The Presidential Committee on Ports Reforms, formerly known as the Port Monitoring Committee, was inaugurated last November with a brief to sanitise the ports, including enforcing President Goodluck Jonathan’s directives ejecting about nine agencies from the seaports.
Another major brief of the committee was the evacuation of overtime cargoes from the Lagos ports to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal.
Last month, about two months after it commenced work, the committee rolled out the drums to celebrate what it described as its achievements through a press release.
According to a statement signed by the committee’s Communication Adviser, Mr. Chuks lIoegbunarn, a copy of which was made available to this medium, the committee has put in place a new regime of operations to ensure that needless delays become a thing of the past, and that for the first time, since after the Nigerian civil war, the ports now operate on a 24-hour a day basis.
The committee also said that the cumbersome practice of having 14 different agencies at the ports, requiring to append their signatures to practically all documents concerning shipping, has been scrapped.
“In its place, only five agencies now operate at the ports. These are, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigeria Police (Ports Authority Command), the State Security Service (SSS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), and the Port Health Authority. All other bodies can now only enter the ports and operate in them on the basis of specific invitation and as the need arises,” the statement said.
Other achievements, according to the committee, include reduction of documentation of vessels and cargoes from 39 days to seven days, movement of 2,080 overtime cargo to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal out of the 5,000 containers and helping to ease the terrible traffic jams around the Apapa and Tin-Can ports in Lagos.
But sooner the press statement emerged than stakeholders swooped on it, puncturing the achievements it had claimed.
While we commend the committee for what it claimed to have achieved, we believe that the celebration was rather too hasty.
There is no sane place in the world where one scores oneself.The best thing which the committee would have done was to allow stakeholders to score it. The committee should have towed the line of benchmarking its achievements with the reactions of stakeholders after due diligence.
The committee may have also embarrassed itself going by a public notice by the Nigeria Customs Service in the newspapers last Monday over the number of overtime containers that have been transferred so far from the ports to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal.
While the committee in what could be described as it celebration statement claimed to have moved 2,080 overtime cargo to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, out of the 5,000 containers at the port, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) public notice said that the committee has so far moved only 1,616 containers, a discrepancy of over 464 containers.
Where did the committee get the excess of 464 containers, which it claimed to have transferred?
A breakdown of the transferred containers by the NCS stated as follows: National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), 227 containers; Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and State Governments, 143 containers; and other importers 1,246 containers.
It also pertinent to bring to the fore that at the flagged-off of the movement of the overtime cargoes in the twilight of last December, the committee had said that the containers will be moved with trucks and barges, but it was reliably gathered that, so far, not a single barge has been deployed for the transfer. This no doubt a minus on the part of the committee, as all the containers are being moved by trucks.
The committee should, therefore, concentrate on the overtime cargo transfer brief and promptly and properly execute this critical brief, rather than use the media to celebrate claims that end up suspect.
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