·Emmanuel Etim says Maritme sector can create needed jobs if integrity is upheld
Nigerians may escape poverty and live a good life if corruption can be defeated, so says Mr Soji Apampa, the co-founder and CEO of Convention for Business Integrity (CBi).
CBi works in partnership with the presidential Port Standard Task Team (PSTT) and the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) to bring Nigeria to global best practice standards and due processes.
Apampa, who anchored a conference in PH on ‘Integrity in the International Trade Eco-System: A Value-Chain Stakeholder Approach’, told newsmen in an interview that CBi does not have power of enforcement. “We make impact by use of collective action, working with government agencies and businesses.
“The reason why Government listens to us is because we represent 190 member countries who account for 75 per cent of all containerized cargo. It is therefore difficult to ignore us.
He said this is why they decided to show their own power in Nigeria. “We Nigerians also suffer. So, we set up Integrity Alliance in Nigeria. It is coming together that gives power.
“Also, we chose a problem-solving approach. We did not come accusing. So, during the time of Bello was the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, they heard us saying, ‘things are improving.’ They shouted, who are these people. We said yes, we track everything. We were able to prove it. We have the data, the name, the ports, etc. So, in 2019, we tracked 266 different demands for large unreceipted payments in Dollars by Nigerian port officials. This shocked them. So, in 2020, it fell to 128; and the following year (2021) it fell to 24 per cent. In 2022, it went up to 50 per cent.”
Apampa said the drop is because of the activities of the newly set up PSTT and the Port Process Manual (PPM) which he said have the teeth bite such as arresting erring Customs and Immigration personnel. “You heard the testimonies today how people are now admitting that standards are important.”
He said technology is important but the first task is to get the people trained and mobilized for obeying standards and to do the right things. “If not, PSTT will be chasing people. If you now digitize, you see everybody at same time. People will work with intelligence. With digitalization, you send information everywhere at same time.”
The CEO said creating a single window is crucial. “If we spread the successes all over the ports, things will better.
“If it works in the port system, it will work in other sectors. Nigerians can have better life if we reduce corruption.”
Apampa said what happened in Port Harcourt on the day is conference for Integrity Alliance members; those who have vowed against corruption whether they were corrupt before or not, but have now vowed against it. “This is the second conference to take stock, and to team up with others to reduce corruption
“A big meeting is coming with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport where each agency will give report on compliance.”
One of the panelists who thrilled the audience, Calabar-based Emmanuel Etim, told newsmen that there are huge challenges in the ports and in the maritime sector. “This is a sector that can create jobs and rescue those from universities and polytechnics. Trade creates job, but these integrity issues drive jobs way. It also drives away revenue. It dovetails into how much you want to make. Over 86 MDAs work in the sector.”
Capital flight is an issue, he said, getting to over $300m. “Naira falls because of capital flight. We must domesticate running of industries because 80 per cent of vessels are handled by expatriates.
“The way out is to stimulate the maritime value chain to do what is right: from starting the businesses to running them. That is the starting point.
“The way these trainings can trickle down to those who create these problems at the ports is by sharing of this knowledge. That’s the role of Integrity Alliance members to sensitise the downline. We are not the government. Our job is to interact with those in Government and their downline. We will say, you can make money from the maritime value chain but this is how you will do it well. Interaction can help educate the people.”