The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) in collaboration with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CFCCPC) is perfecting arrangements to develop guidelines for protecting the rights of consumers of shipping services at Nigerian Ports.
Tagged Consumer Protection Regime (CPR), the guidelines when documented, will enthrone the transparent process of doing business at the port for the benefit of both the consumers and providers of port services.
Speaking in Lagos on Tuesday during a sensitisation programme for stakeholders on consumer rights and responsibilities in the port and shipping sector, Emmanuel Jime, executive secretary of the NSC, said developing a Consumer Protection Regime will help to bring sanity in the conduct of port business to ensure harmony, fair trade practices and efficiency in the sector.
According to him, the NSC and FCCPC before starting the exercise, signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at achieving an effective collaboration in the protection of providers and consumers of shipping and ports services.
Represented by Ada Okam, director of Human Resources at NSC, he said it will help to encourage competition; prosecute erring service providers and users, and enable sharing of information and intelligence, consumer education as well as awareness.
“We plan to conduct sensitisation exercises at various port and inland locations to get necessary inputs from stakeholders on how the industry can operate seamlessly with little or no infringement on rights of users and providers of shipping services. It will enable us to build trust and confidence before rolling out the scheme,” he said.
He however listed some of the rights to include right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, standards and charges/rates of services to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
Others include the right to access variety of services at competitive prices; right to seek redress against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers of shipping services and right to consumer education, enlightenment and information on services availability.
On his part, Babatunde Irukera, executive vice chairman of FCCPC, called for effective collaboration between government agencies and regulatory bodies to better the port industry for all players.
Presenting a paper on ‘Ethics and Integrity in the Port and Shipping Sector,’ Emmanuel Bosah, director of programme at CBI Nigeria, said that businesses and societies depend on the efficient clearance of vessels and goods at ports worldwide to function, develop and prosper.
He pointed out that seaports are in many cases, the most corrupt place in the maritime value chain because vessels and cargos clearance processes involve numerous stakeholders, resulting in multiple interactions with port officials.
According to him, this provides ample opportunities for corruption, especially where port officials enjoy broad discretionary powers giving ports an administrative monopoly over an essential public service that businesses depend on to function.
“This creates breeding ground for ‘coercive’ corruption where port officials extract bribes from port users for performing routine processes during vessel and cargo clearance. Such corruption constitutes an additional cost on businesses and increases the cost of trade, while reducing efficiency and productivity.
To reduce the rate of corruption at the port, Bosah called for the establishment of clear rules and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide transparency. He however said that the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) implemented by the Port Standing Task Team is already bridging the gap.
He further said that service providers especially shipping companies must equally introduce transparent SOPs that make clear
charges, timelines, and procedures, for example, for container returns as well as shipping charges to various export destinations, without compromising their trade secrets.
Stakeholders called for a policy to regulate pricing, cut arbitrarily charges, promote integrity, honest and right declaration as well as timely feedback mechanism.