Importers doubt NPA’S Sincerity. Discordant tunes weekend greeted NPA’S planned 30 per cent incentive for vessels destined for the Eastern Ports as part of plans to decongest the Western Ports of Tin can and Apapa.
Helmsman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello Koko had last week in Port Harcourt, during a meeting with Stakeholders, unfolded plans by his management to “increase tariff relief by as much as 30 per cent for service providers as part of a multi pronged approach to attract more vessels and cargo traffic to the Eastern Ports ” But in a sharp reaction, stakeholders who spoke with our correspondent likened Bello Koko’s comments to an electoral promise which they said would end up in a trash can, as was in the past.Said an Aba based importer who did not want his name mentioned, ” this is not the first time we have been fed with such a “political jargon”. Do these politicians clothed in a magicians garb take us for fools, he fumed. Who do they take us for? Fools?, he queried. He continued, ” we are tired of deceits. We want tested technocrats , like we have in our neighboring countries, such as Ghana, Benin , Ivory Coast , etc to take over port administration in Nigeria, like we had in days of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. But in the view of Capt Iheneacho Ebebuagu, a former General Manager ,Corporate Communications and Strategy at the NPA, the proposed incentive is as good as dead on arrival if an enabling environment for efficiency and effective port Operations is missing.
Capt Ebebuagu listed port security as key if the good intentions of the management must be realised Said he;” Security remains a major challenge in the Eastern Ports and when I say security, we can classify this into two parts. We have security occasioned by banditry and piracy on one hand and insecurity which is activated by the absence of an effective Corporate Social responsibility policy.
The NPA needs to do much more to win the confidence of her neighbors to ensure that the Waterways are free and secure for the movement of vessels and cargo”.
Capt Ebebuagu also suggested that for the 30 per cent rebate to be effective, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency,NIMASA should compliment the NPA gesture by also reducing cost of vessels and cargo bound for Onne, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Warri by the margin of rebate.
However, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, President Emeritus of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA thinks what the NPA was planning seem impracticalable. While commending the NPA for the initiative, he explained that it was necessary to distinguish between Eastern bound cargo and those meant for the Western Ports. ” What most of us fail to realize is that majority of the cargo destined for Eastern Ports are either for the Oil and Gas Industry or Construction Cargo. But this is hardly the case for vessels destined for the Western Zone.
Most businessmen prefer Lagos due to the fast turn around time and besides, the market in Lagos is more favorable for those who want to take quick delivery of their consignments”, he said. Shittu is also worried about the level of decay of port infrastructure in the Eastern Ports , adding that the issue of dredging had not been accorded the priority it deserves.
The former ANLCA President however does not agree in totality with the suggestion by Capt Ebebuagu that the 30 per cent rebate proposed by the NPA should be extended to Customs and Nimasa charges. He explained that this aspect would be difficult to implement , especially for the Nigeria Customs Service whose duties are global in nature and therefore cannot be manipulated to suit Nigeria.