Story by Dili Utomi.
It was a gathering of some industry heavyweights at the Rockview Hotel in Apapa, Tuesday where the relevant issues of maritime and transport and their importance in the economy were discussed.
The event was titled “Distinguished Maritime Personalities with the theme: The place of Maritime and Transport in the Economy of Nations: The Nigerian Experience. The organiser of this talk shop is the experienced and very tenacious Kelvin Igho Kagbare who welcomed the participants with an opening speech. In his speech, he said that the Distinguished Maritime Personalities (DMP) is birthed out of a desire to contribute to national rebirth. He added that “After decades of covering and reporting the industry and seeing the stagnation and underdevelopment so prevalent in our economic life, the story of the man living by the river side, but washing his face with spittle reverberates in cymbals with such cacophony that the need to do something became very disturbing desire which grew and blossomed into the DMP”.
The personalities which were invited to the occasion included the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mr. Mohamed Bello-Koko who was represented by the Apapa Area Ports manager, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu, ACG Charles Edike (Rtd) who was the chairman of the occasion, Bar. Jean Chiazor Anishere who was represented by Jimi Ojo, the Customs Area Controller of the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Malanta Yusuf who was represented be DC Adamu IK, Master mariner, Capt. Tajudeen Alao and a host of other dignitaries who graced the occasion.
The chairman of the occasion in his presentation noted that “We are yet to really tap into the humongous potentials that the maritime sector provides largely owing to the fact that all the government agencies work as individual agencies without the needed crucial communication that should create synergy which should also galvanise the desired developement. They all keep arrogating powers to themselves and thereby limiting the level of progress withing the sector”. ACG Edike recalled that there was a case where agencies fought over who would board a ship first before the Customs controllers met and resolved the matter. He advises that all agencies of government should invest more in staff developement so that efficiency can be enhanced.
ACG Edike (Rtd) at the event.
In the presentation by the NPA MD, but read by Mrs. Olotu, he spoke on the topic titled: New Ports and Infrastructural Issues in Nigeria, the MD stressed that “Essentially, a Port serves as a nodal point in international global supply chain and a Port lies at the heart of logistics supply chain linking a country with its trading partners”. He noted that the maritime transport carries about 80% of global commerce making it a most important factor in business. He added that Port developement is a capital intensive venture that requires basic infrastructure and superstructure in order to provide all the basic services that will engender efficiency in the system, these will aslo provide comfort for the ship, crews and workers alike.
“Economic developement should dictate the kind of infrastructure that should be provided and not politics”.
On the issue of new Port developement, the NPA MD noted that “Though services and operations are being extended, but the initial physical structures have largely remained the same. He advised that there must be total improvement on the weak Ports Infrastructure, constraint on hinterland connectivity, constraint on yard and storage and constraint on road network. The depth of the channels is also highlighted as a challenge that should be tackled.
He advised that we should continue to follow the global trend of having deep sea Ports. The Lekki deep sea Port, he noted is an example with a depth of about 16.5 meters and that this will serve the purpose as it is reputed to be the deepest Port in West Africa and will support a cargo throughput of 2.5 million twenty foot equivalent unit (TEUs) per annum with all the various plans to make it a very efficient Port. The Port is presently being automated. Evacuation of cargoes will be through self propelled barges and this will add increasing growth and competitiveness in Port operations.
On her on part, Bar. Jean Chiazor Anishere whose speech was read by Mr. Ojo noted that the ” Significant effort was made to reform the maritime sector through the partial privatisation of some facilities in early 2000, however the results have been below expectations”. She noted that “Maritime developement in Nigeria has been witnessing various challenges as operators and users are faced with high costs and delays for everyone”. There is lack of integrated advanced method of cargo clearance within the system, the proportion of scanning through the automatic scanning machine is just about 10% and is very insignificant. Cargo clearance takes as much as 20 days to carry out. There is a need to streamline the about 10 security agencies within the Ports and make their jobs better coordinated. The legal framework for operation should be improved upon as there seems to be little standard operational methods. The Eastern Ports she suggested should be rehabilitated and made operational and cargo evacuation methods should be multimodal in nature.
A lot of goodwill messages also flowed as participants poured encomiums on the organisers, Capt. Tajudeen Alao recalled that Singapore in the 70s was like Sapele here in Nigeria, but that over the years, she has leveraged on her maritime potentials to become a first world nation, participants urged that the lessions learned from this event be made manifest by the governments and citizens alike so that the nation can begin to feel the full benefits of the her potentials within the sector.
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