The federal government has put in place measures to begin an independent assessment of operators in those seaports situated in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, Onne, and Lagos.
The nation’s seaports’ day-to-day operations were run by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) until the terminals were handed over to concessionaires in the wake of the port reforms initiated during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2004.
The exercise, which was supervised by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), divested NPA from the day-to-day running of the nation’s seaports. Though NPA remains the landlord, the concessionaires are now in charge of cargo handling since 2006 in line with the provisions of the agreement they signed with the federal government.
Since then, the concessionaires have received accolades for the strides they have made since they took over the ports just as some of them have been condemned for their poor services and arbitrary charges.
Port users, especially importers and freight forwarders, have not ceased to use every forum to lampoon the terminal operators for their inadequate cargo handling equipment, poor services and high charges.
At the just-concluded sensitisation forum organised by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on the introduction of the Nigerian Trade Hub, participants made it clear that they were not happy with services of the terminal operators among other complaints.
The concessionaires have also used other avenues to counter the allegations of the port users. For instance, APM Terminals Apapa Limited said in a statement released in Lagos that it has earmarked over $135 million as part of the phase three upgrade to its Apapa facility, among other accomplishments since it took over Apapa Quay, Nigeria’s busiest port and Africa’s largest container terminal (ACT).
THISDAY checks revealed that it was in a bid to ascertain the true state of things in the nation’s seaports that the federal government is now moving to assess their operations.
The assessment, which began in Lagos a fortnight ago, has taken the team to ACT with a view to know the actual state of things and give government an independent assessment of what is on ground in the nation’s seaports.
Special Assistant to the President on Maritime, Mr. Olugbenga Oyewole, who confirmed the development, said the federal government would not relent in its quest to make the services of the nation’s seaports be at par with the ones in the developed world.
He explained that at the end of the assessment exercise, federal government may apply the sledge hammer in a bid to ensure that the right thing is done by all operators.
“Do not forget that these operators signed an agreement with the federal government. There is need to match what they have done with what they signed with the federal government. That is why we are taking this assessment seriously. At the conclusion of the exercise, everyone will answer his father’s name. We do not want to be swayed by what the port users or operators are saying. Government wants to know exactly what is on ground with a view to taking drastic actions on the way forward for the maritime sector of the economy”, he said.
Information from This Day was used in this report.