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Hassan Bello urges CBN to give  maritime industry special status as next cash cow for government

Eyewitness reporter

As an alternative to oil which is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN)  to give special focus to the maritime industry for necessary interventions.

Barr. Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) made the call while on a tour of terminals and shipping companies for assessment to compliance on automation of their services.

Hassan and his management team who visited Ports and Cargo Handling Company, Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services (PTML), and CMA CGM shipping agency, decried the bad state of the port access roads, thereby calling on the government to treat the road as sacred.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria which has been working and making intercession or intervention should also look at the port system and intervene which is very important.

“The Central Bank should focus on the maritime industry. We are pleading with Central Bank to look at that.

“Our exports, for example, are going on smoothly and now, access to the port is difficult and some of our terminals are not configured for export because we have been importing things for a very long time and we have become the import-dependent economy.

“We cannot be the import-dependent economy, we need to export and the Central Bank has put the basic things; the portal, the processes, they are doing well on that but we need a special focus.

Speaking further, Bello reiterated the need for synchronization of government agencies for efficiency in the port, saying it would minimise the problems in the port.

According to him, the success of the synergy and automation of the port hinges on access to the port.

“That’s why we have the port community system. This is a system that is going to be driven by the Nigerian Ports Authority and all of us being partners. It is important we know what all of us are doing and make it transparent.

“So, if we have that including payment, participation of financial institutions including freight forwarders, the terminals themselves, the shipping companies, government agencies as decreed by the government earlier we will have less problem

“But all these hinge on access to the ports, the government should provide the access roads. Government should treat repairs and the building of new roads to the port as something sacred.

“Unless we do this and there is means through which goods are delivered and evacuated from the ports, we still have the same problems. The government has to provide a conducive atmosphere for port operations”

On the challenges of achieving 24 hours port operations, the NSC boss stated that “On the banking issue, there is also the issue of security and the problem of all the government agencies having staff to be deployed for 24 hours and the shippers and their agents themselves.

“But if we have a digital port, it makes things easier. Nobody needs to come but the port will be operating 24 hours”

Asked about the recent move by a terminal to review terminal charges, he said that the Council was not aversed to any tariff review as long as it is justifiable.

He added that before such review can take place, it has to be communicated to the Council who will, in turn, engage stakeholders before it can be ratified.

“I have said it that Nigerian Shippers’ Council is never aversed to review of terminal or local shipping charges but the only thing is that it has to be justified.

“All charges must be tied to the service that providers are providing to our Shippers and the processes because we have laws that guide tariff and we want the terminals to go through the process and write to us after which we consult with the stakeholders,” he said.

The Managing Director of Ports and Cargo Handling Services (PCHS), John Jenkins stated some of the challenges the terminal is facing that hamper its efficiency

According to Jenkins, lack of scanners leads to the inability to carry out examinations in many containers which leads to block-stacking of containers.

He added that the terminal had not reviewed its charges in the last nine years whereas the cost of things has gone high. He disclosed that the terminal had to increase the tariff to be able to meet up its obligations.

On his part, Ascanio Russo, the Managing Director of Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services Limited (PTML) and Grimaldi Agencies, Nigeria enthused that the facility has automated almost all its processes, saying the only agencies that still make the terminal do manual processes are Nigerian Ports Authority and Nigeria Customs Service.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved so far and we are also happy that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has identified that our terminal and shipping agency is the most advanced in terms of digitisation in the industry

“I am happy that he brought up this issue because before, there was no digitisation and this is what we have invested in the last ten years probably, and I am happy he is pushing the issue on the agenda.

Speaking further, Russo stated that insecurity is the bane of achieving 24- hour port operations in Nigeria.

He explained that insecurity makes clearing agents not to come for clearing at night even as he said that the insecurity must be nipped to be able to achieve round-the-clock port operations.

“The clearing agents and Customs officers are not feeling safe and we cannot blame them. The area where we operate can be volatile and no one wants to stay late in the night when they know that when they leave, they may be attacked by armed robbers or any other threat may arise.”

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Headlines

IMO tasks Mobereola to sustain NIMASA’s leadership role in regional maritime industry

—– hails his appointment as DG
The Eyewitness Reporter
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has lauded the leadership role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the maritime industry within the West African sub-region which it said has stabilized maritime administration in the region.
In his congratulatory letter to Dr. Dayo Mobereola, the new NIMASA DG, the Secretary General of IMO Arsenio Dominguez, observed with satisfaction the collaborative efforts of NIMASA that have brought relative peace to the troubled Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
He therefore charged Mobereola to sustain the tempo of activities that will keep the momentum going in the areas of safety, security and building of strong maritime institutions.
In a conveyance letter personally signed by him, the IMO Secretary-General recognized the strides of the Agency in building a robust maritime sector in Nigeria, adding that the IMO commends the significant effort, initiatives, and investment that Nigeria has made in strengthening its maritime institutions.

In the words of Dominguez, “The focus on strengthening maritime law enforcement and security architecture has been welcomed by seafarers and flag States.

