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NSC’s economic regulatory appointment meant to address port challenges — Perm Sec

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…Sues for stakeholders cooperation

Barth Ndubuwah, Port Harcourt

The Permanent Secretar, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr (Mrs) Magdalene Ajani has restated the role of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as interim Port Economic Regulator, stressing that the challenges hitherto bedeviling the ports have been tackled. Such problems, she said included, lack of infrastructure, inefficiency, increased container dwell time,high clearing costs and high vessel turnaround time, among others.

Mrs Ajani stated this in a one-day sensitisation seminar for stakeholders in the maritime industry in Port Harcourt, organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

Represented by Mr Pius Odey, the Permanent Secretary said the appointment of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as Economic Regulator was therefore to create an effective regulatory regime at the ports to control tariff and rate charges. A role, she said has been effectively played by NSC since its appointment in 2015 by the Federal Government.

She expressed joy that the initial resistance by maritime stakeholders on the appointment of NSC as Economic Regulator has died down and the Council has since received the cooperation of the stakeholders.

The Permanent Secretary therefore urged the stakeholders to sustain the tempo for overall success of the ease of doing business policy of the Federal Government and its attendant  growth of the nation’s economy.

“I therefore wish to re-iterate the position of Government that the Nigerian Shippers` Council is the Ports Economic Regulator and enjoin all stakeholders in the maritime industry to give the Council the needed cooperation and support in the execution of this mandate,” She said.

Dr Ajani opined that the NSC’s mandate as Port Economic Regulator be reflected in subsequent concessionaires’ agreements, while reiterating that NSC remains the interim Port Economic Regulator, until the establishment of the National Transport Commission as an Independent Regulator.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hon Emmanuel Jime had described the maritime industry in Nigeria as a catalyst to the nation’s economic development, noting that maritime and transportation directly or indirectly influence the growth of industries in any given society.

Represented by the South South Director of NSC, Mr Glory Onojedo, the Executive Secretary noted thus, “We are all aware that the maritime industry plays an important role in the development of any economy.

“As a catalyst to the nation’s economic development, maritime, transportation and it’s related activities influence the growth of industries directly or indirectly and exerts great influence on the general price of goods and services,” Jime said.

He said with the concession of the ports in 2006, one would have expected an increase in cargo inflow, but regrettably the West and Central African subregions still witness the least cargo volume, contrary to global standards.

Jime attributed the trade imbalance to the composition of sub-Saharan African trade, which he said is about 6 per cent of global trade, with 70 per cent of export cargoes as primary commodities, while majority of imports are consumer goods.

The Executive Secretary said there is need to develop the nation’s industrial base to balance trade and boost the nation’s economy. He emphasised that the port as a critical infrastructure needs to be made competitive and guard against monopoly to enable numerous players enter and exit the port, while enjoying relatively low prices and attendant  service delivery associated with competition.

Jime said it is against this backdrop that the Federal Government appointed NSC as Economic Regulator to control tariff, rates, charges and other related economic services. He noted that NSC in the course of its mandate has developed  and implemented a strategic plan subject to review every three years.

He identified some of the NSC’s achievements as Economic Regulator to include, cost moderation after constant engagements with service providers, promotion and development of transport infrastructure to facilitate cargo delivery and establishment of machineries for monitoring compliance with set operational standards, among others.

The Executive Secretary thanked the Ministry of Transportation, sister parastatals and other stakeholders for their support in carrying out its mandate. He urged them not to hesitate in calling the attention of NSC to the areas that need improvement for the overall development of the nation’s economy.

Some stakeholders during the interactive session, appealed to the Federal Government to direct operations to other ports, especially Eastern ports to decongest traffic at Lagos ports.

They equally frowned at the  activities of multiple agencies at the ports, which they said delay operations and increase costs.

The programme with its theme, ‘Promoting Competitiveness and Compliance In Nigerian Maritime Industry: Mandate of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council In Focus’, also featured paper presentation by  an Economics and Data Analytics Expert, Prof Bongo Adi.

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Transport

Ports & Cargo handles $200m Kano-Maradi rail project equipment

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By Seun Ibiyemi

Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited (PCHS), a subsidiary of SIFAX Group and operator of Terminal C, Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, has recorded another milestone with the successful cargo handling of equipment for the $200 million Kano-Maradi (Niger Republic) rail project being handled by Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited.

The multi-million dollars heavy-duty equipment handled by the company arrived via MV-TINA vessel at the terminal last week and included wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, crawler excavators, truck-mounted concrete pumps, concrete mixer trucks, telehandlers, motor graders, vibratory soil compactors, and many more.

