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The thriving business of corruption at Nigerian ports

Uchechi Dibiaezue 

As evidenced by the Nigerian port systems, corruption often arises from inefficient systems.

Inter-agency coordination and process modernization can curb corruption to a significant extent.

There are key indications that poor policy directives and procedures impede the ease of doing business at ports, thereby making it difficult to combat corruption.

As a Nigeria-based compliance professional, I know this firsthand – and the example of Nigerian ports can inform others monitoring global supply chains.
 Corruption often occurs alongside a failure to bring transparency to the system.
This failure has become a notorious gateway that facilitates the giving and taking of bribes by public officials and other individuals working within the Nigerian ports.
Corruption is a self-serving cash cow for those raking in millions of naira from port operations.

But new strategies and methods to prevent corruption, including introducing technology into the mix, are expected to make a huge difference in reducing corruption and increasing efficiency at Nigeria‘s busiest ports.

A Robust Corruption Strategy

Many inefficiencies exist in service delivery within the ports that offer opportunities for public officers to engage in illegitimate transactions for monetary gain.
 For example, public officials of government agencies working and operating within the ports prefer to physically examine cargo instead of using scanners.
To circumvent this inefficient approach, bribes are offered to public officers enforcing these tedious processes.

Another conduit for corruption is the mode of cargo inspection.

 Public officials are mandated to routinely board vessels that berth at the ports. However, for years, multiple agencies have carried out inspections in an unplanned manner.
 Each agency determines when to carry out an inspection process rather than collaborate with other agencies to undertake one inspection process.
 So, a ship undergoes several inspection checks by different agencies inspecting cargo at their own time and pace. This inefficient procedure causes inordinate delays.
Many ship captains prefer to offer bribes or other forms of gifts to public officials to circumvent this cumbersome and inefficient process.

These examples illustrate how poor policy directives create lucrative avenues for the giving and taking of bribes.

 One may, therefore, suggest that a new policy directive will bolster better service delivery, as well as improve efforts to tackle corruption in the ports.
A 2014 corruption risk assessment at the Nigerian ports of Onne, Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Apapa and Tin Can, it was discovered that a lack of awareness of operating procedures by users (agents, exporters, importers) was a driving force in corruption.

Visitors to the ports do not always know the official timelines for services offered by port operators, so it is often impossible to know the actual waiting time before receiving the service, or even the relevant documents to be submitted to obtain a service.

Most port users rely heavily on public officials, oftentimes unscrupulous ones, to transact business within the ports. The result is that various countries, companies and state authorities become active participants in acts of bribery.

A Purposeful Rein on Corruption

In a bid to bridge the knowledge gap, a single process card, the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM), was funded and developed by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
This manual was launched for use on December 9, 2020, with the Nigerian Shippers Council as the lead implementation agency.
The manual describes the services offered by port operators so that anyone visiting the ports can follow effortlessly.

It outlines and guides users by highlighting all required documentation, procedural steps, payments, timelines and the responsible agencies for each process in the port.

This manual boosts public awareness and understanding of port procedures, thereby encouraging efficiency and accountability.
 It should also reduce incidents of bribery, as port users know the various agencies charge of specific services, eliminating the middlemen in the system.

Key benefits of the NPPM include:

1. It facilitates a mechanized approach in conducting business at the ports in line with global best practices rather than the inefficient analog procedures in use.
Key stakeholders in the ports, including the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), reached an agreement to implement measures that will minimize direct human contact onboard vessels calling at the Nigerian ports in line with the provisions of the NPPM.

2. It ensures coordination and cooperation between government agencies at the ports.

 Before the launch of the NPPM, foreign ships and the international community calling at the ports complained of delays and huge costs incurred because of separate boarding and inspection by ports authorities.
To address the complaints and utilize the NPPM effectively, the NSC, NPA, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Port Health and the Department of State Security Service (DSS) all agreed to collaborate and jointly inspect vessels calling on Nigeria.

3. The manual supports the introduction of new technology at the ports to curb illegal activities and rid the ports of corruption, including an electronic call-up system to reduce traffic congestion at the ports.

Especially in ports and off-dock terminals with heavy vehicular and human traffic, Apapa and Tin Can, the two busiest ports in Nigeria, will be a big improvement.

