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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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As Nigerdock recants operational breaches, FG may lift suspension on the facility

The Eyewitness reporter
The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to lift the suspension order on Nigerdock following its willingness to abide by the rules and its contributions to the growth of the National economy.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, stated this recently when he visited the firm in Lagos in the company of the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye and some Management Staff of the Ministry.
Addressing the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani and other officials of the company, the Minister pointed out that the reason why they were suspended was as a result of complaints from other Terminal Operators, saying Nigerdock had operating advantages over them.
“What led to your suspension was that I received complaints from Terminal Operators, saying that you are not on the same level with them. In the sense that they pay more to the government than you do. You’re likely to attract freight at a much lower cost to the detriment of businesses”,  the Minister disclosed.
He, therefore, urged them to liaise with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to work out all the operational licenses needed to enable them to operate and the latter will forward the same to the Minister of Transportation whose prerogative it is to give approvals.
Speaking further, the Minister said: “We will never do anything to undermine the things you are doing here in terms of generating wealth and jobs for Nigerians.  The only thing we are saying is that the law should be followed. We should not encourage lawlessness “.
Responding, the CEO, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani, said the firm has taken notable steps in this regard as they have been granted bonded permits by the Nigerian Customs and they are currently working with Nigerian Ports Authority to ensure all processes of getting the needed approvals are followed accordingly.
“We are seeking your support Honourable Minister and that is why we wrote a letter of appeal for your guidance and your support to see that we have followed all processes and procedures” Jarmakani stated.
Furthermore, Jarmakani informed the Minister that in the 30 years of its existence, Nigerdock has employed more Nigerians than its peers, assuring that the company will not undermine the country’s extant rules and regulations.
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APMT advocates road tax credit programme to attract investments to port industry.

L-R: Former President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria, Greg Ogbeifun; Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko; President Nigerian Maritime Law Association, Funke Agbor; Executive Director ENL Consortium, Mark Walsh and Chief Financial Officer of APM Terminals Apapa, Courage Obadagbonyi at the Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) 2022 in Lagos on Tuesday.
The Eyewitness reporter
The Chief Financial Officer of APM Terminals Nigeria, Courage Obadagbonyi has advised the Federal Government to replicate some of the tax laws operating in other sectors of the economy to the maritime industry in order to attract more investments.
According to him, tax programmes such as pioneer legislation, Infrastructure and Roads Tax Credit Program which companies like MTN and Dangote have used to successfully build hundreds of kilometres of roads and bridges across the country can also be replicated in the ports.
Speaking as a panelist during a session on ‘Financing Maritime Assets – Ports and Shipyards’ at the just concluded Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) 2022, Obadagbonyi said, “I am of the school of thought that funding of viable infrastructural projects is not an issue in terms of availability of cash.
“There is a lot of private equity and multilateral funding available if the projects are well positioned and investors have a line of sight to their payback.
“I think what we need to do is publicity and sell these projects to the right individuals with the right pockets. There are incentives that are available to investors in Nigeria.”
Speaking further, he said, “I think with more publicity and engagement with private stakeholders, a lot of some of these challenges that are bedeviling us with investing in port infrastructure can be fixed.
“For instance, we have great tax laws that incentivize investment in this country.
“Things like pioneer legislation, Infrastructure and Roads Tax Credit Program which companies like MTN and Dangote have used to successfully build hundreds of kilometres of roads and bridges across the country can also be replicated in the ports.
” We also have great capital allowance provisions that encourage investors.”
He advised the Federal Government to embark on a massive awareness campaign to further attract private capital to the nation’s seaports because, according to him, based on the latest data published by the Debt Management Office, the country’s debt profile currently stands at N42 trillion, which is about four times the country’s total revenue budget per annum.
This, he said, makes the cost of borrowing more expensive.
Obadagbonyi said Nigeria had to find creative ways to unleash private sector participation in port rehabilitation instead of depending on government funding through borrowing.
NIMS 2022 was declared open on Monday by the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo.
“Sustainable financing models are important to build critical maritime assets such as shipyards and ports across the country,” Sambo had said while declaring the summit open.
The Minister said Nigeria remained committed to the sustainability of the blue economy.
Also speaking during the opening ceremony, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim said, “I am aware of Nigeria’s significance to the maritime sector of West and Central Africa.
” Carbonisation is the greatest challenge of our time, which IMO is working to address. The upgrading strategies shall be concluded in July 2023.
“By next year, we shall adopt the long-time strategy. However, prior to that time, we shall continue to support member countries.”
He lauded Nigeria’s role in the suppression of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea but cautioned that stakeholders must continue to remain vigilant as continuous capacity building is key to success in this regard.
APM Terminals Apapa, the largest container terminal operator in Nigeria, has invested more than $438 million at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa.
The amount was invested in developing infrastructure, acquiring equipment and improving processes at the terminal.
The terminal has also been at the forefront of digitisation of port operations in Nigeria in line with its commitment to introducing new innovations to help both shipping lines and landside customers achieve improved supply chain efficiency and flexibility in a cost-effective manner.
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NIMASA unveils N17.4 billion new highrise headquarters on Victoria Island


The Eyewitness reporter
The Director- General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Bashir Jamoh and his management team stood tall Tuesday when the tall, magnificent highrise building that will serve as the agency’s headquarters, was unveiled and commissioned.
Sharing in the moment of glory of the epoch-making event was the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, who had the rare privilege of commissioning the edifice, and the Minister of Transportation Engr Muazu Sambo together with his permanent secretary, Dr. Magdalene Ajani.
Apparently awed by the N17 billion tall and ultra-modern building, Mr. Lim said that more important is human competency and capability, while leadership is the most paramount.
He however lauded the initiators of the befitting project while expressing confidence in the leadership of the transport sector of Nigeria.
 He also extolled the dynamic role of the Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo and the heads of the various parastatals under the supervision of the Transportation Ministry.
“An important element is human competency and capability, with leadership being the most paramount to consider, which I have seen exhibited by the Minister.
“He is an extraordinary and rare leader. I am very confident to look forward to more prosperous opportunities and development of maritime activities of Nigeria”, he said.

The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo expressed gratitude to the IMO Secretary-General for making out time to visit Nigeria and also having a first-hand opinion on the developmental strides in Nigeria’s maritime sector.

 He stated that Nigeria will strive to ensure Nigerian maritime activities are in line with best practices, while also embracing new technologies in the frontier of global maritime discourse.

Also speaking at the event, the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu commended the Dr. Bashir Jamoh-led Management of NIMASA.

She noted that NIMASA should aim higher as there is room for improvement.

The NIMASA Director General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh  again thanked the IMO Secretary-General for his visit to Nigeria

 “Your name will remain in gold as long as Nigeria’s Maritime Administration is concerned”.

Jamoh further intimated him that NIMASA has embarked on various projects in the year, 2022, all with the aim of ensuring a robust and conducive maritime environment is attained in Nigeria.

This, he said, has been made possible with the support of stakeholders across the board.

In July 2021, the Federal Executive Council approved N17.4 billion to purchase the new highrise building that is located on Victoria Island.

The magnificent edifice is a 16- storey High rise building christened Kanti Tower which sits atop 6600sq metres of land and it is said to consist of the latest technology fittings, a helipad and a parking bay for over 100 cars.
 It was developed through a joint venture between the Lagos State Development Property Company – LSDPC and Senkay Nigeria Limited.
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