Lagos — In a bid to rid the Nigerian port industry of corruption, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission, ICPC, along with Heads of Maritime agencies have concluded plans to harmonize the Port Anti-Corruption polices of agencies in the maritime sector.
Speaking at a meeting hosted by the Chairman of the ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye said that improving maritime service delivery by reducing corruption risk in the sector will contribute positively to the growth of the national economy.
Owansanoye listed some current challenges the maritime industry facing the sector include the opacity of rules or sanctions, a lack of due process, and other forms of exploitative inefficiency that fuel traffic, delay, and loss noting that as a result, Nigeria is losing business to neighbouring nations.
The ICPC Chairman explained that by removing these roadblocks and curbing rent-seeking behaviours that pervade the sector, ICPC is directly improving the ease of doing business.
He explained that ICPC has endeavoured to remove such roadblocks through reforms such as the publication of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the establishment of complaints mechanisms, the harmonization of processes into the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM), and the creation of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT).
He however credited these reforms to the successful collaboration between Port Agencies (including the Nigerian Shippers’ Council or NSC), and ICPC’s own zero-tolerance policy toward corruption.
Despite these successes, Professor Owasanoye pushed for more action. Stating that “prevention is better than the cure,” he introduced a harmonized Port Agency Anti-Corruption Policy (ACP).
He said: “A harmonized Port Agency Anti-Corruption Policy, ACP will establishe ethical codes within the maritime sector, strengthen established SOPs and the NPPM through a Consequence Management Framework, CMF, that provides incentives and enables enforcement of compliance.
All port reform activities have been “token efforts” to fulfil the mandate and duty bestowed on officials, and that Nigeria is benefiting from an improved reputation internationally simply for doing what is expected.”
Similarly, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said that the progress and challenges of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) and the need for stronger buy-in of all Agencies operating at the ports cannot be overemphasized
Jime observed that there were Immediate changes to the atmosphere of the ports when the PSTT was deployed in 2021, bringing about a new, emerging narrative to Nigeria’s maritime sector.
Chief among these changes according to him was a sharp decrease in the amount of time Joint Boarding officials spent onboard vessels before berthing in compliance with port procedures.
He said: “Yet challenges still remain, field operators do not abide by mandates and commencement times for cargo examinations, and though the correct agencies board ships during the Joint Boarding process, too many departments within these agencies board ships to participate in rummaging. Beyond the ports themselves, checkpoints along the corridors invalidate the positive gains achieved through reforms. These persistent ills have caused Nigeria to lose business opportunities to nations such as Togo and Benin Republic.”
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