By Kenneth Jukpor
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, has appealed to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies to embrace the joint vessel inspection initiative as part of efforts to reduce delays associated with cargo evacuation from ports.
Bello, who was speaking during a virtual press briefing organised by the Council in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) yesterday, stressed that if officials work within the allotted time for joint inspection, there would be enormous gains for the sector.
According to him, it will not only reduce cases of extortion but make the nation’s ports align with global best practices and reduce delays associated with cargo clearance.
His words: “I want to appeal to Customs and other agencies to allow this joint inspection to work. 7-day cargo dwell time can be achieved if we have joint boarding of vessels and joint inspection of cargo. 21 days cargo dwell time is because there is no joint examination. What kind of country or port do we want if agencies responsible for joint examination don’t report on time? Examination of cargo should be done at a given time and people should abide by the SOP as far as clearance of cargo is concerned.”
The NSC boss further said that the Council will name and shame government officials demanding bribes and frustrating the joint boarding of vessels at the nation’s seaport.
While noting that there has been an appreciable level of compliance by agencies inspecting ships since the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM), he lamented that others are yet to fully comply with the new standard operating procedures for inspecting vessels.
He, however, revealed that the Council has recovered $20, 000 bribe proceeds from officials who board and inspect vessels whenever they call at Nigerian ports.
Bello said situations where vessels call at the port and have to wait for almost three hours before they are boarded is not acceptable as it impacts negatively on cargo dwell time and ultimately increases cost of doing business at the port.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the ICPC, Mrs. Azuka Ogugua, who represented the Chairman of the Commission, assured that ICPC will enforce sanctions on any agency or official who fails to comply with the SOP for joint boarding of vessels.
According to her, a task team has been set up by the Commission that will enforce sanctions as provided for by the NSC.
Noting that part of its mandate is to tackle corruption, Ogugua said the Commission will take every step to ensure people do not give the nation’s port a bad reputation.
“Part of our mandate as a law enforcement agency is to tackle corruption. We have a standing task team at the Lagos port that will enforce action provided by the NSC,” she said.
At the event, the Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) George Moghalu and the representative of the Nigeria Customs Service pledged to support the Council”s drive towards implementation of the NPPM and play their respective roles to make the nation’s port more efficient.
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