‘Ports concession in Nigeria is a success story’

The Rector of the Port and Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria, Dr.Samuel Babatunde, has described ports concession in Nigeria as “a success story because the exercise have proved worthwhile after all.”
With the concession of the ports, according to Babatunde, these facilities “have benefited from the private sector experience of ability to fix things right.”
He said: “All the aims and objectives of concession have been achieved, and Nigerian ports have come of age, and are reckoned with in the international trade, commerce and investment.”

Delivering the lecture, Seaport and Terminal Operations in Nigeria: Workability of the Public Private Sector for Better Service Delivery, at the recent Fellow Award and Students Induction Ceremony and Public Lecture of the International Logistics and Administration (ILA) in Lagos, Babatunde posited that, with the concession, the ports have done very well in the areas of security of cargo, enthroned quicker turnaround time of vessels in the ports, reduced cost of doing business, provided enabling environment for economic activities, and facilitated the realisation of more revenue by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and, invariably, the Federal Government.Babatunde, who is the First Vice President of the Nigeria Institute of Shipping (NIS), as well as ILA Fellow, listed “the ills being suffered by the system in the old order” to include:

• Turnaround time for ships was too long and usually calculated in weeks, sometime months, depending on the cargo being loaded or discharged;
• Cargo-handling plants and equipment owned by the NPA were few and mostly unserviceable, leading to shipping companies hiring these machines from private sector sources after having paid NPA;
• Dwell time for goods in the ports was prolonged due to poor port managements. As a result, overtime cargo filled the most active seaports, leading to congestion;
• Labour for ship work was held in the vice-grip of wharf overlords, who controlled dockworker unions and supplied less than the manpower paid for. This fraud, which became accepted by the maritime community, lasted for years and was usually perpetrated to extract maximum revenue from helpless ship owners and their agents without a care of how this impacted on the Nigerian economy and the already poor reputation of Nigerian seaports;
• Nigerian seaports were, as a result of the compounded problems, rated as some of the costliest seaports in the world;
• Many port premises and quay aprons had fallen to disuse, and failed road sections inside the ports made movement of goods within port grounds cumbersome and very slow;
• Following ports congestion, complaints of untraceable or missing cargoes were being regularly lodged against the NPA, all to no avail; and
• Security inside Nigerian seaports was compromised by the relentless ingress of multitude of all shades of persons into the seaports. As a result, miscreants called wharf rats easily gained access into ports and pilfered goods in storage or vehicle parts. In fact, security within port grounds was at the mercy of an elusive racket.