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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.

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