By Kenneth Jukpor
Chief Cajetan Agu is the Deputy Director, Enforcement, Monitoring and Compliance at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC). He was recently inducted as a fellow of the African Centre for Supply Chain (ACSC) at the 7th ACSC Fellowship Investiture and Induction ceremony. Shortly after, he granted an interview with MMS Plus where he explained the role of enlightenment in the bid to enhance trade facilitation in the nation’s port sector.
How do you feel to have bagged this honourary fellowship award from the African Centre for Supply Chain (ACSC)?
I feel elated, honoured and gladdened to be singled out for this recognition out of the several notable players in the maritime industry. I see this as evidence that I am contributing to the development of the logistics sector.
How long have you related with ACSC and what are the objectives of the body?
Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has been working with the Centre for several years and I have attended two Compliance Summits organized by the Centre. The summits focused on the level of compliance by Nigeria to some of the global key performance indicators such as; the duel time of cargoes at Nigerian ports, customs processes and procedures to know if the country was complying by the World Customs Organization (WCO) dictates on trade facilitation. There is also the issue of compliance in the level of equipments used at the terminals. The right equipments ensure that cargoes are easily transferred to the stacking areas and facilitate the operations. There is also the aspect of infrastructure; is Nigeria in compliance in terms of the state of the roads, railways and the the issue of connectivity. These factors are what affect the country’s rating in the global logistics index. Sometime ago Nigeria was on the 75th position but three years ago the nation ranked 90th and today we are 110th. This explains that we haven’t performed well logistically and the reason is because of the deficit of logistics infrastructure like good roads, rail connections and utilization of inland waterways for cargo evacuation.
ACSC exists to address these logistics challenges and to ensure that the movement of cargoes and services out of the country is seamless. The roads leading to the major borders in the country especially the Seme border axis, is in deplorable condition and the nation conducts trade through the borders. There is need for generally infrastructural upgrade to address these challenges.
One of the issues highlighted in the summit was the need for robust stakeholder’s engagement especially for the lower officers whose actions militate or facilitate trade at the ports. How can NSC key into this?
Enlightening stakeholders is very important and it is something that Shippers’ Council prioritizes. Recall that when the Council became the nation’s port economic regulator, it organized a sub-regional conference on trade facilitation. We have also organized seminars on connectivity and reduction of transport costs. However, I want to reemphasize that stakeholders engagement is very important and the Council has been central to this, conducting several enlightenment programmes across the country.
How I think it is high time other government agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) joins us to do more enlightenment. There is a need to engage and enlighten all categories of stakeholders especially the policy makers and those saddled with the responsibility of implementation. They have to understand the actual meaning of trade facilitation. Trade facilitation is about improving global efficiency. Countries must compete and the dictum now is that a nation either competes to survive or it perishes as a result of the high standards and services of other nations competing.
It is a good initiative to seek to protect the infant industries but the world is now a global village. The trend and development in one country quickly affects what is happening in other countries. Togo is one of the smallest countries in West Africa but it has established a viable deep seaport that could receive a container vessel carrying up to 13,000 containers. Lome is now the hub for the sub-region and these are some of the issues that require enlightenment on the part of our policy makers. Lome is competing and they are surviving. They have taken the traffic because of the draft of the deep seaport as well as the efficiency of their services. Cargoes coming to Nigeria would go to Lome because of this singular development and they would later be transshipped to Nigeria. Vessels that come to Nigeria may carry around 2,000 to 3,000 containers but the one going to Lome can carry 13,000 containers.
During the panel discussion, you mentioned a port sector audit carried out by the Council when it became the port economic regulator. Can you explain what the findings revealed?
The port audit was for the Council’s internal use to guide the organization. As a regulator it was important that the Council had the accurate information about the happenings in the industry. It was a step to guide the Council in carrying out its regulatory activities.
However, the other survey we did which we intended to implement was the study of the port access roads and GAP analysis. The Council commissioned that study and the purpose was to identify factors responsible for the gridlock. Within that ring we have two international seaports that is Apapa and Tin Can Island ports. At the time the study was carried out there were about 27 tankfarms as well as other logistics facilities like offdock terminals within the ring.
The study revealed that on a daily basis, within this ring there are between 5,000 to 7,000 trucks and tankers but the capacity of all the logistics facilities including the two seaports isn’t up to 2,500 on a daily basis. The question is – what is the excess of 2,500 to 4,000 trucks and tankers doing on the roads? This is where the problem started. People don’t have businesses at the ports, yet they take their trucks and tankers to the ports in search of businesses. They are responsible for the gridlock.
The study recommended the implementation of an intelligent traffic management system that would enable electronic call-up systems. There is need to install electronic gates at all the port entry and exit points and consign all the trucks and tankers to a particular truck park so that they could be called up when needed at the tank farm or seaports and those without businesses should remain at the truck parks. This is what is obtainable in other climes and the good news is that the current administration has bought into this initiative and there are plans to make it a reality.