For years, a manual truck scheduling arrangement has been in use. However, in February 2021, the NPA came up with an electronic truck call-up system to deal with the recurrent traffic gridlock responsible for delays along the access roads leading to these ports.

The truck call-up system, also known as Eto, which means “to schedule” in the Yoruba language, is now used for access to the port for cargo trucks and by shipping companies to transfer empty containers.

It is important to note that the Nigerian Port Process Manual will help reduce corruption as it pushes for greater cooperation and collaboration among the various government agencies working in the country’s ports.

These collaborative efforts can drive down the rates of giving and taking bribes significantly with the integration of technology alongside other policy directives to improve service delivery. It will attract more business to the ports as compliance boosts efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Uchechi Dibiaezue is a member of the A&E Law Partnership Compliance, Ethics and Integrity Support practice as well as the Regulatory and Institutional reform team. She is an attorney with over 18 years of legal practice experience.

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MARAN convokes national discourse on resurgence of maritime crimes in Gulf of Guinea

The Eyewitness Reporter
Worried by the recent resurgence of piracy incidents and security threats in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in the first half of 2023, the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) is dedicating the maiden edition of the MARAN Annual Lecture (MAMAL) 2023 to Maritime Security.
Mr Godfrey Bivbere, President MARAN, said this in a statement in Lagos.
According to Bivbere, the inaugural edition of MAMAL 2023 is themed: “Maritime Security: Emerging Threats and Actionable Steps” .
“The theme is targeted at proffering long-term, sustainable solutions that will effectively address maritime crimes in the GoG region and protect seafaring and fishing communities in the affected countries,” he said.
Recall that the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report of July 2023 confirmed that the GoG witnessed a surge in maritime incidents in 2023, with five incidents in the first quarter and nine in the second quarter.
Out of these, 12 were classified as armed robberies and two as piracy, predominantly targeting anchored vessels in the region.
According to the IMB report, in these incidences, 14 crew were kidnapped, of which 8 crew members were taken from vessels anchored within the GoG territorial waters.
Additionally, in two separate hijackings, 31 crew members were held hostage, communication and navigation equipment were destroyed, and partial cargoes were stolen. One of these incidents also involved the abduction of 6 crew members.
He pointed out that MARAN, as the foremost umbrella body of journalists covering the Nigerian maritime sector, had identified and commended the collaborative initiatives and efforts of the Nigerian Navy.
The MARAN president noted that the initiative which was in partnership with other security agencies, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), other regional navies and maritime administrations led to a significant reduction in piracy incidents on Nigerian waters and the GoG throughout 2022.
He said that to a large extent, the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum for the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (GOG-MCF/SHADE) had enabled stakeholders within and outside the region to connect and discuss frequently how best to tackle piracy in the area and this yielded verifiable results.
Bivbere pointed out that the effective deployment of Naval assets, warships, Falcon Eye, the Deep Blue Project assets, establishment of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime-related Offences Act 2019, among others are worthwhile accomplishments attributable to the Nigerian Navy in recent years.
He, however, said there was a need for consolidated efforts that would be explored at the summit.
“With the recent decision of China to join in the international anti-piracy effort in the Gulf of Guinea, MAMAL 2023 will also dissect the continuous presence of foreign navy frigates in the region for an evaluation of the positive impact and perceived threats.
“Following the recent extension of the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from 200 Nautical Miles to 350 Nautical Miles, MAMAL 2023 will be highlighting the capability of the Nigerian Navy and other agencies in providing adequate security for the zone,” he said.
The MARAN president said that the MAMAL 2023 had been scheduled to hold on the 24th of October 2023.
The Nigerian Navy, regional navies and other stakeholders in the maritime sector including Shipowners, NIMASA, Shipping Lines, Terminal Operators, Nigerian Shippers Council, and major seafarers organisations are all expected to attend this epoch-making event.
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Adeniyi, CGC, makes refresher course mandatory for officers ,matches them out on 5- kilometer fitness exercise in Abuja

