The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okono-Iweala, yet again recently expressed her displeasure over the activities of government agencies at the nation’s seaports.
The Minister said penultimate Thursday in Abuja at the joint public hearing of the House of Representatives Committees on Finance, Marine Transport and Customs that the activities of agencies of the Federal Government, who had earlier been sacked from the nation’s economic gateway, are reversing the gains of port reforms.
Okonjo-Iweala also descended on truck operators, whom she accused of clogging the ports access roads with their vehicles, thereby impeding the flow of traffic.
The Minister, who barred her mind through the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Danladi Kifasi said: “Nigerian ports need to enhance their efficiency to come close to international best practices. The existence of a functional efficient port system is not only a boost to a country’s international trade but a plus to the government revenue profile. While some of these inadequacies can be attributed to obsolete equipment, others can be attributed to corrupt practices by officials at the ports. The multiplicity of government agencies at the ports turnout to be an unnecessary bottleneck leading to delays and higher charges to be borne by importers and ultimately by Nigerian consumers. It should be pointed out that the decongested roads in the port vicinity are unfortunately being reversed as the situation is gradually returning to status quo ante. This is made worse by the complete lawlessness of tanker drivers lifting petroleum products from tank farms.”
However, clearly ignoring the angst over multiplicity of government agencies at these facilities, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other-related offences Commission (ICPC) may be finalising moves to deploy about 69 officials the anti-graft agency has designated Corruption Risk Assessors to the seaports.
These operatives are expected to checkmate fraudsters and those evading duty, according to the ICPC Chairman, Mr. Ekpo Nta, who spoke in Abuja, when the Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Joseph Odumodu, led other officials to visit him recently.
Nta said: “The assessors had recently concluded a course on prevention of all kinds of abuse in the conduct of official business. When fully operational, they have the mandate of tackling the menace of unbridled importation of sub-standard products into the country.
“The Commission’s Director of Education will be leading that team that has been set up for that purpose.”
No matter how well-couched to appear well-intentioned, the purpose(s) for the leadeship of the ICPC proposing to send Corruption Risk Assessors to the seaports, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY gladly and loudly proclaims that their mission does not augur well for the port reforms programme.
We recollect the misadventure that was the era of the so-called Professional Import Duty Administrators (PIDAs) under the regime of General Sani Abacha, and, therefore, unequivocally state that, just like the PIDAs initiated by the then Finance Minister, Chief Anthony Ani, the ICPC Corruption Risk Assessors are only a means for certain persons seeking to expand their sphere of influence unnecessarily, and to the detriment of facilitating trade.
The leadership of the ICPC should, therefore, resist the magnetic pull of the ports, because the presence of another band of government operatives at the ports would not endow any positive value-added on these facilities.
The deployment of the ICPC Corruption Risk Assessors, if it comes to be, will only increase the population of operatives of government agencies at the ports, raising the potentiality for compromise and sharp practices, when the trend in saner climes is less human contact to promote efficiency and global practices.
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