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Ports: Stakeholders Accuse Service Providers of Moves to Stifle Regulation

Shipping stakeholders have called on the federal government to
consider quick intervention that will bring about intended efficiency in the
ports system by empowering the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), which was
appointed the Ports Economic Regulator with enough legal instrument and
political will to carry out its assignment without blemish.

The stakeholders who spoke during a book presentation at
Rockview Hotel  Apapa said the call became necessary because of what they
described as moves by some service providers to stifle regulation in the ports
system.

Such intervention, according to the stakeholders, would be to
urgently consider the opinion of legal experts who have canvassed for more laws
for the Council to enable it execute its current roles as a regulator.
A maritime consultant, Chief Denis Ojei   said that
beyond the present laws empowering the Council as an Economic Regulator,
government needs to pass laws that will put the Council in the same level with
the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which has been regulating the
communications sector for more than a decade now since the deregulation of the
sector.

Ojei argued that the Regulator may continue to suffer some
challenges in executing its mandate as an umpire in the ports sector except
with more legal instrument that will put it in no disputable position to stop
illegalities in the ports sector.

Insisting that the shipping industry is filled with some unscrupulous
businessmen, he said the knowledge of such background   should be
enough reason for the government  to do the needful in the area of 
adequate powers  for the  Council   to change the wrath in
the  ports system.

He  commended  the Council  for the moves already
made at correcting the  ills in the ports system, adding that  the
steps taken so far give Nigerian importers the hope that very soon the cost of
doing business in Nigerian ports would come down.

He said that when this happens, there would not be any need to
smuggle goods into the country through the neighbouring port of Cotonou because
of high  charges in Lagos  ports.
 Ojei   however added that while  more
legal  instrument is  awaited, government should also have the
political will to  allow the Ports Regulator deal decisively  with
some of the  service providers in the  ports system.

He accused the service providers of deliberate efforts to stifle
regulation in the ports, adding that Nigerian importers were the ones paying
for this problem, while the multinational agencies continue to post millions of
dollars to their home countries.

Another stakeholder and customs broker, Mr Tunde 
Ogunlana,  also said that  beyond equipping the Council with more
powers, government  should give free  hand to the Ports Regulator to
deal decisively with the  service providers who do not want to obey trade
regulations of the federal government.

Ogunlana who also was of the  view   that
the service providers were out to stifle regulation, added  that surprisingly,
these multinational agencies cannot oppose such regulations in their own
countries except in Nigeria where they enjoy certain patronage from some highly
placed officials.

He said that government should be aware that what is being collected from Nigerian
importers in terms of high illegal charges were not used in developing the
country, but repatriated.

Prominent lawyers in the maritime industry, including former
Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration  and Safety
Agency (NIMASA) , Mrs.  Mfon Usoro,  Mr. Louis Mbanefo (SAN), 
Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN),   had  early this year  called on
the federal government to   give  the regulator  enough
legal backing in its new responsibility.

 Usoro said that for the Council to succeed, it 
needs to be  fully armed with powers  of the law to execute its
statutory functions.

She called on   President Goodluck Jonathan  and
the Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, including the Chairman of the 
Board of the Council, Gen Halilu Ibrahim (rtd)  to pursue the passage of
necessary  Bills  as soon as possible so that the Council can
succeed.
Former Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications
Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, had  also stressed the need for
strong legal framework that will empower the Council.

Source: THISDAY

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