By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Federal Government has streamlined the activities of agencies allowed to board vessels berthing at Nigerian ports and the timelines they must spend onboard.
For now, the statutory agencies to board the vessel within the first 1-hour of her arrival includes; Port Health, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Department of State Services (DSS)
This is even as the Presidency has approved the inclusion of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) into the Nigerian Shippers Council’s Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) Other agencies represented on the PSTT are; Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Department of State Services (DSS) Nigerian Police Force, Lagos State Government among others.
National Cordinator of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) an enforcement arm of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Comrade Moses Fadipe stated this in Ikeja Lagos yesterday during a courtesy call on
the newly appointed Lagos State Commandant of the NSCDC, Commandant Usman Alfadarai.
According to Fadipe, boarding of ships at Nigerian ports in the past was a free for all, but presently, all the irregularities have been corrected since the launching of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) which is implemented by PSTT.
Apart from the five agencies that are allowed to check visiting ships, and all activities must be carried out within a timeline, Fadipe said, there are other agencies including Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Port Pollution Control agency which also have statutory duties to carryout onboard the ship during it’s stay at berth.
“In the past, anybody can board a vessel at Nigerian ports, but today, only five agencies are allowed to board the vessel. First is the Port Health and the maximum time given is 45minutes. If for any reason you spend more than that, you must explain why it is so.
“Secondly is the Immigration and Nigeria Customs Service at the same time, customs can only board with two officials, while Immigration can board with three officials, the maximum time allotted to the two agencies is 30minutes.
“When you are boarding, there is a muster point where you de-robe yourself, the only thing following you onto the ship is your identity card, if you have any money on you, you must drop it, if you are returning from the ship and we see any money on you, we would confiscate it.
“The NDLEA and DSS also board the vessel and spend 30minutes, if they spend more time than that, it means there is credible intelligence for them to do so” he said
Fadipe explained that pruning down the number of agencies became necessary because of the Corruption Perception Index 2018 of which, Out of the 161 nation in Africa, Nigeria ranked 157, it became a source of worry for the Federal Government and this led to the launching of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM)
“This led to the creation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) in 3rd of March 2021, which is a combination of SOP of all agencies at the port and their timelines
“Shippers Council, ICPC and DSS was created to implement the NPPM with a proviso that other agencies can join with the approval of the presidency”
Fadipe stated that the activities of the PSTT has saved vessel captains $20,000 which was being spent before now, but today all these has stopped. He said that last year 2022, Nigeria won an award in Basel, Switzerland for fighting corruption.
He also said that movement of vessels from Anchorage to berth in Lagos was averagely 5-hours in the past, but it has dropped to 90minutes presently.
While explaining the mandate of the Task Team to the NSCDC Commandant, Comrade Fadipe corrected that PSTT was not drafted to the port to control traffic or port gridlock.
According to him “The government asked PSTT to stop the extortion tendencies that is fuelling the gridlock and the congestion, this is the mandate.
This was why we later allowed other agencies to come in, we brought in the police, customs, FRSC, Lagos Government, Local Government”
While recounting activities of the Operation Free Port Corridor and it’s successes of freeing the port of encumbrances, he said that in the past six months, the PSTT has profiled 350 trucks with N6million paid into the Federal Government’s TSA account.
During cargo examination inside the port, he said the PSTT has introduced a sample form, and restricted samples taking by government agencies to just two, after which they must sign and return the items taken.
Fadipe urged the NSCDC Commandant to provide a good operational vehicle for the NSCDC team to enable them keep up with other members of the team when on sting operations.
While speaking at the meeting, the NSCDC Lagos Commandant Usman Alfadarai commended the activities of the PSTT and the Nigerian Shippers Council.
According to him, the activities of the PSTT would no doubt increase ship calls at Nigeria, and also make Nigerian ports more attractive for business, and that Nigeria shall no longer lose businesses to Benin Republic and Lome Ports.
“The issue of port congestion and traffic gridlock in Apapa port was a major challenge in the past, but since the PSTT came in, it has come down.
“We shall support the work of the Task Team because the key element in our mandate is to assist in maintenance of peace and order across the nation. Lagos State with the largest population is always congested and really needs peace and order, practically, 80% of the things we use in the country comes through Lagos, so there is need for peace and order at the port.
“PSTT is a welcome development and we shall do everything within our power to ensure the team succeeds.
“We shall look into the provision of vehicles for the NSCDC team because the assignment is very important. We are excited about it, we have a responsibility and we shall deliver it to the best of our ability” he stated