Speaking during the unveiling of the equipment at the terminal, John Jenkins, Managing Director, PCHS, thanked the construction firm for trusting the company to handle their equipment noting that handling such volume is an indication of the trust which clients have in the terminal operator’s excellent service delivery.    He said, “I would like to thank Mota-Engil for trusting and working with us. Our handling of this volume of cargo is an indication of our capacity to deliver excellent service.

“We have a rich blend and mix of human capital and equipment at our company and this has helped us to meet and surpass the expectations of our clients.

“The terminal has capacity to also store various cargoes conveniently too. We put in our best to make sure that best value is delivered always. We are proud that the equipment that will be used for the rail construction is handled by us,” he said.

Jenkins went further to explain that PCHS has well-established Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in line with global best practices which makes service delivery at the terminal seamless.

In his words, “We don’t have documentation issues here at PCHS, we have established SOPs to make operations here very seamless. As far as PCHS is concerned we give sufficient resources in handling big and large volumes.

“In his reaction, the Logistics Manager, Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited, Nuno Colaco, the exceptional service delivery, open communication and available manpower at the terminal signpost a serious terminal operator, while noting that the handling of the equipment by PCHS was done in a timely and professional manner.”

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Transport

NSC lobby Kogi Lawmakers over N200bn vehicle transit project

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The Nigeria Shippers Council, (NSC) is seeking the Support of Kogi State Government for the actualisation of Vehicle Transit Project in Kogi State which is worth about N200 billion.

The project which is first of its kind in Kogi State is expected to create over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs for teaming youths in the State.

Speaking during a meeting when officials of the Nigeria Shippers Council alongside other partnering agencies met with members of the Kogi State House of Assembly, the Coordinator, North Central Zone of NSC, Mr. Bestus Philemon said more internally generated revenue will come into Kogi State.

“What we need from the Government is support. They have done one of the major things which is compensation. The activities that are supposed to follow need the support of the Government but it appears that they are foot dragging. Like when we called a conference for bidders, they are supposed to come but we didn’t see them.

“It actually discourages people that want to invest in this project. At the end of this, we didn’t see many investors coming in as much as we thought. It is just that we want their cooperation. We are not asking anything more than this.

“It is just for them to be involve, partner with us as the project is being developed. It is a state project. When we finish it, we will hand it over to them, and they will be working with the concessioner, and not the Shippers Council. It is a project that we believe is good for this place, particularly this State. Why because, the volume of articulated Vehicles that passes through this State daily.

“You can imagine if these vehicles were supposed to park in this designated place and given all the things they required to make them comfortable and safe. If every trailer enters this place for rest, there are fees they will pay. This will generate revenue on a daily basis for Kogi State. The project is a modern vehicle park that has almost all facilities that will give the drivers and owners of vehicles a rest place.

“There will be hotels, mechanic workshops, police stations, banks, sale of spare parts, shops for food and drinks, and restaurants, so that if you come to the place you will be comfortable. We brought this concept, because a long lorry does not drive fast. Long lorries going to Lagos for two or three days, sometimes are tired and need rest. But if given  that rest, then they can drive safely, and prevent accidents.

“That is where this concept is coming from, because we protect cargoes either by air, land and many more. We make sure that they get to the door step of the owner of the goods. You know, that there are places that they park on the road. Sometimes, this causes accidents. That is why we are saying let us pull them away from the road and be in a place that is comfortable for them. We want to pull them out to avoid accident,” he stated.

Philemon noted that when completed, Kogi state will be a business hub among the comity of states, stressing that the project will generate much revenue for the development of Kogi State.

The Coordinator commended the Kogi State House of Assembly for their continuous support to the organisation, adding that they are presenting this because of the ability of the House to add value to their proposal as they are an important agency to ensure the success of the project in Kogi State.

He re-emphasised that Kogi State will become the highest exporter of goods to other countries.

Also speaking, the Lokoja Area Officer, Nigeria Shippers Council, Ignatius Edwin stated that the agency will be delighted for the truck transit park, Kogi Industrial Export Processing Hub and Kogi State Trade Fair to see the light of the day in 2023.

He hinted to the lawmaker that the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has approved 41 hectares of land for the Nigeria Shippers Council to execute the gigantic project that would attract investors from far and near.

Edwin, who also averred that the agency has made tremendous progress in the actualisation of the said project, appealed to the Kogi State House of Assembly to bring up legislations that would promote commerce and to ensure that what is established in the state serve as a template for other states and the world to emulate.

He added that the lawmakers should come up with documents showing to the world that Kogi State is ready for business.

