Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, has expressed disgust with the nation’s port concession, stressing that the country, from all indications, has been short changed.
Aniebonam disclosed this at NAGAFF Village, Apapa, Lagos, noting that the regime of port concession has neither reduced the cost of running port businesses nor engendered inter-modalism.
“What was the essence of port concession? The intention was to have a competitive port system; it was to reduce the cost of doing business on and to benefit from continuity of service by professionals.
“Can we say the cost of doing business in the port has been reduced? The answer is no! It is even 500 times higher now. So, based on cost alone, one should even be asking, why did we go into port concession in the first place at all?
“The investors, who are in Nigeria, are using our money to invest, as far as I am concerned, they are kind of recycling. As they are taking money, they are putting it here and there. As for restructuring in terms of the surface of the port, there has not been any big deal here too. Is it anything to talk about?
“Government is always blackmailed. The British Airways is a government airline and it is working well. But here, we call a dog a bad name so as to hang it: Government has no business in businesses; and such blackmailing tones. But at the end of the day, if we have concessioned our ports, can you go and look at our ports now?
‘‘Can you look at the companies that won the concession? Are they not the same people who have worked within the system? They were either in NPA or somewhere. But they are the same people. So what improvement do you think we would get? Our ports have their fundamental problems. As at the time they were going to the secondary level of industrialisation, that is, establishing industry within the ports by taking away the space where some of these trucks should park.
“Ten years ago, as NAGAFF president, we had advocated for a truck terminal. We also advocated for a deep sea port around Badagry and all that. Besides, our port is yet to embrace inter-modalism. And if we don’t, we cannot go anywhere. Our port must be linked with rails to be able to take cargo out of the system.
“As it is now you can see all these trailers coming into the ports from all parts of the country and this is coupled with the fact that the roads are not good. The Apapa-Mile 2-Ijora axis is supposed to be eight lanes, but look at what we have today for a port that carries this kind of traffic. It is all about corruption and that is why everybody should support Mr. President. He must fight corruption and we all must join hands with him. The port is the gateway to the nation’s economy and we must not overlook basic issues any longer,” he said, even as he took time off, to debunk the notion that NAGAFF chickened out of its planned attempt to offer the new Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Handed Ali, a first scapegoat.
“The CAC, who is in charge of Tin Can Area command, invited us for a discussion. Chairman of NAGAFF anti-corruption team and his executive; and of course myself as both the founder of NAGAFF and an elder in the industry led the delegation.
“But don’t forget that NAGAFF as an organisation has its modus operandi in conflict management and resolution. We imbibe the culture of dialogue, conciliation and processes that would bring peaceful co-existence. When we met with the comptroller, we tabled the entire grievances and he took note with his management team; the ones that he could solve instantly were addressed.
“For instance, the issue of bench-marking of cargo in terms of value is a prerogative of the valuation unit of customs, not that of ASYCUDA project manager. So, that has to stop. The issue of stoppage of cargo at the exit gate; the only person that has the power to do that is the comptroller himself; but he can delegate that function. But if he has delegated for instance, it must not be abused. We therefore requested that there should be a change in that department.
“The CAC now said that we are ‘responsible partners’ and he is ‘going to call a holistic stakeholders meeting’ immediately. It was NAGAFF that suggested that because of the yuletide, the meeting could come up either in the last week of the year; or the first week of January. So, in all these, every issue we raised he promised to look into them,” Aniebonam concluded, stressing that the body was more interested in peace and not creating tension.


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