Chief Peter Tompang.
Story by Dili Utomi.
A major ingredient for defining the efficiency of any port according to the International Maritime Organisation is predictability, it is the sine qua non needed for instilling confidence and engendering growth thereby promoting the desired efficiency. The Nigerian Port environment has been agreed by almost all experts and stakeholders that it is a place that lacks efficiency in operation. These experts and stakeholders have over the years made different recommendations that would have helped the various Ports to reach their potentials in order to help the nation’s economy grow, but there seems to be certain reasons why the needed actions are not taken to make the ports more efficient in order to lift the economy out of its lethargic position that it presently occupies. In our quest for answers to the reasons why the right things that should be done are not done, we spoke to a prominent freight forwarder and a man with a long standing experience in the logistics supply chain, Chief Peter Tompang who gave a no hold barred response to some of our questions.
We started by asking him if he thinks that there is a relative amount of compliance on all sides at the ports and he responded. “On both sides, what I have seen is that there is no compliance, the people who go to purchase the goods that are not supposed to be imported into this country are the same government people who have put these goods in the import prohibition list, but they go to those exotic shops, purchase the goods and use them in their houses. Well, I know that for such places like hotels that some kind of concessions are granted them in order for them to be able to meet with the international standards, but for me I think that we should really encourage the local goods manufacturers by buying these goods”.
Chief Tompang asked a rhetorical question “The products on the import prohibition list that are eventually seen in our various markets, how did they get in here, is it a question of smuggling or dishonest and wrong declaration?”. He wonders why the people in authority see these things and show no attention to it all and why everybody seems not intent on doing what is right for the country.
Chief Tompang lamented that the few people who do the right thing are the ones really suffering in this country as he advocates that the government should be more watchful and then reward those who do the right thing and grant disincentive to those who do not play by the rules.
He wondered for example why after banning such an item as foreign parboiled rice, the commodity is still very much in the market and making nonsense of the local investment in rice production, but having the importation and smuggling of the foreign rice going on almost unabated.
We asked Chief Tompang why he thinks that the government is not doing enough to apply the rules and encourage honest declaration. He answered that they seem to lack capacity as shown by the level of insecurity, youth unemployment and many economic and social malaise that have befuddled the government, he said that farmers and some other investors are abandoning their investments because their security is not guaranteed, he added that individuals who are powerful have taken advantage of the lacuna in the system and that this is not helping the country.
We also asked Chief Tompang what he thinks that the government should do to change the situation especially at the ports, his response is that “You can only advise a government that has a listening ear, but that be that as it may I will still give my opinion”. He said. ” The government should always have the right kind of people in the right places, the ones who know what they are doing and the implications of the action, on the part of the Customs, there should be the proper decentralisation of power or why should we have area Commands when they still take orders from the headquarters, if you have devolved power to the units, let them do their job and not to force-feed them from Abuja, teleguiding and not giving them the chance to do their job. We have cases where people go above the heads of the officers at the various Area and Zonal Commands to Abuja to get some instructions for favourable conditions to evacuate their cargoes, this kind of action will not give the officers at the unit level the chance to properly carry out his or her duty and this is not good for the proper running of our ports”. He concluded.
Chief Tompang’s assertion is that we cannot have any level of predictability at the ports for now because like he noted, the right persons should man the right positions at all times and this is lacking at the moment, the efficiency sought at the ports may just be a mirage.
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