Wale Adeniyi, Ag, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Acting Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, has continued to motivate the men and officers of the service with his innovative programmes that are meant to enhance their efficiency and professionalism.
The latest initiative of the CGC, whose ascendancy to the top cadre of the Customs has continued to energize the service, was the introduction of programmes aimed at enhancing the mental and physical alertness of officers.
Consequently, Adeniyi has made refresher course for officers from the Superintendent cadre mandatory every five years.
He made this known during the passing out parade of Course 1/2023 at the Nigeria Customs Service Training College in Ikeja, Lagos on Friday, September 22nd, 2023.
Speaking to the 81 Cadets who have successfully completed their training and passed out of the Training College after six months of rigorous preparation, Adeniyi charged them to uphold the highest level of integrity and professionalism while discharging their lawful duties.
He congratulated the cadets on their successful completion of training and welcomed them into the service.
He expressed hope for a better service, equipped them with knowledge and skills, and urged them to make a meaningful difference in the nation.
He emphasized the importance of discipline, good conduct, and the highest level of integrity in their actions, reminding them that they represent excellence and the Nigeria Customs Service.
While the CGC, on Friday, September 22nd, 2023, in Lagos announced the mandatory refresher course for officers to enhance their mental alertness, he however led the officers on a fitness exercise the following day, Saturday, September 23rd, 2023, in Abuja to enhance their physical alertness.
At the 5- 5-kilometre marathon walk tagged “Work-Life Balance” the CGC posited that the exercise was aimed at keeping officers physically and mentally fit to enable them to face their constitutional duties effectively.
The fitness exercise commenced in the early hours of Saturday, 23 September 2023, from Customs Headquarters Wuse Zone 3 to the newly built Customs House in Maitama Area, all in Abuja — the Federal Capital Territory.
The exercise was seen as one of the Ag. CGC’s strategic approach to enhance the agility of the officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service.
It involved officers and men of the Service, including members of the Management Team, and Representatives of Military and Paramilitary Institutions.
Adeniyi said that the physical exercise attests to the Customs’ commitment to consolidate on critical areas of national development, knotting ties with stakeholders and embracing technological innovations.
“As officers and men, we come under lots of pressure to fulfill various obligations, and most of the time, these pressures come from our workplaces — emanating from the nature of our tasks, which are usually physically and mentally demanding; thus, the exercise will help reduce such pressure for us and enhance our productivity at work,” he said.
According to him, the Nigeria Customs Service had, over the past 15 years, established 32 clinics and medical centres all over the country to take care of the officers’ health, adding that “as we embark on this journey, it is vital to understand the essence of this initiative and why we need to flag it off.”
He motivated them to continue to engage themselves in extra exercises such as jogging, mountain hiking, dancing and all other curricular activities while also urging them to embrace the work-life balance as it will continue to improve their health and also contribute to enhancing the efficiency of the Service.
The Customs Chief also mentioned that the exercise will facilitate the unity and love between Customs officers across the federation, saying that “participating in this brisk walking exercise fosters friendship and unity and sense of shared purpose amongst us.”
The brisk walking exercise was attended by Deputy Comptroller-Generals of Customs in charge of different Units, Assistant Comptroller-Generals, and all Comptrollers down to Assistant of Customs III. Other participants who graced the ‘Walk-Life Balance’ exercise were from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Nigerian Correctional Center, Immigration Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and Nigeria Army.
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NIMASA set to open Lokoja office to harness waterways resources

The Eyewitness Reporter

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has disclosed that the Agency is set to reopen the Lokoja office, as part of efforts towards harnessing the Blue Economy, enhancing collaboration, while also promoting Research and Development.

The DG, who made this known when he played host to the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (KADSEMA), Mal. Usman Hayatu Mazadu at the head office of the Agency in Lagos, noted that investment in research would play a major role in ensuring the harnessing of Nigeria’s maritime potentials.

“The key cardinal principle of opening the NIMASA Lokoja office is to improve on Research and Development.

“Our goal is to establish the nexus in maximizing the use of available resources in the nation’s inland waterways and the deep blue waters within 28 states, spanning over 4000 kilometers of inland waters and over 200 nautical miles of ocean resources; with the coming of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

He said, “Now, the Blue Economy has come to stay and very soon you will see the impact of what we have; in terms of the gains and benefits to grow our Gross Domestic Product while improving the well-being of our own Economy”.

Earlier in his remarks, Mallam Usman of KADSEMA lauded the Agency for the feat achieved so far, which cuts across the entire Nigeria.

While seeking cooperation with the Agency in possible areas, he expressed the readiness of KADSEMA to support the Agency in areas that may be deemed possible.

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