Corruption, bad roads bane of businesses at Nigerian ports
Notwithstanding the commendations that trailed the executive order signed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to enhance the ease of doing business at the ports, concerned stakeholders have expressed fear that entrenched bribery and corruption among government agencies and poor access roads may stall the agenda if urgent actions were not taken.
The clearing agents have continually decried the arbitrary increase in charges, impunity and extortion, as well as the deplorable state of ports access roads and a host of others militating against doing business at the ports.
Although the Presidential Order has somewhat reduced extortion, but the agents are still worried about the eight agents that are now approved to operate in the ports.
The agencies are: Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Nigeria Police; Department of State Security (DSS); Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS); Port Health and the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Olayiwola Shittu told The Guardian that bad road is just one of the factors frustrate the ease of doing business, adding that all the eight government agencies approved to operate in the ports also need to change their attitude.
“Until they change their attitude of collecting bribe or government change all of them, the ease of doing business cannot work, because collecting revenue for government is not their priority, but for their pocket. All these government agencies are ready to turn wrong into right once you give them money. If the policy must work let government monitor them strictly and ensure they don’t take bribes, government should publish the amount importers are supposed to pay and allow them to pay directly, and not through anybody,” he said.
On the port access roads, Shittu commended the Managing Director, NPA Hadiza Bala Usman, for her efforts towards getting the roads fixed, but expressed worry that the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi has been less active on the matter.
The National Publicity Secretary, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Stanley Ezenga, urged government agencies to engage stakeholders in massive education and enlightenment of government intentions and objectives of making the ports more friendly, competitive and productive.
He also encouraged Nigerian importers, exporters and freight forwarders to be more compliant to international trade regulations and guidelines to enable better trade facilitation in the ports.
The Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr.Taiwo Afolabi, noted that lack of critical infrastructure could hinder the success of the Federal Government’s drive at improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Citing the case of the Apapa access roads that have literally broken down and are a source of concern for all stakeholders, Afolabi said fixing the roads would not only aid the initiative but also bring relief and order to one of the country’s economic gateways.
He said: “The ease of doing business executive orders are good and brilliant initiatives to improve the customer experience, particularly at the nation’s points of entry. However, I want to submit that the initiative should be an all-encompassing one, where other hindering factors, especially critical infrastructure are attended to without delay.
“Take for instance, the Apapa ports. There is no way a customer experience can be improved when the importers and exporters find it extremely difficult to transport their goods in and out of the ports because the roads are in a sorry state. Containers fall on these roads on daily basis with attendant losses. Workers, residents and business owners in the area are not finding things easy as well.
“My appeal to the government is to do a thorough review of other inhibiting factors to doing business in Nigeria, and immediately tackle such issues with the urgency with which the Abuja Airport’s faulty runway was fixed. Only then we will truly improve the customer experience in the country,” he said.
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