31 July 2015, Lagos – The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has accused the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) of allegedly making false claims about its achievements at the nation’s seaports.
The terminal operators faulted the Council’s much publicised achievement. It said: “Our attention has been brought to a series of newspaper articles and publications sponsored by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in which the council claimed to have made certain achievements in sanitising port operation, achieving a new port order and reducing port charges.
“These publications are mere propaganda tailored towards making the NSC look like they are working and forcefully foisting themselves on the port community as economic regulators.
“The so-called achievements being bandied about by the NSC have been recorded long before they emerged on the scene so any attempt by them to appropriate these achievements is therefor fraudulent, immoral and misleading,” STOAN said in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Mr. Bolaji Akinola.
The association said that it does not recognise the NSC as port economic regulator and has challenged the Council’s powers in court.
“The port concession agreement is clear on who the interim port regulator is.
“The agreement between the Federal Government and the concessionaires unambiguously recognized the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as the Lessor and as the interim regulator until there is a change in the law assigning the roles of the regulator in the port industry to another government authority.
“There has not been any change in the law to empower the NSC to regulate and that is why we are in court to challenge the Council’s authority to regulate the port. The case is now before the Court of Appeal,” Akinola added.
The STOAN Spokesman noted that the modest achievements recorded in the port so far were made possible by the investments and commitments of STOAN members and not due to any effort of the NSC.
He said: “The only ‘achievement’ the Nigerian Shippers’ Council can legitimately lay claim to so far is that of painting the ports and operators in bad light before the world through unsubstantiated assertions on port charges, thereby discouraging investors and fuelling fears about our ports.
“NSC’s comments published in the media and read worldwide portray Nigerian ports in the negative light to the international shipping community. They have been deliberately making false and derogatory statements against terminal operators to the media with the aim of damaging our reputation.
“When a government agency like the NSC makes such negative remarks about the nation’s seaports which they claim to regulate, the international shipping community reacts and vessels which plan to come to Nigeria will either come at a premium or go elsewhere. These comments also scare away the much-needed foreign direct investment in the maritime sector.”
Akinola said Nigerian ports have indeed achieved tremendous progress since the port concession largely due to the investments and commitments of private terminal operators, and not due to any effort on the part of NSC.
“Since 2006 to date when the ports were concessioned, private terminal operators have invested over N1 billion in modernizing and upgrading the ports, training of port workers and reducing vessel waiting times by more than 30 days.
“Before port concession, vessels queued up for more than 30 days before being able to berth at the ports but immediately we came on board, we eliminated these vessel queues thereby saving importers over N35billion paid annually as congestion surcharges. That is a huge savings to the Nigerian economy. Terminal handling charges were also slashed by 33 per cent.
“Cargo handling equipment were also scarce at the port before concession and consignees waited endlessly to take delivery of their cargo, but all of that changed largely due to our investments and the cooperation of NPA, Customs and other stakeholders. NSC has nothing to do with these achievements,” he said.
He added: “Without a doubt, terminal operators have added much value to our ports and to the Nigerian economy.
“The various attacks and unfounded allegations being peddled about excessive charges and rent seeking behaviour is a figment of the imagination of the NSC and a calculated attempt by the Council to discredit private operators who are committed under their concession agreements to the positive repositioning of Nigerian ports, adopting international best practices and internationally competitive rates/charges.
“Everyone including former Ministers of Transport, Nigerian Ports Authority, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), importers, freight forwarders, other very senior government officials and stakeholders acknowledge that we have tremendously boosted efficiency at the port as shown in the Key Performance Indicators recorded by the NPA,” he added.
He said STOAN would no longer fold its arms and watch the achievements and hard earned reputation of its members destroyed by the NSC.
“This is going to be a marathon race and we’re ready to engage the NSC word for word anytime it embarks on its propaganda,” he stressed.
– This Day