The Nigerian Ports Authority has said the clamour by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to return to the seaports, for which it is lobbying the House of Representatives, will not work.
It told Financial Street that only the Federal Government of Nigeria had the prerogative of determining which agencies operate in the country’s seaports.
The General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Adams Jatto, said SON’s return to the ports would hinder the ease of doing business policy initiated by the government at the ports.
SON is one of the eight agencies of the Nigerian government sacked from the seaports by the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in August 2011, following complaints of multiple charges, red-tapism and delay in cargo delivery processes at the seaports.
The affected agencies, which also includes National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, were directed to leave the port environment and to only come on invitation by the Nigeria Customs Service to inspect suspected importations.
The step was necessary to eliminate delay in the clearing process and reduce cargo dwell time, the then minister had said.
Recently, SON activated deliberate action plans, which involved lobbying of the House of Representatives and some associations of Customs brokers and freight forwarders to return to the seaports. It claimed that not maintaining a permanent presence at the ports was hampering its ability to monitor and check influx of imported substandard products into the country.
However, while submitting that it does not have the powers to determine which agencies of government should have a permanent base at the seaports, the NPA said SON’s move to return to the ports was not necessary, as the Customs always invite the organisation to inspect imports suspected to be substandard.
The seaports lord maintained that return of SON would be counter-productive to efforts by the Nigerian government to ensure seamless trade at the ports, including the ease of doing business policy.
Jatto said, “We have no control over which agencies of government should be at the ports, because it is the prerogative of the federal government. When we had lots of issues with delay of cargo at the ports in 2011, we wrote to the federal government to do what it could to ensure that the delay is eliminated. The minister came and slashed the number of the agencies to be at the ports and directed some agencies to leave the ports. So, having the agencies back at the ports will be counter-productive. It will definitely hinder the ease of doing business policy of the federal government.”
He also preempted the lobbying of the House of Representatives by SON.
“I read in some papers that the House of Representatives is saying they will return SON to the ports. Not even the lawmakers can return the organisation to the ports. It is only the federal government that can do that,” Jatto noted.