By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) and the Convention on Business Integrity (CBi) has said that between year 2019 and 2021,the demand for bribe and large unreceipted payments on the marine side of vessel clearance at Nigerian port has dropped drastically.
Briefing journalists the end of the groups’ meeting which held in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, Convention on Business Integrity, Mr. Olusoji Apampa noted that in 2019, there were 266 incidents of demand for large cash unreceipted payments. However, this dropped drastically to 128 in 2020 and has further dropped to only 51 incidents in 2021.
In order to strengthen the implementation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) being spearheaded by the Nigerian Shippers Council, Apampa said the group is also embarking on training of government officials who board vessels to inspect ships. This training would commence in the first quarter of year 2022.
The training according to him would involve all government agency officials who board vessels and the standing task team which comprises the department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Independent Corrupt practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) as well as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) who were carrying out sting operations and ensuring proper implementation of NPPM.
“Still in the first quarter, we want to re-examine the digitization of the ports especially the quest for Single Window in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement. We want to have a major stakeholders’ forum on the 27th of January, 2022.
“Then, moving on, in the second quarter, we want to bring from the sub-region, all of the agencies that board vessels and try to get some training courses for them so that they will understand international best practice on how to relate with ships in the clearing, to relate with also the consignees, freight forwarders in the clearing of cargo, what is their expected behavior and how do we adhere to those standards and so on.
“We are expecting to have that in the second quarter of 2022 and we are hoping Nigeria will showcase it’s very valuable successes because so far, we see that what Nigeria has been able to achieve in the last three years has caught international attention and Egypt, Ukraine, India are now beginning to replicate aspects of what Nigeria is doing.
“So, Nigeria, at least, has something positive to return in the area of building integrity even if we have not managed to fully fight corruption but at least, we are building integrity and it is catching attention”, he stated.
He said that the group is working in partnership with the leadership of the Integrity Alliance, a group of stakeholders in the maritime industry who are willing to do things the right way.
Apampa stated that in order to make it easier for port users to carry on their business, the group had created some tools kits to assist them.
According to him, “If you go on Google Play Store or the Apple Store, you will find SOP Tool kits, download it, any SOP you want to find, it is there. It will quickly give you the summary of those things you can find very quickly. If you are an importer or an exporter, what are the requirements? You will find it very quickly through that tool kits.
“Then, as we have help desk on the side of the vessel clearance. So, if you are sailing into our port, you can get help real time whether by voice, text, WhatsApp or email. You can ask for help and in real time, Shippers’ Council is picking up that communication and they are acting on it.
“For example, officials of Port Health refused to give you free pratique because there’s something else in it, already, the Captain escalates it, it is received in real time, Shippers’ Council receives it, they move into action, all of the agencies at the port get to hear of it, it is escalated to the top of Health Department very quickly and somebody makes a pronouncement.
“So, we are trying to use that to slow down the ability and then, you still have the standing task team that can still come and apprehend you. We now want to see how that can be repeated at the cargo side as well.
“So, all of those mechanisms are also there and on the cargo side, we have something called User Experience Diary. If you go on the Apple Store or the Google Play Store, you will see Portcallassist, you can just download that software and just record what is happening. Just answer a few questions as you are clearing your cargo. If you come up that somebody is demanding a bribe from you, you can escalate it. By escalating it, it triggers immediately to the real people in the background, the same thing happening at the cargo side will be escalated to the Shippers’ Council and so on and you get this intervention.
“That is how we are helping the Port Process Manual that where there are these breaches, to mobilize and recruit people to give them feedback so that they know where the problem is in order to be able to resolve it”, he said