He re-echoed that the project will bring tremendous job opportunities in the state, revamp the economy and generate much revenue that will make the State self-sufficient.

Speaking on last year Kogi Trade Exhibition, he maintained that the State has been lagging behind on these areas, stressing that aside from what was achieved in 2022, with little support from the government, international companies declined coming to Kogi State due to negative publicity.

The President, Kogi State Shippers Association, Comrade Rajan Suleiman in his address explained that the organisation is committed towards ensuring that Kogi State produces goods in large quantities which will be exported to other countries.

Suleiman requested that the government should provide 70 hectares of land along Ajaokuta road for the Shippers Council to bring in investors as there would be great economic benefits that would impact positively on the people of Kogi state.

On why it should be located around Ajaokuta axis, he averred that this was chosen because of the industrial layout as it has road, rail and water transportation network that will boost the economic growth of the business since Kogi is bordering about 10 other states in Nigeria.

Adding his voice, the Director General Kogi State Chamber of Commerce Industry Mine and Agriculture (KOCCIMA), Samuel Enejoh lamented that the last year trade fair failed to get the full backing of the government.

Enejoh seized the opportunity to appeal to the Kogi State Government to give the agency all the needed support for the conduct of this year’s trade fair which is slated later in the year.

He said the business community will benefit as it will expose goods produced in Kogi State to the international community.

The Deputy Clerk of Kogi State House of Assembly, M.A Ndagi said the House has the power to issue a resolution for the Government to raise the proposed money for the project.

Ndagi expressed his concerns over the enthusiasm of the government to increase the revenue of the state as he explained that this is an avenue to generate money for economic development of Kogi State.

Responding to their appeals, the member representing Lokoja l State Constituency in the Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Bin-Ebayya Shehu Tijani promised that the Assembly will look out into the issues raised by the Nigeria Shippers Council, assuring that it will be urgently looked into for the development of Kogi state.

The lawmaker said the Assembly will pursue the project to a logical conclusion, promising to lobby each of the government officials and other lawmakers to key into the laudable project.

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Transport

Customs, Federal Ministry of Transport reiterate commitment to decongest ports

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The Nigeria Customs Service and the Federal Ministry of Transportation on Thursday discussed the need to strategise on implementing policies that will pave the way to boosting trade facilitation amongst many others.

Speaking during the meeting held at Customs Headquarters Abuja, Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, CGC Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, appreciated the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Transportation for congratulating him on his recent appointment and also assured them of his Management’s continued resolve to respect their mutuality in accomplishing a common goal.

CGC Adewale stressed, “I have always believed that Customs administration should act as a genuine agent for trade facilitation. This is what I have been doing all over my career.”

He also highlighted the benefits of trade facilitation as to reduce the cost and time of doing business at the ports, adding that the measures will double the efficiency and competitiveness of ports in the country, through constructive collaboration between the management of Nigeria Customs Service and stakeholders that are involved in similar operations at the ports.

He said, “It is clear that the Nigerian law has authorised Customs Service to synergise with security institutions and other agencies of government as a form collaboration to yield positive results to carry out the business of facilitating trade in the country.”

The Customs boss who intimated the entourage of his master plans for the Service, revealed his commitment to prioritise the interest of trade and private sectors and propose innovative solutions that will address some key issues across the borders.

“I want to assure you that the Nigeria Customs Service has a new spirit now that will enable it to live up to its ability as enshrined in the constitution,” He said.

According to him, the Service will also face the plan of decongesting ports head-on, adding that “the major issue involved in this case will be the problem of congestion at our ports, and we are going to implement measures that will address this matter diligently.”

He also talked about the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 which now prohibits traders from stacking cargo and containers at the ports for a long time, stressing that the Service will according to the law facilitate the auction or destroy such items as the case may be to serve as a deterrent to defiers.

The Comptroller-General however urged the stakeholders to collaborate with the Nigeria Customs Service to implement the policies that create sufficient space at the ports.

Speaking earlier, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, felicitated with the Comptroller-General over his recent appointment as Customs CG by President Bola Ahmad Tinubu GCFR.

Dr. Ajani who was the leader of the representatives of the Transport Ministry, also briefed CGC Adeniyi of their ministry’s efforts in the area of decongesting ports, which according to her were over-spilled with overtime cargo.

She told him that they have succeeded in constituting a powerful committee of members from the Nigeria Customs Service, Transport Ministry and its Agencies.

The Permanent Secretary also assured the CGC that overtime cargo disposal committee is working assiduously to implement policies that will decongest the four major ports in the country, adding that, “We are working in different dimensions but the result will be prodigious, after launching sensitisation exercise to stakeholders and members of the ports community about the process.”

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