The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello has flayed the resistance of terminal operators to abide by regulations in the nation’s seaports.
NSC is presently the economic regulator in the nation’s seaports and it has been having a running battle with the concessionaires over their alleged arbitrary charges and violations of the agreement they signed with the Federal Government through the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Speaking at one a one day talk shop on a decade of Nigerian Ports Concession organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), the NSC helmsman stated that despite the desire of the Federal Government to implement reforms in the maritime industry, some terminal operators are resisting regulation.
The NSC Executive Secretary who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the council decried the poor attitude of some of the terminal operators to the change agenda of the President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration.
His words: “The maritime concessionaires, shipping companies and others have shown enough courage to invest in Nigeria; we should never forget that they have option to move elsewhere. However, there is need for the private sector to behave responsibly. There are a lot of sharp practises going on inside the ports like not positioning the containers when it’s time to do so, rent seeking activities. We have found out that some terminal operators are very far ahead than others. While some terminal operators have embraced automation, certain terminals operators are still operating primitively. These terminals will not embrace automation. These terminal operators resist regulation vehemently, not knowing that the regulation is for their own good. For example, the case we have with the terminal operators and some shipping companies has taken the shine off the regulation we have put in place. This has also brought a lot of delay in some areas where we would have gone very far by now. This is so because some of these terminal operators believe we cannot audit them or that they are above the law. It is important that investors subject themselves to the laws of the land where they are operating in. After all, they are operating in other countries, so why is Nigeria’s case different”.
Continuing, Bello, a lawyer said: “Reforms are coming and they will come. I have always told the seaport terminal operators that they should get ready for reforms. I have told the freight forwarders that it is important they consolidate. The problem with the reform is that it is either they are in sync with it or it comes and sweeps them away. It is good that MARAN is bringing up this kind of discussion now. Programmes like this should be a national discussion because it is all about correcting the mistakes that were done during the port concession”.
He expressed dismay over the thinking in some quarters that because Nigeria is seeking for investors, anyone can come into Nigeria and do whatever he or she likes without any regulation or following the laws of the land.
“Yes, we want the private sector to come in and help us develop our economy, but that private sector must also be responsible. For example, we are in a recession and it is important that operators identify with what the country is presently passing through.”
MARAN President, Ifeyinwa Obi in her opening remarks emphasised the importance of appraising the ten years of ports concession in the country.
Obi who is also a reporter with Vanguard newspaper argued that the appraisal will enable all stakeholders take a critical look at the gains and the challenges experienced so far.
According to her, this will enable Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the maritime industry to collectively find ways and means to provide tangible answers to the several critical questions dogging the maritime industry.