• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Eastern ports set to join fast-tracking scheme

Eastern ports set to join fast-tracking scheme

Measures have been put in place and structures activated to push the transformation scheme of eastern ports.

The challenges have also been listed and solutions created by stakeholders who brainstormed at the Swiss Spirit Hotel on Saro Wiwa Avenue in Garden City Thursday, May 11, 2023.

Listing the challenges and solutions, Emmanuel Bosah, moderator of the one-day strategy meeting involving all regulatory agencies, agents, shippers, etc, said the corridor of the ports is problematic.

He said however that the biggest challenge they face is non-compliance; whether it is corruption, inefficiency that leads to high cost, infrastructural challenges, whatever the case, it is multifaceted.

Bosah, the Director of Programmes of the Convention of Business Integrity (CBI), said the team is in Port Harcourt not to list the challenges but to find how to solve them by asking questions such as: who are the stakeholders to solve them, and what more should be done by the FG to solve them?

“We came here with our objective, to unify the private and public sectors. We have achieved that. One thing we realise is that the voices in the room are not totally representative of the actors in the industry in the region.

“That is where the press would help to push the narrative. For outcome, it has been stated. We need to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the private sector because the government sector SOP is already there and is in use and is transparent. The private sector needs to create its own SOPs around shipping and cost and make sure everybody understands that. That is a starting point.”

He said the objective is to work with the government and private sectors and identify how to achieve Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in eastern ports (Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt Area One, Onne, Bonny, etc) and the terminals within this region. “We brought together private and government sectors to discuss not just the challenges but to identify new solutions that will grow to be what we see in Lagos, with the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) leading that effort.”

A two-day workshop had been organized to boost SOP compliance in the eastern ports. The specialised and fully loaded training is being anchored by the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) and the CBI in partnership with the Technical Unit on Government and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC).

Explaining the difference between that workshop and the present strategy meeting, Bosah said: “The previous engagement was to build the capacity of compliance officers to understand how to deliver their role, how to comply and how to ensure that everything they do is transparent, consistent, and in line with rules and regulations of the authorities. And, in the case, a private sector operator tends to meet, they are held accountable for that.

“The point of this one is how best, as part of that compliance response, to work collectively (govt and private) to now make sure we understand what the requirements were: transparent, published, that anybody can get access to them through the SOPs developed by Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN). In so doing, how well is it done, how do we ensure that the gaps are understood and the challenges are addressed and everybody is equally responsible together to really improve efficiency and EoDB in the ports in the east.”

He said they now understand that where that is not done, an aggrieved person channels their complaints through the right mechanisms to ensure that the government does its own part, where government fails to do its own part, this convening now becomes responsible through their associations for failing to respond, through the mechanism it has established via their own SOPs.

Ex-sailor gives kudos to Nigeria

A major presentation at the strategy session was one by a former sailor, a captain, Vivek Menon, who is now the associate director of the international organization that polices the maritime world, the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN).

Menon use to sail to West Africa once a month. He said he stopped two years ago to take on new roles in the maritime sector.

He said the journey to transform the maritime operations around seaports has been an important journey since 2012.

Explaining how MACN works, he said it is a private sector initiative by shipping companies all over the world in response to the rising cost of doing business as well as the low rating in ease of doing business around the world.

He said it was agreed that the private sector operators to part of the problem and that they first admitted that they did not know how to solve it alone. “All countries have anti-corruption laws but they were not implemented.

“We agreed to work with our companies’ values and now see how to meet the governments for their own change of attitude.”

The work done by MACN seemed to attract attention such that many companies decided to rush for membership. “Now, we have 191 companies subscribing from around the world. Now, both parties do their parts. You sign the commitment document.”

He said though the agreement is an international affair having signed on, the work is local. “We found a methodology that works for us. It is evidence-based, not mere perceptions.”

He affirmed what CBI had revealed last time, saying Nigeria was one of the highest in cost of doing business (corruption) because of non-compliance with SOPs 10 years ago. “Now, Nigeria has shown huge progress. Other countries are now eager to work with Nigeria and are copying the model.”

He however noted that the entire Nigeria maritime sector is critical, not just for Nigeria but the entire West Africa and the world.

The task now, he stated, is to create ways to bring other international communities to partner with Nigeria. “We present our results and it works.”

The crux of the scheme, he stated, is to know that enforcing SOPs and responding to breaches is the only way to make Nigeria a shining example in Africa and the world. “We are proud of the work done in Nigeria. This meeting is very important to see that the task continues.”

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TUGAR: The journey so far:

In her opening address, Jane Onwumere, head of, the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), who was represented by Bosede Oguntuberu, gave the progression that led to the successful transformation in Nigeria’s port system.

The TUGAR head spoke on ‘Promoting compliance to the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on vessel clearance through collective action in eastern ports.’

Mentioning the key actors in the fight against corruption in the ports, she said the efforts were to address the issue of corruption from the roots through strengthening preventive mechanisms.

She named them TUGAR, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) she said embarked on a ‘Corruption Risk Assessment’ (CRA) in 2011. “The main objective of the CRA is to identify areas that are prone to corruption, proffer recommendations and jointly with the relevant MDAs develop Integrity plans that would strengthen accountability and transparency towards enhanced service delivery.”

The scheme is said to be in line with Government policy to facilitate and enhance Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by addressing impediments to the latter, and the integrity of the Port Sector was prioritized.

“This was also in direct response to the concern and request of the global network of operators in the maritime sector who do business in Nigeria – the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN). This network identified the Ports in Nigeria as one of the flashpoints of corruption in their global operations and requested urgent intervention from the Government of Nigeria.

“In 2013 a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) was conducted in the six Nigerian Seaports (Lagos (Apapa and Tincan), Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Onne) and the implementation of the recommendations are currently being carried out by the Project Steering Committee (PSC) made up of key government agencies in the ports (NPA, NSC, NCS, NIS, NIMASA, PORT HEALTH, CRFFN, ICPC, BPP, Fed Min of Finance, TUGAR as the secretariat and chaired by the Federal Ministry of Transportation).

“In 2016 the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedure (HSOP) and the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP), an IT-based real-time complaint-and-redress mechanism portal was launched. Also, in 2020, the Nigeria Port Process Manual [NPPM] which focuses on the seamless workflow of all agencies in the port. Providing for efficient processes & enhance service delivery was developed by the PSC and launched on International Anti-Corruption Day (9th December 2020) by the Vice President, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. The Nigerian Shippers Council was charged with the responsibility of implementing the NPPM. Consequent upon this, the Port Standing Task Team was inaugurated to carry out the day-to-day implementation of the NPPM in all the Sea Ports.’

To sustain the momentum and consolidate all the achievements mentioned above, she stated, there is the need to institutionalize a system whereby the operational achievements were maintained and sustained. “One of the ways to achieve this is for all stakeholders operating in Nigeria Ports to review and develop clear steps for addressing corrupt activities in the port through a robust compliance function.”

Conclusion:

Important experts that contributed ideas include Moses Fadibe, the National Coordinator of PSTT; the zonal director of the south-south zone of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Glory Onojedo; and the Executive Secretary of the Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM), Ofon Udofia.