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Amaechi, Bello-Koko make contradictory claims over Lekki port rail connectivity project.

Ameachi and Bello-Koko

—stakeholders say  statements conflicting,  confusing, worrisome

Opeyemi Adesogbon
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko and his principal, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, have both  been making conflicting statements on the true status of rail connectivity project of Lekki deep sea port.
About a week ago, the Minister, while on the tour of the multi- million dollars project, in company of the NPA MD and other dignitaries, had openly confessed that the Federal government lacks the financial capacity to embark on the rail connectivity of the port due to the paucity of funds.
“As a Minister of Transportation, I imagined a lot of things that I could have implemented’, he had said.
“I imagined that the Lagos-Calabar rail line would start from here, that was my imagination, but, the Lagos-Calabar rail project needs $11.1 billion funding but, there were no such funds at the moment for the project”, he lamented.
“If we get the 11.1billion as it is, we would probably have to divert the rail line, because Lagos-Calabar rail line actually goes into Lagos city, we can divert it to come to the seaport in Lekki,” he had  stated.
In another breath, the Managing Director of the NPA, who was incidentally on the inspection teamof the Minister a week ago, made another statement this Tuesday on the same rail connectivity status of the Lekki deep sea port, which contradicted the position of the Minister,
While speaking during the President tour of the project Tuesday with Amaechi, Bello- Koko said the port will be connected to rail line, a claim which was diametrically opposed to what his principal said a week ago.
According to him,  there was already a plan and the Minister of Transportation has given the Nigerian Railway Corporation a directive to carry out a survey on the possibility of linking the port to Lagos-Ibadan railway.
Stakeholders have however expressed concerns over what they described as “double speak” on both the two frontline government officials connected to the success of the project.
They alleged that the conflicting and contracdictory statements of both the Minister and the NPA MD have created doubts about the sincerity of government in linking the port to the rail line.
It could be recalled that Ameachi, after telling his host  of the inability of government to carry out the rail connectivity project, advised the promoters of the Lekki deep sea port to invest on the rail connectivity with the port.
”Another advice I could give is if they want to invest, they can invest in rail and then the government will either do tax reduction or do something to help them”, the Minister had said.
Meanwhile, Ameachi has  said the federal government will begin construction of Bonny Deep seaports after completion of the Lekki Deep Seaport.
He disclosed this Tuesday during President Muhammadu Buhari’s inspection visit of the Lekki Deep Seaport project in Lagos.
Amaechi, who further, disclosed that the reason the president came for the inspection was to publicize the project to Nigerians that, the government is building the first deep seaport in Nigeria.
“I am convinced that we would commence work in Bonny deep seaport before we leave Office. Also, Ibaka Deep Seaport has gotten government’s approval and we are fast tracking the approval of Badagry Deep Seaport, so they can also get their own approval.
“By the time we leave office, all those people who would have been granted approval are all private seaports. The only one that government will participate in its ownership is the Bonny seaport.
He, however, said that the deep seaports is almost ready as the cargo handling equipment will be ready in June while commercial operations will begin in September.
He said, “The reason for asking the president to come to Lekki Port, is to publicise the seaport so that people will know this Government is building the first deep seaport in Nigeria. The other ports in Nigeria are all river ports.
“The next reason for the president coming, is also to put the heat on them (promoters), you know that the port is almost ready, if not for the equipment, they can actually get this place ready before June, but they said the equipment are arriving by June,2022 and installation will take them till September and the it can be commissioned in September.”
“You see the miracle of bringing the president here, that is why it is important for a president to inspect projects, that will hasten the process of completion if there is money,” he said.
Speaking earlier, managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the Lekki Deep Seaport, which has been under construction for years, would be ready for test run in September, after which the first commercial vessel can be received at the port.
According to him, the port is located on about 90 hectare of land, supposed to have three container terminals and will be the first automated port in Nigeria that will enable speedy clearing of goods.
Bello-Koko, who noted that the commencement of Lekki Port will reduce the rate of traffic at Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, said there will be Ship-to-Shore (STS) cranes that will enable faster processing of goods.
“Some of the businesses we have loss to other neighbouring West African countries due to draught limitation will be regained.
There will be employment creation and increase revenue for government. It will create competition and compel other terminal operators to up their games to reduce cargo dwell time at their terminals. Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports have been operating far beyond their capacity which means that the excess cargoes that have been going there would be diverted to Lekki Port,” he explained.
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Headlines

From Pulpit to Grave: How Prince Abiodun Soyele, Editor-In-Chief of Nigeria Maritime 360, dies after church service.

