Some members of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), last week, defied the directive of the association to boycott a conference on review of port concession agreement organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in collaboration with International Maritime Exhibitions and Conference Limited (IMEC).
Those who defied the call for boycott include, Mrs. Lizzy Ovbude, Managing Director of Ports and Terminal Operators Nigeria Limited (PTOL); Mr. Tunde Keshinro, General Manager, Ports and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML); Mr. Henry Osunbor, representing Julius Berger Services Nigeria; Chief Ladi Jadesimi, Chairman, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base(LADOL).
STOAN, in a release said it would not participate in the conference because of the subsisting court case against the NSC pending before the court of Appeal.
The one-day conference which attracted the mainstream stakeholders in the maritime industry, had its focus on “Rights and obligations of the Lessor and Lessee, Role of the Economic Regulator, Effect of persistent gridlock on port access roads on the concession exercise”.
Speaking at the event, Mrs. Ovbude in her goodwill message, said that port concessionaires are major revenue contributors to economic development and growth of the country, saying, “a more robust, effective and efficient management of ports in the present spirit of private-public partnership as envisioned in the concession agreement will invariably generate more revenue for the government, reduce unemployment, engender and promote foreign investment in the maritime industry, increase corporate social responsibility as well as promote peace and security within the maritime industry”.
According to her, “the ultimate question is why haven’t the port concessionaires performed optimally? These are the issues that should agitate the minds of participants. We need to frankly identify our problems, proffer workable and realistic solutions to assist government and ourselves in our collective efforts to build this nation. We may not go very far for answers, our experience in the field should be the best compass to direct us to the destination”.
He listed monopoly as one of the factors that could undermine the success of port concession, nothing that the ongoing campaign “against the monopoly of port operations by a particular terminal operator in Nigeria, is not a fight for PTOL alone but a just fight for the survival of all other operators and shipping companies, agents, freight forwarders, and consignees that have a right by international standards to choose their port of discharge.
“A situation where pipes meant for Nigeria are discharged at neighbouring countries’ ports and transported into Nigeria certainly spells a bad omen for the industry. We need to put all hands on deck to avert the enthronement of monopoly less we later regret. We need to put all hands on deck to avert the enthronement of private monopoly having dispensed with public monopoly”, she added.
The speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara who was the guest of honour, however applauded the infrastructural development in the port brought about by the port concession.
Represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Pally Iriase, Dogara said the port concession of 2006 has brought some benefits to the economy.
Dogara charged the port community and stakeholders to do more especially in areas of automation of cargo clearance, enhancement of cargo examination processes as well rehabilitation of the port access roads.
The Speaker said the present administration was desirous of turning the fortunes of the country around, noting that the maritime sector is key in achieving this.
Also speaking, Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Benjamin Dikki affirmed that the positive impact of port concession could not be overemphasized. “Anybody who has seen the port in 2006 and goes round the port today will know that the concessionaires have made investment that ordinarily, a government cannot bring out from his budgetary allocations to support,” he said.
Dikki noted that the identified challenges in the concession agreement was as a result of the delay in the passage of the Ports and Harbours bill.
“The concessionaires have made investments but there are issues which arose principally because ab initio, it was conceptualized that a regulator will be in place before the concessions were done but there are challenges in getting the bill ready and even when it was ready, it has remained unlegislated up till date,” he said.
While commending the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Dikki called on stakeholders to join hands and ensure that the Ports and Harbours bill is expeditiously passed in order to have a permanent port regulator who will ensure that the full benefits of the port concession are achieved.
He said it is government’s desire that Nigerian ports become more competitive so that they will be the preferred destination for shippers.
On his part, representative of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT), Director, Maritime Services, Sanni Umar Danlagashi also commended the concessionaires for their investment in the port.
In his welcome address, Executive Secretary/CEO of NSC, Hassan Bello said while there is need for the concession agreement to be reviewed periodically, it will however be done with all the parties represented.“It is the parties who will look at the problems, their experiences and suggest ways of reviewing,” he said.
Other dignitaries at the conference include former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief Adebayo Sarumi who moderated the conference proceedings; Founding President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo; and Controller, Apapa Area Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Charles Edike, among others.