Not at all. A visit to many of our ports will reveal that many port users are so lackadaisical in the way they are carrying on with their duties at the port. One is disturbed by the attitude of port users to the protocols spelt out by experts in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are certain protocols they said we should observe like putting on nose masks, washing of hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, use of alcohol-based sanitizer and maintaining social/physical distancing always. As a matter of fact, it is only the wearing of nose masks that one can say has recorded substantial compliance. Even at that, many just wear it as a decoration, because they leave the mouth and nose unprotected. As for regular washing of hands, and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, the compliance level is below average. Port users appear too busy to have time to do that but one is worried that many don’t take the issue of hand sanitizer seriously. Although many offices positioned a jar of water, with bowl and soap as well as hand sanitizer at the entrance of their offices, port users hardly take advantage of these. And many a time those positioned at the entrance to ensure compliance seem to be failing in their responsibility. Regrettably, the issue of social/physical distancing is the worst hit in the compliance level. Port users seem to always throw caution to the wind as far as social/physical distancing is concerned. The way our people mingle and crowd offices leaves much to be desired. This should be a thing of serious concern to stakeholders. Everyone needs to be conscious of the fact that coronavirus does not have legs, nor hands. It can only move if someone moves it. There is a need for more awareness in order to teach and let people know that the virus is real and to curtail the spread of it.
I think safety measures are being taken to a large extent because the government agencies are doing their best within the prevailing circumstances of the country. The government agencies in charge of ports like Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the likes are putting minimum requirements in place as outlined by NCDC. However, there is still need for continuous awareness and provisions of protective equipment where necessary. Also, there is need for strict law enforcement to be put in place at the port especially for violators of the measures.
Unfortunately, the port users are not taking enough safety measures. Even in Nigeria generally, those in authority are not doing anything that will make people abide by the safety measures put in place. For instance, when you get to the port, you see people clustered at a particular place all in the name of clearing goods or moving containers from one place to another without taking precautions like using face masks, sanitizer and washing of hands. The truth is, there are no means of safety measures at the port and the government agencies are also making matters worse. There is a need for the government to take stringent action as fast as possible towards the issue of the pandemic and where there are unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks, it should be dismantled so that the ease of doing business will be applied and people will find it easy transacting their businesses.
I will speak from the angle of Nigeria Customs Service in the ports; it may interest you to know that customs had put measures in place to contain the virus at the port, even before it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In fact, we have had a series of sensitization seminars and enlightenment campaigns aimed at educating officers and stakeholders about the virus. Each of the sessions had our medical personnel from the Customs headquarters at the instance of the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali. We have created measures in line with the NCDC and WHO protocol. Our position is that these protocols must be strictly adhered to. For the non-state actors at the port, I think the compliance rate is still work in progress. We are optimistic that stakeholders will see reason to raise their level of compliance in line with the extant provisions.
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