By Lucy Ogalue
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) urged port health services to maximize customs clearance time and implement the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) for the efficiency of the port system in the country.
Mr. Hassan Bello, executive secretary / director-general of the NSC, made the call when he visited the director of port health services of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Geoffery Okatubo, on Friday in Abuja.
Bello stressed that the cargo dwell time should be three to seven days compared to 20 to 21 days.
“So, like any port health agency, we want to be aware of the weather. Time is running out for customs clearance at the port. So when they get on the ship, it should be as soon as the ship arrives.
“And it should last at least 30 to 45 minutes and the number of officers on board should be three at most.”
He noted that if all of this was done, it would attract international shipowners to Nigerian ports.
According to Bello, there is a need for the NPPM to be owned by the relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure better port services.
“It’s an important manual. Our ports are not doing well, they are improving every day, but we have to recognize what we are supposed to be doing.
“Everyone in the port must have a standard operating procedure (SOP). We can’t just be there in the ports like carefree chicken flowing all over the place.
“Everyone has their function, where, how, why and who should do what function, so that if there is order, efficiency, there will be a reduction in corruption,” he said.
He described the manual as the bible of port operations, stressing that everyone should obey the rules.
“This SOP has been led, streamlined by NPA, NSC, and many agencies, launched in 2020 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, but somehow it is not effective because there is no has no one to own it.
“There is no leadership in this program, so recently the vice president appointed NSC as the lead agency.
“And our role is not to do anyone’s SOP but to coordinate, oversee and see that all of these things are done to make our ports efficient so that our ports don’t get corrupted.
“We want an efficient port because we are in competition with the region of West and Central Africa.
“We want all cargo to arrive in Nigeria first before it goes to other countries, but now it’s the other way around.
“So we have to clean up our ports and one of the things we have that concerns your authority / your services is the health of the port,” he said.
In his response, the director of port health services assured the NSC of the services’ support, in particular, to ensure the reduction of the corruption perception index.
Regarding the turnaround time, Okatubo said the time agreed for the manual was sufficient, but called for it to be relaxed for the time being due to the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines.
“The timing you mentioned is great for us, but in this COVID-19 season, there are certain port health activities that we are supposed to conduct, especially for any ship arriving for the first time.
“So, for this period, I want to appeal to you, let’s not follow this strictly because at the moment there are some countries that interest us a lot; Brazil, South Africa, and India.
“I want to assure you that port health is firmly behind you. We are with you and will do everything to help you reduce the Port Corruption Perception Index, ” Okatubo added.
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