The Eyewitness Reporter
It was a dramatic transition to glory for Prince Simon Abiodun Soyele, the Editor – in – Chief of the defunct Nigeria Maritime 360 magazine and online newspaper,  who finished an inspiring sermon on Sunday, May 19th, 2024, returned home and was transited to eternal life.
He was said to have returned from church that Sunday, after giving a sermon on the topic: Holy Spirit at Christ Apostolic Church, CAC, Agbara Olorun Ni Gbani at Egbeda and complained of mild chest pain before he was rushed to the hospital where he was confirmed dead.
The 68 old year old Owu Prince, hailed from Otileta Soyele royal family in Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
He was one of the candidates who contested for the Owu stool in 2023 but lost the exalted seat to the present occupier.
Prince Soyele was also the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Perceival Security and Safety Agencies Limited, a group of companies with head office in Abule Egba area of Lagos
Perceival Agencies Ltd was the publisher of the now-rested Nigeria Maritime 360 online newspaper.
While giving the sermon on Sunday on the topic: Holy Spirit, the deceased, who stood for about 30 minutes while delivering his divine massage, was said to have admonished members to be filled with the Holy Spirit because it is through the Holy Spirit that people could have an encounter with God and be blessed.
One of the members under his sermon on Sunday, who was devastated by the news Owu Prince disclosed that the late preacher, who looked hail and hearty during the Sunday service, told the congregation that the Holy Spirit gives power even as he was intermittently leading them in prayers of protection against death.
As at the time of writing this report, friends, family and sympathizers, who were still shell-shocked by the sudden demise of Prince Soyele, were still trooping into his Shasha home, where a condolence register had since been opened, to pay their last respect.
He was survived by his wife, four children and grandchildren.
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Customs

