in Nigeria today has tremendous improved.
On container clearing, the team having succeeded to establish the contents of the manual on the ship side, rolled out rules to guide the involvement of government agencies in inspection of cargoes at the ports.
The new guidelines include that containers must be positioned for examination by 8:30am while representatives of government agencies must jointly perform inspection from 9am to 4pm daily.
The memo titled: “Joint examination of cargo,’ was made available to all concerned parties
The technique is to bring all government agencies under on umbrella to examine goods at the same time which will help to reduce the rate of avoidable delays that incur costs for cargo owners.
It will also ensure efficiency by advancing Ease of Doing Business and make Nigerian Ports one if the best places to do business
Authorized agency shall designate sufficient officers to simultaneously cover all examination bay. Failure of any agency’s representative order than the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to attend joint examination shall not delay the examination and such an agency shall lose the right to examine that container, the memo emphasized
Even though it is not yet uhuru, if the practice is consistently adhered and replicated in other sectors of the Nigeria’s economy, much improvement would be witnessed in no distant time.