Plans are in the pipeline by the Federal Government to deploy its anti-corruption mechanisms to significantly reduce the menace of fraudulent and criminal activities at the Nigerian ports.
This comes as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), is currently studying the various tariffs across ports in West Africa, with a view to determining how competitive Nigerian ports are compared to its neighbours.
An October 2016 report identified corruption, which is closely linked to the inefficiencies at the ports, as costing Nigeria the loss of about N1trillion annually.
These corruptive tendencies also contribute in making the Nigerian ports among the most expensive in the world due to the legion of charges ports users are being subjected daily.
If these multi-challenges are resolved, experts believe Nigeria will be on the path to becoming the maritime hub in West Africa, as being clamoured for.
Already, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has confirmed that the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption will soon open an office in the NPA in line with a report submitted by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the corruption index in ports administration.
Usman, who is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, affirmed that the Authority will embark on strong anti-corruption measures in 2017.
The move will further sanitise the sector and enhance smooth operations and clearance of cargo at the ports. Many illegal payments that contribute to making Nigerian ports charges non-competitive in West African region would be eradicated and enhance the ease of doing business at the ports.
The NPA boss, who visited major customs agents and freight forwarders last weekend, also assured that the Authority will interact more with stakeholders in 2017, in order to keep abreast with happenings at the various ports.
To this end, she said the NPA would introduce quarterly stakeholders meetings to know what is on ground at the ports, and be better informed on the plight of operators.
Usman also acknowledged the need to block revenue leakages to make the ports more competitive in the area of appropriate pricing.
To this end, she said there was the need for government to look into corruption at the ports and how to plug the leakages.
She further said the NPA is currently studying the tariff structures across ports in West and Central Africa, with a view to determining how competitive Nigerian ports are compared to its peers in these regions.
Usman promised that in the event that Nigerian ports turn out to be more expensive, the agency will advise the Federal Government to reduce charges to enable more cargoes come into the nation’s ports.
The National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu charged the NPA MD to address some of the problems at the ports, which he itemised to include: corruption, bad roads, and high port charges at the port leading to un-competitiveness of Nigerian ports, compared to neighbouring West African ports.
“We want to appeal to you to use your God-given approach to battle corruption at the ports,” he said.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission and the NPA recently resolved to work together to improve port development in Nigeria.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, who was at NPA headquarters last Friday, promised to assist the authority to address the challenges facing Nigerian port industry.
Usman also pledged stronger relationship with United Kingdom’s companies operating in the Nigerian maritime sector, adding that NPA would welcome any assistance that would boost port efficiency from Britain, to fast track the ports development.
Arkwright, who identified piracy as one of the major challenges in the country’s maritime industry said that Britain would make significant contribution to enhance operational efficiency in the port.
He stressed the need to support NPA towards finding a lasting solution to the issue of piracy in the country’s waters.