Adewale Adeniyi: Crusader for trade liberalisation, modern customs operations 

Funso Olojo 
Adewale Adeniyi, the 14th indigenous Comptroller-General of Customs and 31st since the establishment of Customs in 1891, is vigorously but steadily prosecuting a new order in the agency.
A new order in customs operations and administration, aided by the revolutionary Customs Act of 2023 and engendered through far-reaching reforms that are unprecedented in the service.
A reformation agenda that is meant to berth modern customs administration in the country.
No sooner was he appointed as Acting CGC by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in June 2023 than he hit the ground running to change the face of the Customs.
As if he was impatient to transform the operations of the agency and lend it to the aspirations of the trading public, Adeniyi triggered a flurry of activities that made the operations of customs buzzing with pulsating intensity.
Pronto, he announced the disbandment of the notorious CGC strike force used by the previous customs administrations to terrorise importers and their agents and which encumbered the clearing process.
He also went on to streamline the multiplicity of customs checkpoints hitherto used as points for extortions.
All these measures are meant to remove the encumbrances in the process of goods clearance and delivery system to facilitate trade.
The confirmation of his appointment as the substantive Customs boss in October 2023 only helped to galvanise him more to carry out his crusade for modern customs operations with higher velocity.
Eager to align Nigeria Customs with modern tools for customs operations and administration as enunciated by the World Customs Organization(WCO), Adeniyi activated the use of twin modern tools for trade facilitation which are Authorized Economic  Operator(AEO) and Advance Ruling concepts.
An Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) is a designation that is granted by customs authorities to economic operators established in the customs territory of the European Union, who are part of the international supply chain, involved in customs-related operations and who have met certain standards of security and compliance.
AEO status is granted by customs authorities once the economic operator meets certain prescribed requirements and criteria.
AEOs are considered, from a customs procedures perspective, to be low-risk and are granted benefits such as expedited clearance, reduced inspections, and easier access to simplified customs procedures.
The AEO programme is designed to enhance international supply chain security and facilitate legitimate trade.
Similarly, Advance Ruling is a concept wherein the Customs Administration provides a written decision upon request from the importer concerning valuation, tariff classification, or origin of goods before they are imported.
Advance Ruling has been proven as a valuable tool for trade facilitation, benefiting both Customs administration and traders.
It enhances predictability and certainty in Customs treatment for goods.
This procedure also promotes cooperation and confidence between Customs and traders, following the guidelines set out by the World Customs Organisation Safe Framework of Standards.
 WCO has over the years encouraged its member- nations to take advantage of these tools for facilitating modern and legitimate trade.
However previous customs administrations in Nigeria had consistently ignored the WCO advice, thus making goods clearance and delivery system cumbersome.
But desirous of changing the narrative in customs operations and administration, the NCS, at the prompting of CGC Adeniyi, gave vent to these modernisation tools which he hoped to deploy for enhanced performance.
So, in one fell swoop, the customs launched the use of AEO and Advance Ruling concepts in the first quarter of 2024, asking the trading public to take advantage of these modern tools for trade facilitation.
As a follow-up to this, the Customs management established a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the implementation of Advance Ruling.
The decision was reached during the 6th Management Meeting of the NCS held on August 23, 2023.
The basis for this SOP lies in Section 24 sub-sections 1-9 of the new NCS Act, 2023, and Article 3 of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
Similarly and during the same period, the Service launched a Time Release Study (TRS) to enhance the quick release of goods by determining the time actual time goods leave customs control.
The World Customs Organisation’s Time Release Study is a strategic and internationally recognised tool to measure the actual time required for the release and /or clearance of goods from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo with a view to finding bottlenecks in the trade flow process and taking necessary measures to improve.
Not done in his passionate efforts to enthrone efficiency in customs operations, Adeniyi said the service is committed to implementing the Lagos Continental Document produced through intensive stakeholders’ engagement and participation at the December CGC conference.
According to him, such measures as the resolution of multiple alerts, deduction of Customs’ multiple checkpoints and improvement of officers conduct are vigorously being pursued.
“The Lagos Continental Declaration document was a product of exhaustive consultations with stakeholders during.
” This document is presently undergoing implementation.
“Initial measures, including the resolution of multiple alerts, reduction of customs checkpoints, and improvement of officer conduct, have been actively undertaken.
” Additional components of the declaration will be pursued with thoroughness, and we anticipate completing due diligence by the end of the first quarter of this year”
All these measures are meant to give the trading public an efficient service delivery rooted in the use of modern tools for customs operations.
Added to these initiatives is the establishment of Customs laboratory.
”All these activities, centred on stakeholders,as previously committed, will soon be fully operational, illustrating our dedication concrete action” the CGC said.
He however gave a caveat that only compliant traders will enjoy enhanced Customs operations as his administration will not compromise strict adherence to Customs guidelines and regulations.
The icing on the cake of the CGC’s efforts to enthrone modern, efficient and customer-sensitive customs was his recent trip to China.
The China trip was strategic to his crusade for modernisation of customs operations and administration as it coincided with the 6th WCO Global AEO Conference, held between Wednesday, 8 to 10 May 2024.
The CGC leveraged his attendance to sell modernisation programme of NCS to the international world.
He also used the platform to integrate Nigeria’s fledging AEO programme into mainstream international practice.
Adeniyi also told his international audience the determination of his administration to nurture AEO programme from its present infancy stage in Nigeria to the full-fledged maturity stage that will be deployed to facilitate and expand the frontier of trade in the country.
While in China, Adeniyi led his management team to the Headquarters of Huawei, a famous information and communications technology company in Shenzhen, China, where he discussed opportunities embedded in the Nigeria Customs Service Trade Modernisation Project.
His discussion with the IT giant centered around his passion to modernise customs operations and administration.
 
