The mandatory joint cargo inspection by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies is beginning to reduce delays in cargo clearance at the nation’s seaport, Soji Apampa, the chief executive officer of the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), has said.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos after the completion of the 2-day Capacity Building on Compliance Function within the Nigerian Maritime Sector, Apampa said the implementation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) started with vessel clearance, which has witnessed a reduction in the demand for un-receipted payment by officers.
According to him, the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) responsible for the implementation of NPPM, has moved to the cargo side and alluded that joint inspection of cargo, which was not happening in the past, is now happening and is reducing delays.
He said it has helped to increase the daily throughput of containers examined at port terminals from about 120 containers to over 250 containers daily in some terminals.
“Now, the problem of delay is mostly experienced when the cargo leaves the port, which is why the PSTT started the ‘Operation Clear the Port Corridor.’ But, when the outbound corridor is free from encumbrances, the problem will now rest on the inbound cargo which includes export, empties and empty trucks going into the port.
“We acknowledge that a lot of work needs to be done to achieve compliance at the port but from the marine side, improvement has come and would soon reach outside the port. We are making progress and to sustain it is the purpose of the two days training, which is to encourage compliance,” he said.
Citing an example, he said about 266 cases of un-receipted demands from vessels took place in 2019, which fell to 128 in 2020, dropped to 84 cases in 2021, and fell further to about 50 cases in 2022.
Apampa further said that the work of PSTT in port reform is gaining ground but because some of the places they have to enforce Standards Operating Procedure (SOP) and Port Process Manual can be 200 nautical miles offshore and is why the PSTT needs to replicate itself by ensuring that everybody imbibes the culture of compliance.
“Through the compliance training, we want to inspire the officers who can also inspire their own men to be more compliant. We are also trying to show that people can lead their bosses, peers and subordinates. This programme is to expose them to those possibilities so that compliance can be stronger,” he explained.
With the training, he said, people have been inspired to see the possibilities and challenged to make sure that incidences of corruption no longer happen in Nigerian ports.
“The strategy is to train the trainer. We also created an e-learning platform that allows people to continue to learn and it can take 3,000 people on the system. So, we do have the facility to continue the training,” Apampa said.
Giving his submission on the port access road, Mohammed Sani Bala, a trucker and the secretary general of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), said the number of checkpoints on the outbound lane of the port access road has reduced.
He however said the PSTT needs to review its operations to cover the inbound lane of the port access roads where security agencies mount many artificial checkpoints for the purpose of extorting truckers.
Francis Omotosho, the registrar of the NAGAFF Academy, who spoke on responding to non-compliance, said there is a need for leaders to reduce the rate at which they use authority and power to lead.
According to him, leaders need more influence which is based on integrity, and it makes the subordinate voluntarily obey the rule of engagement.
He pointed out the need to institute a goods rewards system to motivate and shape peoples’ behaviours, adding that there is a need to adopt the instrument of reinforcement rather than punishment.