Why Nigerian ports are yet to operate full automation, by Webb Fontaine

Why Nigerian ports are yet to operate full automation, by Webb Fontaine
Ope Babalola, Managing Director, Webb Fontaine Nigeria


Managing Director of Webb Fontaine Nigeria Limited, Ope Babalola, has said having maritime operations and regulators under different ministries with various objectives and goals is hindering the automation roadmap of the industry.

Babalola, who spoke to journalists on the sidelines of the 2022 Annual Conference and Awards of the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) in Lagos, said there are three different ministries with different objectives and goals in the maritime industry.

According to him, the ports are under the Ministry of Transportation, Customs is under the Ministry of Finance, while trade is under the Ministry of Industry and Trade with each of their focus a little bit different.

“They also usually have different areas of interest and varying opinions on the best way to advance Nigeria’s trade and commerce. Transportation Ministry’s focus might be a little bit different from Finance Ministry; while the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s point of view is also a bit different. There is a very important need to put all of them together so that there is a single focus and single drive towards a one-stop shop for proper automation,” he stated.

He said Webb Fontaine runs a Port Community System in Benin Republic and several other countries that integrate with Customs and other port operators, which is automated and functional.

He said those countries are enjoying the best of everything derivable from automation, saying: “I don’t see why we can’t do the same in Nigeria.”

Babalola said Customs already operates a paperless system, with its platform covering almost all the agencies involved in the trade cycle in Nigeria.

He said, however, a few key organisations, such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), are not part of the Customs system. He expressed hope that when NPA gets its automation done, they can work together and cooperate so that everything could go smoothly.

Speaking on the persistent server breakdowns, Babalola said the firm’s servers are up and functional 99 per cent of the time and do not breakdown nor do the networks fluctuate or malfunction.

“There are several things that could go wrong. It could be a very small action like someone switching off a light switch on a wall or an officer refusing to take an action with the excuse of server breakdowns. There are dozens of things that could have happened. It is very important to find out what is going on.

“The House of Representatives is going to conduct an audit into the reports of breakdowns. We are going to cooperate with them and allow them to audit so that we can see exactly what the problems that are being claimed are and also see what the solutions would be,” he said.

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