The federal government has said that the launch of the Standard Operating procedures (SOP) and Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) will ultimately make the Nigerian ports regional trade hub.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who stated this at the launch of SOP and PSSP in Calabar port, Cross River State stressed that the PSSP will enhance efficiency, cost effectiveness and speedy clearance of vessels and cargoes in accordance with the best international standard.
According to the minister, â€œIn the face of the current global economic recession, there is no better time to make our seaports more user friendly and internationally competitive. We must promote transparency, accountability as well as eliminating impediments to greater economic performance in Nigerian ports. The 48 hour duration target for cargo clearance is realistic. All that is required is the collective support of the major stakeholders at the ports and genuine commitment to the implementation of the integrity plan.â€
He added that an important component of the project that facilitates the patronage of the nationâ€™s seaports is anti-corruption.
Amaechi said the SOP and PSSP have inbuilt provisions to prevent leakages and remove impediments against trade and investment.
â€œThese documents state the functions of various agencies at the ports; define their relationship with port users and proffer both online and by telephone calls to register their complaints or commend agencies for efficient service delivery from any part of the world. In order to enhance the smooth flow of maritime traffic and trade issues of joint boarding of vessels, joint examination of cargoes and empty container return, among others have been adequately addressed. Consequently, only competent and experienced officers with high level of integrity and professionalism will undertake board and examination of vessels. This is part of efforts to align port operations with provisions of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions.
Amaechi added that it was necessary to create a sufficient condition for the ports sector to efficiently support the economy to enable faithfully deliver of ports services in a friendly environment devoid of conflict of interest and corrupt practices.
According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2015 review of maritime transport, the total volume of cargo carried by sea-borne trade in 2014 was $9.84 billion. The World Shipping Council 2016 report show that ships transport carry approximately 60 per cent of the value of global seaborne trade representing more than $4 trillion worth of goods annually. This is underscores the importance of the maritime sector to the global economy and Nigerian economy. The minister noted that the Maritime Anti-corruption Network (MACN) and UNPP had prior to 2013, noted that the pre-requisites for the effectiveness and efficiency in Nigeria were in short supply and recommended an intervention by government.
Amaechi said in 2013, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms (TUGAR), and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) carried out a Corrupt Risk Assessment (CRA) at the six ports in Nigeria such as Calabar, Worri, Tin Can, Apapa, Warri, Port Harcourt and Onne ports.
The minister said research aimed at strengthening preventive mechanisms by identifying areas that were prone to corruption in the ports while the report was launched in December 2013.
In her opening remarks the NPA MD, Hadiza Bala Usman, said the initiative of grafting, adoption and harmonisation of SOPs and PSSPs in Nigeria seeks to enhance transparency and accountability to ensure achieving a user friendly business environment.
The NPA boss said SOP and PSSP would miminise variation and promote quality through consistent implementation of processes or procedures within the organisation adding the launch would discourage unwholesome practice by service providers at the port.
She said it would also become easier to detect culprits and defaulters and sanction them adding the on-going reforms to facilitate maritime traffic and trade have led to a reduction of the number of agencies in the ports.
â€œThe federal government in its 2016 budget has prioritised development of infrastructure for the transportation sector. The automation of ports operation by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has prepared the stage for 48-Hour cargo clearance. The update of ASYCUDA from (++) to 3.0 and other reforms will also attract foreign Direct investment to Nigeria thus making the country a trade hub, â€œshe said.