It was commendation galore for private terminal operators at the nation’s seaports as top government officials and major stakeholders took turns to commend them for improving on the fortunes of their various terminals.
Speaking at a one-day conference on the review of port concession agreement organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and International Maritime Exhibition and Conference (IMEC), the Speaker, House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara set the ball rolling by applauding port concessionaires for their role in making the port more effective and efficient through the development of infrastructures, describing the port concession programme as a huge success nine years after.
Represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Pally Iriase, Dogara said the port concession of 2006 has brought tremendous benefits to the Nigerian economy. He said the average turnaround time of vessels has also decreased significantly. “Since the concession agreement in 2006 till date, terminal operators have recorded some achievements as evidenced by the injection of funds for the provision of port infrastructure and equipment.”
He said modest achievements have been recorded on “seaside operation which has drastically reduced the vessel turnaround time at our port, the perimeter fencing of all the terminals in compliance with ISPS Code and improved security of cargoes at terminals among others”.
Dogara charged the port community and stakeholders to do more especially in areas of automation of cargo clearance, enhancement of cargo examination processes as well rehabilitation of the port access roads.
The Speaker said the present administration is desirous of turning the fortunes of the country around, noting that the maritime sector is key in achieving this.
Dogara said the maritime sector constitutes a major component of the nation’s economy considering the fact that Nigeria is an import dependent economy.
Also speaking, Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Benjamin Dikki affirmed that the positive impact of port concession cannot be overemphasized. “Anybody who had seen the port in 2006 and goes round the port today will know that the concessionaires have made investment that ordinarily, a government cannot bring out from his budgetary allocations to support,” he said.
Dikki noted that the identified challenges in the concession agreement were as a result of the delay in the passage of the Ports and Harbours bill. “The concessionaires have made investments but there are issues which arouse principally because ab initio, it was conceptualize that a regulator will be in place before the concessions were done but there are challenges in getting the bill ready and even when it was ready, it has remained unlegislated up till date,” he said.
While commending the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Dikki called on stakeholders to join hands and ensure that the Ports and Harbours bill is expeditiously passed in order to have a permanent port regulator who will ensure that the full benefits of the port concession are achieved.
He said it is government’s desire that Nigerian ports become more competitive so that they will be the preferred destination for shippers.
On his part, representative of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT), Director, Maritime Services, Sanni Umar Danlagashi also commended the quality of service rendered by terminal operators at the port.
In his welcome address, Executive Secretary/CEO of NSC, Hassan Bello said while there is need for the concession agreement to be reviewed periodically, it will, however, be done with all the parties represented. “It is the parties who will look at the problems, their experiences and suggest ways of reviewing,” he said.
Other dignitaries at the conference include former Managing Director of Nigerian Port Authority, Chief Adebayo Sarumi who is also a former Managing Director of Nigerian Shippers’ Council; Founding President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo; and Controller, Apapa Area Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Charles Edike among others.
The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STAON) did not participate in the conference because of its subsisting court case against the NSC pending before the Court of Appeal.
By Pita Ochai