On September 12, 2019, during the third maritime stakeholders conference in Lagos, Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, made a startling revelation about the ways and manner in which government agencies in the industry are working at cross purposes.
By inference, Bello pointedly accused the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) of undermining the efforts of the Council to crash shipping charges at the ports.
He complained about how the NPA normally goes to the Ministry of Transportation to get approvals for charges without recourse to the council for harmonisation, a move which he said made nonsense of efforts to streamline plethora of charges in the sector .
To us at nigeriamaritime360.com, Bello’s ‘outburst’ is instructive which gives an insight into the working relationship among the agencies of government in the maritime industry.
Even though Bello, at a later exclusive interaction with this platform, tried to mitigate the enormity of the revelation when he declared that the development was more of an overlapping functions than inter-agency rivalry which we believe the situation suggests, we feels this does not make the whole situation less alarming .
Even though there have been speculations about the silent war of supremacy among some of these agencies in matters that require their mutual consent, authority and participation, the recent declaration made by Bello has eventually confirmed the unfortunate development.
We quite agree that some of the functions of these agencies overlap, but the absence of the necessary synergy among them has clearly resulted to unnecessary friction that has done the industry lots of harm.
We have observed with concern how these agencies engage in petty silent war of supremacy in matters that impinge on the development of the industry.
A case in point is the National Single Window project which aims to collapse the operations of all the government agencies at the ports into one stop shop for efficient and seamless port operations.
Since 2016 when government has given the go ahead for the implementation of the project, Nigeria is yet to kick start the project due to disagreement between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Customs Service on who should control the project.
Customs has insisted on being the lead driver of the project while others should key into it.
NPA too declared that it is better suited as the landlord of the ports to be the chief driver.
So, there was no agreement between the two agencies which incidentally answer to different Ministers.
So for three years, the ego war between the two agencies has stalled a laudable project that would have made our port efficient and competitive.
While these two are locked in a needless war of supremacy, other countries in the region have since commenced the project, thus making Nigeria the only country in the region without Single window project.
It was also being speculated that the present leadership of NPA is working against the emergence of the Shippers’ Council as the lead agency in the proposed National Transport Commission(NTC), a development which was attributed to the delay in the project.
Yet, both are sister agencies under the Ministry of Transportation.
Even though Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), NPA and National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA) have overlapping functions of wreck removal, their sphere of authority was carved out for them in their statutory Acts.
While NIMASA takes care of the wrecks on the high sea, NPA takes charge of the channels while NIWA is in charge of the inland waterways.
Despite this demarcation, there are occasional frictions among them. Yet they are sister agencies answerable to the same minister.
The same problem exists between the Nigeria Customs Service and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN) over the issue of regulation and registration of freight forwarders.
The list of inter-agency friction in their functions is endless. The friction which arises as a result of lack of synergy among the agencies.
Lack of synergy which is as a result of ego war among the agencies. An ego war which is as a result of supremacy battle among the agencies.
We condemn in strongest words this unfortunate development among the agencies of government which are supposed to work in harmony for the growth of the industry.
We implore the agencies to see themselves as partners in the business of making the Nigerian Ports greater and better.
They should not see their position as a contest for supremacy with other sister agencies but a call to duty.
In as much as some of their functions are bound to overlap, the ability and commitment to always collaborate and forge a workable synergy will stave off any friction among them and that would engender efficient service delivery in the sector.
For the fact that each of these agencies derives its position and authority over matters of mutual interest from the Act establishing it should not be an excuse not to work together with other agencies for the common goal of developing the industry.
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