Similarly, in China, NCS, led by Adeniyi, signed a strategic Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) to foster bilateral relationship for the enhancement of economic growth.
This MoU was instructive given the volume of trade between Nigeria and China. From statistics, Nigeria is a net importer of Chinese goods and services.
Therefore, the Customs MoU with China will not only strengthen bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, but it will also help Nigeria’s business community which has China as its business hub.
The MoU will also probably stem the tide of some of the fake products imported from China by unscrupulous Nigerian importers.
So far, Adeniyi has shown an uncommon passion for leading modern, automated and digitalized customs that is committed to the facilitation of trade and removing any identifiable encumbrances in the goods clearance and delivery system.
His commitment to enhancing trade facilitation through the deployment of modern customs tools is rooted in his belief, and rightly so, that trade facilitation will enhance revenue collection as espoused by the WCO.
Little wonder that during his less than a year of stewardship, the revenue performance of the customs has grown exponentially.
In the first quarter of 2024, the service recorded over N1.3 trillion in revenue,  representing an increase of 122.35% compared to the figure for last year.
During this period, the service witnessed astronomical growth in revenue collection with a significant increase in January 2024 with N390.824 billion earned, marking a 95.6% rise from January 2023’s N199.81 billion.
The revenue growth rates for February and March 2024 stood at 138.68% and 132.76% respectively when compared to the same months in 2023.
This also explains why the CGC was confident that the service would be able to meet the 2024 revenue target of 5 trillion with his highly motivated and determined team of men and officers of the service.
The 2024 target was higher than 2023 figures of N3.67 trillion from which the service collected N3.21 trillion.
However, to whom much is expected, much is given.
This reversed axiom signposts the officers’ welfare programme under CGC.
To enhance their performance, deserving men and officers have been rewarded with promotions and appointments to higher ranks, the quantum and rapidity of which was described as unprecedented in the history of the Service.
When Adeniyi assumed duties in 2023, he promised officers that they would be given their dues.
As promised, there were promotion exams in September 2023, two months after he was made an Acting CGC and a month before his appointment was confirmed.
The results for the September promotion exams came out in December, the same year, very unprecedented and a cleared departure from the previous practice of delayed promotions.
Twice in 2024, deserving officers have been given their deserved promotions and appointments.
The first one was in the first quarter of 2024 while the second one this year was the one announced this month, May 2024 where 13 officers in the management cadre were appointed to their next ranks.
In the latest appointment, the customs board confirmed the appointment of five Deputy Comptrollers- General and eight Assistant Comptrollers General of Customs, all of whom have since been decorated.
This was part of the motivational tools adopted by the CGC to galvanise his men and officers to key into his vision of modern Nigeria Customs Service.
With his transformational efforts, Adeniyi is set to bequeath a long-lasting legacy of efficient, modern and automated Nigeria Customs Service on the country and which effects will reverberate till the next generation
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Headlines

NIMASA may reassess deployment of N50b floating dock, as stakeholders flay delayed process.

