By Kenneth Jukpor
Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has come under severe criticism from freight agents following their covert handling of the review of terminal operators concession agreement which appears to have been concluded without input from any stakeholder at the ports.
NPA reneged on earlier promises to hold stakeholders engagement after closer door meetings with the terminal operators, even as the Authority argues that the agreement between itself and terminals is a contractual one not to be disclosed to other parties.
In the latest development, a freight forwarding group, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics on Nigeria (APFFLON) described the review as an insult to all stakeholders operating at the nation’s ports.
The President of APFFLON, Mr. Frank Ogunojemite made this remark, even as he lamented that Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as port economic regulator should be privy to the review of the terminals agreement.
“We are talking of the port economic regulator which is Shippers’ Council. Why should they be excluded from such critical development. This is obviously a tussle for power and influence in the port sector but it is uncalled for. NPA should realize that it would subject the nation’s port sector to numerous challenges that would have been highlighted if stakeholders were given an opportunity to make input in the review,” he said.
According to him, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi should intervene to call NPA to order and ensure NSC, freight forwarders, shippers, Customs and other relevant stakeholders are allowed to make input on the review.
The freight forwarding veteran also called on the federal government to give Shippers’ Council the legal instrument to enable them enforce their duties and attain the much desired results as port economic regulator.
Also speaking on this issue, the National Secretary, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Babatunde Mukalia wondered why NPA would prefer to engage World Bank representatives in the review instead of indigenous operators.
“I wonder why NPA believes a team from World Bank would be more useful in the review of the terminal operators’ agreement rather than the stakehloders who interact and do business with these terminals. Freight Forwarders are better placed to make meaningful contributions and Shippers’ Council ought to be part of this review”, Mukalia said.
Recall that the Shippers Associations in the nation have also criticized the NPA for excluding Shippers’ Council in the review.
The President of the Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol has urged the federal government to withdraw the new documents signed by NPA with terminal operators.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello said he had written a protest to the Ministry of Transportation, adding that the last of the matter have not been heard as he is preparing to do a more stronger protest to the Federal Government.
Recall that NPA sought the technical support of World Bank who provided a technical advisory firm to assist the Authority in the concession agreement review.
According to the NPA Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, a World Bank team developed the framework, concluded their assignment and proffered suggestions that guided the process of the review.
“We have written to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the office of the AGF responded on the supplemental agreement for the revised concession agreement,” the NPA boss told MMS Plus.
Although the content of the reviewed document has not been divulged to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), terminal operators or other port stakeholders, according to the NPA boss, one of the integral parts of the review is that there is submission around compliance.
“If the government doesn’t adhere to the terms in the concession agreement there would be penalties for the government. Similarly, if the concessionaire also doesn’t meet its obligations there would be sanctions. There is objectivity and there are clear penalties for both sides. This is a key part of the concession agreement that we have been able to achieve”
“The concessionaires were very excited that World Bank team participated by providing technical support. It gave them confidence that the review wasn’t just in the interest of NPA as there was a third party that brought international best practices into the review”, she said.