Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Hassan Bello has said that one of the problems faced by the maritime sector is lack of collaboration and “uncoordinated acts” of government agencies at the port.
Speaking when he received the Comptroller-General of Customs Hameed Ali at the council’s headquarters in Apapa on Thursday, Bello said there was need for collaboration and synergy among the agencies for the port industry to thrive.
“In the port system, you cannot but cooperate and collaborate because the port is a community and it is very important that you synergise so that the industry could move forward.
“That is what is lacking. We believe in equilibrium and balance and working relationship between all the interested parties,” he said.
He said the existing collaboration between the NSC and Customs has helped promote transit trade, which would soon see Niger Republic and Chad begin importing their cargoes through Nigerian ports.
“The NSC has been working with the operators in Niger and we have got a lot of support from Customs.
“Customs has removed 90 percent of barriers and we are in no short time about to see Niger first and Chad coming back to Nigeria. This signifies the benefit of cooperation,” he said.
While calling on the government to eliminate all barriers to seamless cargo clearance at the port, Bello said there was an urgent need for government to invest in massive infrastructure development including roads, rails lines and waterways.
He said it was the responsibility of the government to provide conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive and also to protect investment of service providers.
“It is very important that government be told the truth. Government sometimes also has a share of the problems that is happening. Access to the port is not very good. No matter how efficient our terminals are, if shippers cannot get their cargoes out on time, then there is a problem.
“Government owes it a duty to the investors to protect their investment, provide electricity and also provide a conducive atmosphere so that the port system will thrive. Government should be consistent for predictability and certainty. There has been some policy somersault which is not good for investment,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Ali assured that he will further strengthen the existing collaboration and relationship between both agencies.
He said, “We want to create an understanding. I know we have been working very closely with you but we want to further cement that bond. We want to make it a relationship that will be an everyday interaction.
“Sometimes we don’t get the records we desire to be able to assess and make sure we do our jobs. The papers that are presented, the manifest most especially comes to us with a lot of problems. Some of them are falsification of documents, some of them not having correct description of the goods.
“For instance, in the manifest they will tell you they are carrying chemicals but chemicals are in categories. So it now behoves on us to begin to wonder what types of chemicals.
“So these are areas that we are finding it a little bit difficult to sort out and we think since we are with you here, we need to let this before you that if you can assist us it will go a long way in doing our job,” he said.
Ali’s visit is the first by any Customs Comptroller-General to the NSC.
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