Disconcerted by the absence of a national single window scheme in the nation’s maritime industry, the Minister of Transportation,Muazu Sambo has directed the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) to establish a Port Community System(PCS) before May 29, which marks the end of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration.
The Minister also directed the Council to embark on a thorough audit and review of the port concession agreement contracted since 2006 between the federal government and port terminal operators, saying the review would done one terminal at a time using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as earlier established.
Promising to convene a meeting of all heads of parastatals in the maritime industry this week to devise a working mechanism for PCS, he lamented that the absence of one could be because the responsibility had not been vested on an agency and as such there was no commitment.
A PCS is an electronic platform which connects the multiple systems operated by a variety of organizations that make up a seaport, airport or inland port community. It is used by firms in the same port community with scores of benefits which include, reduced access cost to information, lower cost of communication, reduced human interference in cargo delivery process, reduced illegal transactions, easy data generation and management.
According to maritime experts, in pre-automation era, cargo-related information arrived in port when the vessel arrived with cargo. Nowadays, this information arrives electronically before the vessel. PCS allows for the integration and automation of information system linking different stakeholders who collaborate on a single platform.
Speaking however in Lagos during his visit to NSC office last week, the Minister said that it is shameful that a maritime nation as Nigeria with huge market and population size cant host a PCS that smaller countries in West Africa have hosted, saying “it is not a rocket science.”
He explained that his choice for NSC to host the PCS is determined by its regulatory role as the port economic regulator, a status that confers the economic oversight function over other agencies to NSC.
Suggesting how it could be quickly and effectively carried out, Sambo said: “Let us look at a country that has the PCS working for them and just replicate the system in Nigeria. If it is working for them, why can’t it work for us? It is a question of direct procurement, we are not going to circumvent the law of the land.
“The public procurement Act gave us the opportunity to do direct procurement.
So, if we have a system that goes very well in Benin Republic here, we can go there and pick it up and get presidential approval for direct procurement and replicate it. How can Nigeria with over 200 million people and largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa not have a port community system? It is unacceptable! So, you need to coordinate this. I have given you that role today.
“And I want the media to tell the whole world loud and clear that the Minister of Transportation, exercising the power conferred on him by all extant laws has appointed the NSC as the regulator of the ports to establish the port community system before the end of this administration.” He noted.
He said he was aware that Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) has been in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation(IMO) to establish a PCS but the process is becoming too long and the government and the port industry have lost the patience to wait, arguing that nowhere in the history of PCS operation has a port authority been involved in its coordination and so Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“Nowhere in West African countries has port authority been involved in deployment of PCS. Why should they be involved in Nigeria? If they want to be involved in Nigeria, why is it taking them donkey years to actualize? I respect IMO and that is why we are proud to have IMO Secretary General in Nigeria,lately”, he argued.
Vesting the power of port concession agreement review on NSC, Sambo stated how he has been inundated with complaints from port operators and shippers on the high terminal charges by terminal operators. He said, “There is something that disturbs me and also most people who import good into Nigeria. That is terminal charges! Do you have a template for terminal charges? I have received too many complaints about the terminal operators applying high charges.
“If you have a template, ensure that the charges are adhered to. Another thing is enlightenment. You will have to enlighten Nigerians on this through the media that they can come to you to report any terminal operator who charges shippers’ exorbitantly. Another important point I want to make is that NPA should not have written to the Ministry for the renewal of the leases of the concessions without an input from NSC”. Sambo said.
He maintained that NSC as a PER was supposed to have a copy of the reviewed lease agreements and make inputs and recommendations before transmission to the Federal Executive Council(FEC) approval.
His words:”When they rounded up everything they out to have sent them to you through the Ministry for you to review and comment as well as make recommendations. Upon your recommendations, send the memoranda to us for the Federal Executive Council. I think this is the path we must toe now.
Sambo further directed, ”You are now going to do the review terminal by terminal now. You must not lump all the terminals and bring to me. For each terminal, you will look at the original agreement; look at the key performance indicators they are supposed to meet, including development plans, port traffic, revenue, the obligations. How have they performed? There should be a table everything should be clear on where we were at 2006 and where we are today.
“Have we achieved what we are set to achieve? The port reform is meant to achieve what? They are efficiency, increased cargo, revenue, among others. So for each terminal that is due for renewal we must look at the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). And then score them with verifiable data which you must attach as annexure. Where a terminal operator’s concession should not be renewed you must be bold enough to say it should not be renewed because they have not been able to match the target set for them.
“We will look for other Nigerian operators who should be ready to meet this target. You must not be blackmailed by anybody. Every Nigerian is entitled to run a terminal if he has the capacity. They were lucky that these things were given to them almost at free of charge in 2005/ 2006. There was no Bureau for Public Procurement(BPP) and many others. BPP came in 2007 and now you must go through the procurement process.
Sambo decared:”I have given you this work. That means you should start working now before I write you. Get the concession agreement of 2006 and identify what the KPIs are and log in everything into your system. This is not an exercise that we should take lightly at all.These are two key assignments I have given NSC today. NSC now have my full support as Port Economic Regulator. So, you have to walk the talk and if you encounter any opposition let me know.”