Lucky Ehis Amiwero is a seasoned maritime expert who have served in almost 167 Federal Government committees and task forces as it concerns port operations and Nigeria Customs Service reform.He is presently the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA)
In this interview session with DAPO OLAWUNI, he highlighted the challenges of trucks besieging Nigerian ports, saying that the Lagos State Government has failed to live up to its responsibility.
Amiwero also faulted moves by the Federal Government to fan out certain operations of the Nigeria Customs Service to private operators.
What’s your assessment of port concessioning exercise so far?
My assessment of the port concession exercise is that it has not been too good, there are still areas we need to look into, the first thing is to design the law for concessioning, we don’t have the law of concession, we are still picking laws from Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and we still pick laws from Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) These are the three laws midwifing the whole thing.
There is need for the government itself to look at how to pin down the Port Act so that we can have a concessioning law, this would now embolden the operations of the concession we have done, what we have now is lease operation
Do you support the concessioning of Nigeria Customs Service as being proposed?
It is not supported, as a member of the Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigeria Customs Service, I have put up a strong position on that, we have a Customs platform which is still existing, what we need to do is to get a license and upgrade it, the Customs platform is a e-platform, bringing another platform is just a duplication, this is what happened it America and they had a lot of problems.By the provision of the contract signed with Web Fontaine which manages the Customs platform, the platform is supposed to be handed over to the service, the problem we are having now is the license which Web Fontaine is using and to upgrade the platform, the platform is doing virtually everything, it is an electronic platform that controls all Customs activities. It is very clear that the government was misinformed, by the contract signed between government and Web Fontaine, the electronic platform is owned by Customs, they supposed to have taken over the platform by now, since 2014.The platform is the ICT backbone of the Customs service.
We don’t need another platform, what we need is to upgrade it and get a license so that it would be transfered properly to Nigeria Customs.
Does Nigeria Customs have the expertise to handle the platform?
They have been there, why won’t they have the expertise, it is a question of bringing up a license and bringing up people, I believe they have the expertise.In a system, we have the front side and the back side, what you are seeing now is the front side, the back side is the engineering side which Customs supposed to have gone into and accomplish.
What is your advise to the government on terminal operators who do not have a holding bay?
If you look at the receipts issued by the terminal operators, the clearing agents are paying for holding pay, there is a difference between holding bay and a truck park, the truck park is supposed to be a state government owned, during the time of Lateef Jakande as Governor of Lagos State, he built a truck park around Berger Area, the truck park actually assisted the port at that time, and within that truck park, Tin Can, Apapa, Lillypond were having a holding bay.
There is a difference between holding bay and a truck park, a holding bay is where you stay for a while, but truck park is where you stay finally. The truck park is supposed to be constructed by the state government because they own the land.
We are having all these problems because the Lagos State Government have not responded to their own area of responsibility.
The port handles the holding bay while the truck park is handled by the state. When Fashola was governor, he was trying to construct a truck park at Orile, but when Ambode came, he jettisoned it.
During port concession, areas that were not taken into cognisance are; holding bay and the export seat, but the truck park itself is not supposed to be in the port, it supposed to be out of the port.