“The Deep Blue project and the C4i Centre as well as maritime piracy laws under the SPOMO Act are just some of the many investments that have set a new gold standard in the region in maritime security capacity building”.

“IMO has long supported the regional role of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its Member States in strengthening maritime security and law enforcement.

” In this respect, we have been greatly encouraged with the continuation of this regional ownership with the formation and work of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness and De-confliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE) in 2021”.

He commended the Agency’s partnership with the various regional bodies and expressed the readiness of the IMO to work with Nigeria and other member states on many maritime issues with the aim of jointly tackling these issues.

“NIMASA’s partnership with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) and the collaboration with the shipping industry, navies and the Yaoundé architecture has been instrumental in suppressing the threat of piracy to merchant vessels and seafarers in line with UN Security Council resolution 2634 (2022) on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and IMO Assembly resolution A.1159 (32)”.

” I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on many of the maritime issues that we are jointly tackling and hope to welcome you in person at the IMO, he said.

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Headlines

Eastern shippers, freight forwarders on collision course with Shippers’ Council over increase in haulage rate

Akutah Pius Ukeyima, ES, NSC
The Eyewitness Reporter
Importers, Exporters and freight forwarders playing their trade in the South East region of the country have rejected the recent 200 percent hike in haulage rate by the Nigerian Shippers’Council.
They described the increase as “outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable.”
In a press conference called by the aggrieved shippers in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, they claimed that if the hike was not reversed, it would bring them on a collision course with the Shippers’ Council.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the aggrieved group, Joshua Ahuama, Zonal Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Customs Licenced Agents (ANLCA), claimed that the rate will not only lead to spiral inflation but also in contravention of the provisions of the NSC Act.
He disclosed that the group shall give the Shippers’Council a seven-day ultimatum to reverse to status quo or face withdrawal of their services at the Eastern ports.
He accused the council of not consulting concerned stakeholders before arriving at the decision, saying consultations are an integral part of the NSC Act.
 “Recently, the NSC approved a 200 percent increment in haulage rate for transport owners and drivers operating under the Maritime Union of Nigeria.
“To this end, importers and freight forwarders associations in the eastern zone have unanimously disputed the new rate because it is outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable to all stakeholders in the zone.
“We have, however, resolved to adopt all peaceful efforts. We started this move on March 14 by calling on the NSC to ensure proper stakeholder engagement and renegotiation.

” These measures are also expected to help all parties to reach a benchmark that would be in the interest of all stakeholders in the maritime value chain,” Ahuama noted.

 “We also urge the NSC to return to the status quo by suspending the implementation of the disputed rate, pending proper renegotiation covering the interest of all stakeholders.

“We are not on a selfish course. Our demands are in the interest of Nigerians because any slight increase in the haulage rate will reflect on the prices of goods in the open market.

“A businessman incorporates total logistic costs into the prices of goods.”

However, the group said they might be constrained to take drastic measures, including suspending all declarations of goods and payments of customs duties, which could negatively affect national revenue and economic output.

Some members of the import and export associations present at the meeting included the Nigeria Shippers Association, the Aba International Traders Association, the Ultimate Importers Association, the POP Importers Association, the Nnewi Importers Association, and the Onitsha Importers Association.

However, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has said that the new approved rate took into consideration the cost, moderation and other cargo transport issues.
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Customs

Performance of Apapa Customs scanning officers excites Comptroller Jaiyeoba

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Area Controller of Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Babajide Jaiyeoba has lauded the uncompromising attitude of the officers of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology Unit (NIITU) which he said has been invaluable to the overall success of the command.
Comptroller Jaiyeoba, who was on an unscheduled visit to the scanner site, reminded the officers of the importance of teamwork as a strong basis to sustain the gains of compliance and revenue collection recently recorded by the command.
He thanked Deputy Comptroller Salamatu Atuluku, the Officer in charge of the scanning site and encouraged the unit not to be deterred by complaints coming from persons who were made to pay accurate duties to the government after issuance of demand notices
According to him, no business person who is made to part with money will be happy with officers who refused to compromise the ethics of their job
” The main reason for me coming here is to appreciate you. I may not see you but I have seen your work and I won’t keep quiet about what I have seen about your work.
“You are doing very well. I just want to encourage you to work as a team. If you don’t work as a team, you give room for outsiders to come in and when they come in, they divide you and when they divide you,  achieving success will be very difficult
” Do your work without blemish. Once you keep your arm straight, you can stand before anybody. Your work as a customs officer is to ensure that you do the correct thing
” For those of you doing an intervention in the form of Demand Notice(DN), there is no body who part with money that will be happy with you.
“They will want to play intelligent by hiding somewhere. When you fetch them from their hiding place, they become your enemy. Whatever they write about anybody here will still come down to me and if anybody works well, the onus on me is to defend such a person.
“Just have it at the back of your mind that you owe yourself the duty of doing your work diligently whether anyone comes around as a friend or enemy.
“It is not enough for you to rest. The reward for hard work is more work. These demands require sacrifice so that you can maintain the status” he said.
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