Mixed reactions trail lawmakers’ planned probe of port concession

Stakeholders and operators in the maritime industry have expressed divergent views over plan by the House of Representatives to investigate the activities of private terminal operators at the nation’s seaports.
The House of Representatives on Thursday mandated its Committees on Privatisation and Commercialisation, Public procurement, Commerce, Marine Transport and Customs to investigate the activities of concessionaires at Nigerian ports.
The resolution emanated from a motion moved by Rep. Jerry Alagbaoso (PDP-Imo) which was adopted without debate.
Alagbaoso was Customs Area Controller, Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from 2004 to 2006 before retiring to join politics.
The concessioning of Nigerian seaports through the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), and handing over of the certificates of operations to the concessionaires was carried out in 2006.
He said the concessioning programme was aimed at ensuring facilitation of trade and greater efficiency in cargo handling and service delivery at the ports.Alagbaoso noted that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) which is saddled with the responsibility of collection of duties on imported goods is faced with operational challenges at the ports.
Surprisingly, one of the terminal operators who spoke with SHIPS& PORTS DAILY said since the concessionaires had nothing to hide; they have nothing to be afraid of.
“It is welcome. There has been a lot of lies and deliberate falsehood about the state of the port. We know what we have done. We know the value we have added to the system. We know our investment a the various terminals so the investigation or probe as you call it will help bring all of these to light,” said the chief executive of one of the indigenous terminal operators operating at the Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos.
The chief executive would however not want to be identified because “I don’t want to be seen as pre-empting the work of the House Committee charged with the task”.

Some port users who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY also supported the probe but for different reasons.
Chike Ogbuh, an importer of electronic items, in his reaction to the probe said: “There are many problems in the port and the probe of concessionaires is good so that things can change.”
A clearing agent, Babatunde Olawuyi, said the probe will be another futile exercise and a drain on the nation’s resources.

“I don’t believe in their circus shows. The lawmakers are also doing one probe after the other. What comes out of all this at the end of the day? Look at the power sector probe under Ndudi Elumelu some years ago. What happened? He was alleged to have taken bribe. How about the stock market probe? It was the same story of graft, bribery and corruption that trailed it. We all remember the fuel subsidy probe involving another lawmaker, Mr. Farouk Lawan. You remember him and some others were accused of demanding and collecting huge sums of money as bribe? It is only the lawmakers and you people in the media that benefit from these endless probes. For us Nigerians, there is no value apart from some sort of entertainment or something to keep tongues wagging for some time,” Olawuyi said.
“It is not the first time they are doing this port concession probe. What has happened to all the reports?” he asked.

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