Communiqué of Maritime Stakeholders on “The Gains And Challenges of The Ease Of Doing Business In Nigeria Maritime Sector” event

.L-R Director General , Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Mr. Muda Yusuf ,DCP Mr Adeyemi Gbola, and Miss Adaora  Nwonu From Nigerian Shippers Council  , during the 2nd Annual Lecture  and awards theme ‘the Gains and Challenges of the Presidential order on ease of doing business in the Nigerian Maritime Sector one year after’ in Lagos 


Introduction
The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday May 18, 2017 signed an executive order on transparency and improving the business environment in Nigeria. The executive order (EO1) contained far-reaching measures with direct benefits for Nigerian businesses as a proof of the Federal Government’s commitment and determination to ease the business environment. 

The executive order has five main planks, namely; transparency, default approvals, one government, entry experience of travelers and visitors and ports operations.

One year down the line, there were divergent opinion on whether or not the executive order has actually served its purpose in the industry and whether or not the industry has benefited from it especially as the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) recently called for its suspension as according to it, the order was not working.

Hence, as part of its constitutionally assigned duty as the fourth estate of the realm and as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR), Primetime Reporters in its 2nd Annual Lecture and Awards held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on the 13th of June, 2018 chose to bring this to the fore for an unbiased and independent assessment of the order under above named theme, with the intent of fine-tuning it for a better result.

On hand to deliver the lecture was no less a person than the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf while a representative of Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), Mr. Jude Oboh was available to give an insight into what the Secretariat was doing to improve ease of doing business at the Ports. It is worthy of note that the former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke was the Chairman of the occasion while the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello was represented by Miss Adaora Nwonu ,and the Commissioner of Police, Western Ports of the Ports Authority Police Command was also represented by DCP Gbola Adeyemi as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Lagos Ferry, Hon. Paul Kalejaiye.

Also present at the lecture were members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents led by its National President, Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike, members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Members of the Association of Tourist Boat Operators of Nigeria (ATBOWATN), National Association of Stevedoring Companies led by its National President, Mr. Bolaji Sunmola, Dredgers Association of Nigeria, NARTO, RTEAN, JCOST, Shippers’ Association Lagos, Maritime Lawyers led by Barr. Emeka Akabogu and Barr. Jean Chiazor Anishere, the Academia and Media.

However, although the executive order has six planks as earlier said, the lecture dwelt on the last plank which is the port operations.

Identified challenges affecting the maritime sub-sector are
1. Stakeholders agreed that the access roads leading to all our various sea ports are in a very bad situation. They include the Apapa, Tin-can Island ports and others across the country.
2. The 24-hour port operation has not fully succeeded, due to some perceived challenges including the non-availability of some key government officials to effectively carry out their duties and responsibilities and the fact that stakeholders (importers/clearing agents etc.) do not work 24hrs for security reasons.
3. The single window operation is not yet operational despite the fact that Nigeria started the project before Ghana.
4. The issue of physical examination of goods at our ports is also a major challenge as it encourages sharp practice and delay in doing business.
5. That frequent breakdown and malfunctioning of scanners also delay the evacuation of goods from the ports.
6. The too many documentations associated with export process is said to be affecting the export business in the country.
7. The mounting of unapproved road blocks and harassment of cargo, truckers out of our various ports by Customs Officials   such as the x-squad, CG Task Force, FOU and other security agents is also a major challenge to trade facilitation; as such check-points have increased tremendously
8. The alarming high cost of doing business in our various seaports as a backlash, as it encourages inflation of goods and services as well as encourages unemployment as most shippers divert their goods to the ports of neighbouring countries.
9. Negative government policies, such as higher tariffs with specific mention of the auto policy has encouraged sharp practice among both government officials and stakeholders, encourage smuggling of vehicles as well as a drastic reduction of government revenue.
10. That the management of the Nigerian customs Service (NCS) emphasis on revenue drive, to the detriment of trade facilitation, has done more damage to the Nigerian economy, despite the World Trade Organization (WTO) advice on trade facilitation for growth.
11. And that the delay in the release of raw materials and other means of production from our ports has affected the manufacturing sector as well as increase job losses and created more bad loans among business men.
12. Inconsistence government policies as well as lack of business ethics, as offenders smile to the bank while genuine business men lament due to lack of effective sanction in our business process.
13. The non-consultation of key maritime stakeholder before policies are adopted by policy makers has led to frequent policy summersault and policy failure.
14. Bureaucracy and poor remuneration among government officials has encouraged sharp practice in the entire maritime industry.
15. Lack of adequate data policy has led to failed policy implementation and evaluation.
16. Non-availability of functional trucking bay or parks for our haulage trucks has created the gridlock in Apapa and its environs.
17. The proliferation of tank farms in Apapa and its environs is another major challenge as it encourages the lock down of business activities within and around Apapa and its environs

The way forward
(1) That the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) should task the contractor handling the 2 kilometers Apapa port access road to speed up the construction.
(2) That the Management of The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) should be more interested in trade facilitation instead of raking in higher revenue.
(3) That goods should be examined electronically that is with the aid of scanners as it would speed up the process of cargo evacuation and reduce sharp practice.
(4) Government should also speed up the parking bay being constructed in Tincan Island port and set up other trucking bays to reduce the gridlock in Apapa.
(5) Key stakeholders in the maritime sector should be consulted before important policies and laws are being formulated, to avoid weak and poor policy implementation.
(6) Government should strengthen their various institutions and agencies so that they can effectively control, sanction and reward stakeholders who may breach such ethics.
(7) The remuneration and working condition of all government officials should be improved, to drastically reduce sharp practice among such officials.
(8) Government should also develop seaports in other parts of the country, to encourage business activities in these areas.
(9) The continue harassment of cargo and trucks already cleared from the various seaports by customs and other security officials should stop with immediate effect.
(10) The government automobile policy with regard to increase in tariffs to about 70% on the importation of vehicles should be amended to discourage smuggling and sharp practices.
(11) The policy on single window on the clearing of goods should be fully implemented to discourage physical examination of cargo.
(12) While government agents operating in our seaports should also be reduced as the entire world is said to be embarking on technological advancement.
(13) Government should step up its security in our various seaports to encourage 24hours seaport operation. 
(14) The documentation process with regards to exportation should be made simple so as to encourage export of our local produce.    
(15) Importers and clearing agents should practice good ethical standards by ensuring full compliance of government regulations in terms of proper declaration and full duty payment rather than engaging in sharp practices.
(16) Organized private sector should support the PEBEC by sharing feedback and complaints (Name and shame) about any MDA hindering the smooth flow of cargo clearance at the ports through www.PEBEC.report.

Stakeholders believe that these measures if employed and implemented religiously, the executive order on ease of doing business in the nation’s maritime industry will witness a huge leap thereby reposition the maritime sector in Nigeria for better performance which will in turn translate to more business as well as  higher revenue for the federal government and for Nigerians.