Funso Olojo 
The continued delay of deployment of the multi-billion dollar floating dock of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) has continued to create ripples among concerned stakeholders who flayed the shoddy manner the industry’s regulatory agency has handled the prized asset.
The floating dock, acquired by NIMASA in 2018 at the whooping cost of N50 billion, has suffered serial misfortunes as it has since then remained idle, gulping taxpayers’ money in the process.
Previous efforts to relocate it to a permanent place for eventual deployment have been futile until the Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA) came to the rescue last year when it leased its disused Continental shipyard to berth the floating dock.
As a result of this breakthrough, NIMASA, under the leadership of its former, Dr Bashir Jamoh, engaged  Melsmore Marine Nigeria Limited, as a technical partner, for the deployment of the floating dock.
On February 13 th 2024, NIMASA raised the hope of stakeholders when Dr. Jamoh, the erstwhile DG, announced the movement of the dock to a jetty at the Standard Flour Mills in Apapa in preparation for its deployment to the scheduled operational base at the Continental Shipyard, Apapa.
The heavy 50-ton cylindrical spuds, which are for anchoring the dock, he had said, are being prepared for installation.
According to  Bashir Jamoh, “We are moving slowly but steadily to our destination.
“Today, we are lifting out the cylindrical studs to be prepared for piling at the Continental Shipyard where the Floating Dock is scheduled to commence operations.
“These spuds have to be firmly installed before we can tow the Floating Dock there.
“We assure stakeholders that very soon, Nigeria will save foreign earnings with the commencement of operations of our Dock.”
That was three months ago and nothing seemed to have happened since then.
The apparent silence from NIMASA over the fate of the floating dock three months after it docked at  Standard Flour Mill jetty, preparatory to its final movement to Continental shipyard, has fuelled concerns and cynicism among stakeholders.
Commentators are now asking where is the floating dock.
They expressed worry over what they claimed was a lack of transparency and accountability over the unending deployment process.
Otunba Sola Adewumi, President of the Nigerian Ship Owners Association (NISA), has called for accountability and transparency within NIMASA.
Dr. Chris Ebare, Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS), emphasized the need for specialized expertise in overseeing projects like the Modular Floating Dock.
He suggested a reevaluation of NIMASA’s approach, advocating for dedicated professionals to manage the asset independently of the agency’s leadership.
Former National President of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Engr. Matthew Alalade, expressed concerns about NIMASA’s decision-making process, urging greater consultation with stakeholders and consideration of concessioning the dock to established shipyards.
As a result of the criticism and cynicism among stakeholders, insider sources whispered to our reporter that the incumbent DG, Dr Dayo Mobereola, has been briefed about the controversy surrounding the deployment of the floating dock.
It was further gathered that the new helmsman might conduct a surgical review of the deployment process by engaging experts who will manage the giant floating dock after its eventual movement to the NPA’s Continental shipyard.
The planned review, sources continued, may not be unconnected with experts advice that NIMASA lacks the requisite expertise to manage the asset.
Presently, Melsmore Marine Nigeria Limited is the technical partner in charge of the movement of the floating dock to its final place at NPA’s Continental shipyard.
That is where their contract ends.
The Managing Director of Melsmore, Danny Fuchs, said his company is prepared to move the facility for deployment.
 “Our job is to move the modular floating dock from the present location to the waterfront of the Dolphine Jetty at Apapa.
“The Sea Lion, which occupied the leased area at the waterfront has vacated the jetty. We have a commercial understanding with NIMASA on how to execute this project,” he said.
Fuch said his company has submitted a feasibility study, taking note of the mooring system required to anchor the floating dock at the Dolphine Jetty.

“The mooring system supplied by the manufacturers of the modular floating dock is made up of two steel piles of 36 meters in length, 2 meters in diameter, and a weight of roughly 48 tonnes each.

“These massive piles need to be driven about 20 meters into the seabed.

“We will bring our expertise to bear in carrying out this project. We also hope to invite the manufacturers, Damen Shipyard to join forces in achieving this relocation project.

“We will work with Damen Shipyard to ensure the modular floating dock is seaworthy before the relocation. This is to commission the modular floating dock before relocation,” Fuch had declared.

Stakekeholders queried what has happened after the funfare which greeted the announcement of relocation.
Is Melsmore still in the process of relocation, three months after it commenced or the relocation have been completed and we are in another round of waiting before the floating dock is put to use”, an agitated operator quried.
The silence from NIMASA to address  these concerns do not also help matter , thus giving rise a resurgence of cynicism  among the doubting stakeholders.
It was the operational aspect of the floating dock after its movement to its resting place that worries stakeholders who believed  NIMASA couldn’t operate the prized asset.
“The challenges we face with the floating dock can largely be attributed to the previous leadership’s reluctance to heed expert advice, which unfortunately has resulted in the asset becoming nearly outdated before being fully operational.” the source declared
“Dr. Mobereola has been thoroughly briefed about the current status and complexities surrounding the floating dock.
“He will be actively engaging with technical experts and stakeholders to expedite its deployment and ensure it operates at full capacity as swiftly as possible,” the source, who crave for anonymity, declared.
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