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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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Lagos princess congratulates Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu

… tasks them on development of maritime economy
The eyewitness reporter
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olushola Sanwo-Olu have been tasked with paying attention to the maritime economy for its development for the overall benefit of Nigeria and her citizenry.
Giving the task with congratulatory messages, a Lagos princess, Princess Ronke Kosoko, noted that developing the maritime economy would instigate the economic development of the nation.
Princess Kosoko who is the CEO of Employment Clinic and Coordinator, Project One Million Jobs,
congratulated Asiwaju Tinubu and Governor Sanwo-Olu on their well-deserved victories at the polls.
She was confident that the Nigerian maritime economy will gain immensely from the Tinubu administration even as she enjoined the President-elect to focus on the industry.
Kosoko noted that skilled maritime personnel is aging and there is a need to transfer their wealth of experience to the younger generation who needs to be prepared to take over from the retiring generation.
She disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Transportation had approved the request for Project One Million Jobs to interface with agencies under the ministry for a seamless flow of talks and synergy that will positively impact and lead to a new frontier in the industry.
Ronke Kosoko unveiled her pet project, Maritime Conversion Programme (MCP), which she explained was designed to introduce Nigerian graduates to the maritime sector and improve career prospects.

Kosoko said that the MCP, which has gotten the backing of the government, would give support and connect not less than 5000 Nigerian graduates with the right employers in the industry who can engage them in non-technical aspects of shipping.

She noted that women will be given an adequate percentage under MCP, stating that the MCP is not creating jobs but providing a fertile ground for the transfer of knowledge from old Nigerians in the industry to young ones.

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Ekweremadu, wife may go to jail as London court finds them guilty of organ tafficking

Ike Ekweremadu; his wife, Beatrice;
The Eyewitness reporter with agency report

A former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; his wife Beatrice; and their doctor, Obinna Obeta have been found guilty of organ trafficking in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.

Ekweremadu, 60; his wife, Beatrice, 56; and Obeta, 51; were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.

They  allegedly criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found, according to UK Guardian.

Ekweremadu and his wife were charged in the United Kingdom after they allegedly lured a young man from Nigeria to harvest his organ for their ailing daughter, Sonia.
The lawmaker was last year arrested and had been in the custody of UK authorities after they received complaints from the young man about their alleged plans to harvest his organ.

The prosecutor, Hugh Davies KC, told the court on Thursday the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”.

He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.

The behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Davies told the jury.

He said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.

Davies added, “What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal.

“It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty.”

Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he was the victim of a scam.

Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.

Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy. Sonia did not give evidence.

The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass sentence at a later date.

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EFCC arraigns bank manager, two others for N55m fraud in Makurdi

Owolola Adebola

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC,) on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, arraigned one Kichime Gomwalk, a  branch manager of First City Monument Bank, (FCMB,) Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited before Justice P. S. Gang of the Plateau State High Court Jos, on a five-count charge bordering on stealing, cheating and obtaining by false pretense to the tune of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) fraud.

Kichime Gomwalk, while serving as branch Manager, FCMB Plc, Murtala Mohammed Way Jos, in Plateau State is alleged to have forged COCIN GRATUITY CERTIFICATE OF PLEDGE/LETTER OF SET-OFF dated 30th DECEMBER, 2019, purportedly co-signed by Mrs. Monica Bitrus Tang and Rev (Dr.) Amos Musa Mohzo, Directors, which he used to secure an overdraft facility from FCMB Plc to the tune of N55, 000.000.00 (Fifty-Five Million Naira) with COCIN Gratuity account N0. 100GOMWALK379 domiciled with FCMB Plc

Count one of the charges reads, “That you, Kichime Gomwalk, Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and you Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited, sometime in December 2019 at Jos, in Plateau State within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did conspire among yourselves to commit an unlawful act to with without Lawful authority engaged in the acquisition of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) overdraft credit facility from FCMB Plc and thereby committed an offense of conspiracy contrary to section 59 (1) of the Plateau State Penal Code Law, (20017) and punishable under Section 59 (2) of the same Law”.

Count two reads, “That you, Kichime Gomwalk, Michael Damkas Buayam of Tan Global Energy Limited, and you Abbas Andrew Dayilim of Castlegate International Limited, sometime in December 2019 in Plateau State within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court fraudulently used LETTER OF CONSENT to engage in the acquisition of N55,000.000.00 (Fifty Five Million Naira) overdraft credit facility from FCMB Plc knowing that at the time of acquisition of the said money, it was derived from the unlawful activity and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 18 (a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  (Establishment Act) 2004, and Punishable under section 18 (2) of the same Act”.

The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ when the charge was read to them.

 The prosecution counsel, Uwaise Yusuf urged the court to remand the defendants and fix a date for trial.

The judge adjourned the case till May 18, 2023, and ordered the remand of the defendants at the Jos Correctional Center pending the hearing of their bail applications.

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