Alhaji Hassan Bello
In its bid to attract more cargoes to the nation’s ports and make them a hub in the West African sub-region, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has lined up a series of measures including the introduction of efficiency, transparency, friendliness and competition in its operations.
The Council’s Executive Secretary, Ahaji Hassan Bello, who made this known, said this was why the NSC quickly identified the need to get automated ports that are linked with the transparent system so that there will be no need for shippers to go to the ports before clearing their goods.
Speaking when he paid a courtesy visit a media house in Abuja, Bello said the Council would do what is happening all over the world where shippers sit down in their offices and clear their goods from the ports.
Noting that there will be less physical interaction if this is done, he also said NSC now has ports supports systems where all complaints from the ports are now done online.
“These were developed by Nigerian Shippers’ Council. It has been adopted by the Ease of Doing Business Bureau in the vice president’s office. It is now an industry system and one will be able to trace all the complaints or comments, as far as the post system is concerned”, he noted.
Hinting of plans by the Council to handle more cargoes at the ports, the NSC executive scribe said, “What we are trying to do is to introduce efficiency, transparency, friendliness and competition of Nigeria’s ports so that Nigeria will become the hub or the centre throughout the West and Central African sub region.
“We will handle more cargoes than our ports because we are in competition with other ports, especially Cotonou and we won’t allow that to happen. Sometimes, as I have said, diversion of cargoes to Cotonou (you have heard about it), is the choice of the shippers.
“The Shippers have the right to take their cargo to any port and it is mostly an economic decision but I am happy to tell you that since Shippers Council assumed this regulatory role, we have been bringing cargoes to Nigeria. Even our neighbours like Niger and Chad are now bringing cargoes through Nigerian ports. Hitherto, they were bringing cargoes from Ghana, Ivory coast and Togo.
So, the need for competition is very important and there is need for us to have efficiency. Many things are going to be instituted and we have the support of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Nigerian Ports Authority, together with our critical partners like the terminal operators, the shipping companies, the fret forwarders, the truckers and many other interests in the ports”.
Bello also noted that the NSC under his watch has contributed immensely to the ports where it is the economic regulator.
His words: “When I came here two years ago, I said we are doing a lot of things to sanitize what is happening in the ports. We started with standard operating procedure and I am happy to announce that this has been done to the extent that every agency in the port knows what they are supposed to do according to international standard.
“This has been launched by the vice president- t that time he was not the acting president. Before then, there is the position of this Standard Operating Procedure being enforced by ICPC which was pantry.
“We are having cooperation from Nigerian Customs Services and we are also having cooperation from the Nigeria Police Force. Only last week, an Assistant Inspector General of Police was in our office where we discussed issues of mutual interests and the economy”.
“We have this dry port in Isialangwa in Abia State, there is one in Ibadan, in Jos, in Kaduna, in Maiduguri, in Funtua and in Kano. We are also proposing one in kebbi State and possibly one in Minna. The process is to bring shipping to the doorstep of people who are here. You don’t need to go to the sea port, either Lagos or Calabar, to clear your goods, especially export.
“It is going to open up hinterlands for export. In Kaduna State for example, we have about 90 per cent completion and these ports are handled by the private sector. There is rail connection to it and soon we will start export and import.
“So, if you have goods in Kaduna or the environs, you can have a bit of relief that you import your goods from, let’s say China, direct to Kaduna and the Customs and all other paraphernalia of the port will be there and you will pay your duties there”.
Bello further described the planned establishment of National Transport Commission as welcome development, stating that it will help to regulate the sector better.
“The National Transport Commission is expected to be the economic regulator of the transport sector. What it does is to regulate technical operation from economic regulation. It is the modern economy. You cannot operate and regulate at the same time. You are either of the two”.
On how to tackle illegal importation of fire arms, he called for the use of Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS), which is a cargo tracking system.
“Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS) which the Shippers Council had cause to introduce in our ports will address this challenge. Now, if we have that, there will never be an incident of illegal guns coming in. Of course, guns will always come to the country but what this tracking system does is to know what is coming into Nigeria even before the Ship leaves the country of origin and reaches Nigeria.
“We are studying the system of introducing this system. Even though I am not promising, I believe this can be deployed this year and it also accelerates the process of clearance as the Customs would have done its assessment before the ship docks. There is no hiding place for anything once the system is deployed”.