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NPA, stakeholders decry operational delinquency of Customs, NIMASA at Onne port

Bello-Koko, NPA MD, during his interaction with stakeholders at Onne port

—Customs’ detainment of exited cargo causes disruption of seamless port operations

—-NIMASA’s refusal to participate in joint boarding of vessels elongates turn- around time of vessels

 

Eyewitness reporter

The operational misconduct of the Onne port command of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) came under the hammer of angry stakeholders Friday when they accused the two government agencies of deviant operational procedures which they said are harming seamless port operations at Onne Port.

The angry operators used the platform provided by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko when he convened a stakeholders’ meeting during his two-day working visit and tour of port infrastructure at the Rivers ports.

At the Onne stakeholders’ meeting, it was Bello- Koko himself who fired the first salvo when he accused the Customs command at the port of causing needless delays in goods clearance by its incessant detainment of exited cargo at the gate.

 

After his appreciation of the assistance and support of the Customs command and other operators to the NPA to discharge its operational obligations,  the NPA MD then drew the attention of what he called high cases of detainment of exited cargo by the Customs which he said negated the tenets of ease of doing business at the port and a mockery of international best practises.

‘However, I will like to also appeal to the Nigeria Customs command in Onne to help us reduce the increasing incidence of cases of detaining of containers that have already been cleared but are detained at the gate. This is not one of the requirements of the ease of doing business and this is not the international best practice.

“So we plead with the Customs to look into this incidence which doesn’t augur well for the rating of our ports.

However,  the response of the representative of the Customs Area Controller of Onne port further aggravated the seething anger of the stakeholders who felt the action of the Customs are not in tandem with the international best practices.

The Customs has rationalised this incidence on the need to enforce compliance and ensure non-compliant trade goods do not leave the port.

”The gate is seamless but seamless gate is for compliant traders. We cannot allow non-compliant goods to pass through the gate.

”People  who do not comply with cargo clearance guidelines and procedures and bring in what is not allowed cannot enjoy a seamless gate.”, the Onne Customs declared.

However, Bello-Koko could not understand why a container that was alsrady cleared and exited by a unit in the Customs will be stoped at the gate by another unit of the same Customs, a development he said showed lack of synergy among the units in the Customs.

“What we are asking for is a synergy among all the departments in Customs. These are containers that have already being cleared by a certain department in Customs but when they get to the gate, they are confisticated.

”What we are saying is that they should not even load the containers on the trucks if they have any issue with the Customs.

”I counted over 20 containers that are loaded onto the trucks because they have already been cleared only to be detained at the gate. They are blocking the road and creating nuisance.

”We would not encourage and allow any container carrying contraband to be cleared out of the port but what we are saying is the if one Customs unit has cleared it, it does not make sense for another unit to confiscate it.

”But I assure you that we shall sit with Customs and resolve this issue because we cannot allow this to continue”

He however advised the Customs authority to make use of their post clearance audit unit to deal with the issue of already exited containers but later found out to still have an infraction, rather than detaining them at the gate to cause obstruction at the port.

He lamented that this incidence is not restricted to Onne port alone but other Customs locations in the country.

Stakeholders said that detainning exited containers at the gate is an indictment on other units of Customs which have already released and exited the containers.

 

They hoped to resolve the issue internally at a meeting that will hold next week Tuesday.

Also, the stakeholders accused NIMASA of not participating in the Joint boarding of vessels with other relevant government agencies which they said was in contravection of the presidential order on ease of doing business aty the port.

However, the Head of Onne port NIMASA office rationised why the agency was not participating with other agencies on joint boarding of vessel.

He said that the duties of NIMASA are so technical  that the agency cannot afford to go on a joint board of vessel for as short as 30 minutes.

He averred that NIMASA carries out far too more important functions that have international implications on the rating of Nigeria in international community such as  maritime safety,marine environmental management and cabotage enforcement which he said has safety implications on the vessels and their crews.

He however disclosed that the agency is ready and willing to participate in the joint baording if the issue of inspection is on commercial activities which the shipping department of the agency will handle.

”NIMASA is the regulatory agency and we are bound by international conventions which we are signatory to and we have to ratify them.  So the ease of doing business does not allign with these responsibilities

”The only area where NIMASA can come in is the area of commercial activities which is handled by our shipping department.

”We have told the last port manager that the Port State Control inspectors cannot just go on board of vessel and leave within one or 30 minutes, it is not possible.

”Because it has to do with the safety of the vessels and its crews.There are so many technical issues including marine environmental issues .These are very critical issues which will even affect our rating in the International Maritime Organisation.

”We make it clear to them that if they want us to be on board for that joint inspection, our shipping department which is on the commercial aspect of it is always available.

”But we cannot be on joint inspection on the issue of maritime safety,marine environmental management and cabotage enforcement, that cannot work”, the NIMASA representative declared.

However, the NPA MD would not want any of that.

He said that no agency will be allowed to go on inspection of a vessel different from when others are going.

He emphasised the need to comply with the presidential directive on ease of doing business and promised to escalate the matter to the NIMASA headquarters in Lagos.

He however mandated his lieutenants to find out if this issue of NIMASA intransigency is limited to Onne port alone or it exists in other ports locations.

”The joint boarding is what was agreed by the federal government , if there is a lacuna, we need to solve it upstairs.

”But we would not allow any agency to go on an inspection of vessel different from when others are going. But we shall speak with your headquarters (NIMASA) on this. We shall also find out if we have the same problems with NIMASA at other ports locations or is it only at Onne port.

”We need to do that immediately and by next week Tuesday, I need you to come back to me with your findings so we can start writing letters.

”But we can’t allow this. This is the reason why everybody complains. The international conventions, whatever it is, we need to find a way to put everything together to ensure that you carry out your functions without fail because you also have obligations , first of all to the nation and then to the international convections.

”Also the ease of doing business, what it does is that it allows everybody to carry out its functions within a time frame together. All the agencies are supposed to carry out whatever functions they have together at the same time with other agencies in the joint boarding.

”We all do it at once and we all come out at once. That is what the Presidential initiative on the ease of doing business said.  We need to work together to make this place work and attract investments to the Nigerian ports”, Bello-Koko declared.

He however expressed the authority’s appreciation to all the stakeholders and other sister agencies of government for their support which he said have make Onne port a beautiful bride for shippers.

”We are delighted at the export potentials of Onne ports and its growing fortunes which could not have happened without the cooperation of the stakeholders. Onne port is the future given its boundless potentials, if they are properly harnessed.

”Let me, therefore, seize this opportunity to appreciate the partnership we have enjoyed from you as stakeholders and therefore called for a renewed synergy which is very critical for the optimization of operations of this port.

”I like to especially appreciate the Nigerian Customs Service in Onne for contributing and donating nine  40-footer containers given to the authority for use as security posts at the port and I can assure you of the judicious utilization of this gesture.

”I will also like to appreciate Brawal Shipping for the timely support they provide the authority by the deployment of mobile cranes and trucks in the discharge of our newly acquired marine crafts and the vital construction of palliative walls along the port access road.

”I will also like to thank the West African Container Terminal (WACT), Intels, Deep Off Shores and others who have in one way or the other assisted the authority in providing solutions to problems that have arisen.

”I want to thank the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police, the DSS and other government agencies who have worked with us when we have security and other challenges at the port”

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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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