By Wisdom Chukwu-Ohaegbule
The drive to transform eastern ports just as was done in Lagos ports has continued to dominate maritime space in recent times.
On Thursday, May 11, 2023, a crucial ‘Regional Stakeholders Meeting’ on promoting compliance to
the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) and Standard Operating Procedures
(SOPs) on Vessel Clearance in Eastern Ports took place.
It was held in collaboration with the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT), the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), and Convention on Business Integrity (CBi Nigeria).
The meeting was intended to create a platform that could bring together port
users from the organised private sector and Integrity Alliance to explore ways of working together with the PSTT and Port agencies to strengthen import and export processes and promote compliance to the NPPM and Agencies’ SOPs as a means of extending the gains of the PSTT’s interventions on vessel clearance to Eastern ports.
The meeting, which was chaired by the National Coordinator, PSTT, was titled “Promoting Compliance to the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on Vessel Clearance through Collective Action in Eastern Ports”.
The PSTT’s participation in the meeting is said to be designed to communicate the serious commitment of the Federal Government to extending the gains of the ongoing port reforms to Eastern
ports for the benefit of all port users across the country.
In her opening address, Mrs Jane Onwumere, head, Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), who was represented by Bosede Oguntuberu, gave the progression that led to the successful transformation in Nigeria’s port system.
The TUGAR head spoke on ‘Promoting compliance to the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on vessel clearance through collective action in eastern ports.’
Mentioning the key actors in the fight against corruption in the ports, she said the efforts were to address the issue of corruption from the roots through strengthening preventive mechanisms.
She named them as TUGAR, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) who she said embarked on a ‘Corruption Risk Assessment’ (CRA) in 2011. “The main objective of the CRA is to identify areas that are prone to corruption, proffer recommendations and jointly with the relevant MDAs develop Integrity plans that would strengthen accountability and transparency towards enhanced service delivery.”
The scheme is said to be in line with government policy to facilitate and enhance Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by addressing impediments to the latter, and that the integrity of the Port Sector was prioritized.
“This was also in direct response to the concern and request of the global network of operators in the maritime sector who do business in Nigeria – the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN). This network identified the Ports in Nigeria as one of the flashpoints of corruption in their global operations and had requested for urgent intervention from the Government of Nigeria.
“In 2013 a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) was conducted in the six Nigerian Seaports (Lagos (Apapa and Tincan), Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Onne) and the implementation of the recommendations are currently being carried out by the Project Steering Committee (PSC) made up of key government agencies in the ports (NPA, NSC, NCS, NIS, NIMASA, PORT HEALTH, CRFFN, ICPC, BPP, Fed Min of Finance, TUGAR as the secretariat and chaired by the Federal Ministry of Transportation).
“In 2016 the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedure (HSOP) and the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP), an IT-based real time complaint-and-redress mechanism portal was launched. Also, in 2020, the Nigeria Port Process Manual [NPPM] which focuses on the seamless workflow of all agencies in the port. Provide for efficient processes & enhance service deliver was developed by the PSC and launched on the international Anti-Corruption Day (9th December 2020) by the Vice President, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. The Nigerian Shippers Council was charged with the responsibility of implementing the NPPM. Consequent upon this, the Port Standing Task Team was inaugurated to carry out the day-to-day implementation of the NPPM in all the Sea Ports.’
To sustain the momentum and consolidating all the achievements mentioned above, she stated, there is the need to institutionalize a system whereby the operational achievements were maintained and sustained. “One of the ways to achieve this is for all stakeholders operating in Nigeria Ports to review and develop clear steps for addressing corrupt activities in the port through a robust compliance function.”
Important experts that contributed ideas include Moses Fadibe, the National Coordinator of PSTT; the zonal director of south-south zone of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Glory Onojedo; and the Executive Secretary of the Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM), Ofon Udofia.