The Federal Government may soon carry out extensive audit of infrastructural facilities, through direct foreign or local investment, by port concessionaires since 2006 when they took direct control of the port terminals.
The Executive Director in charge of Marine and Operations, David Omonibeke told the concessionaires in Lagos over the weekend that government was now ready to verify claims of huge investments by the private port handlers since the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), which midwifed the port reform programme in 2006 on behalf of the government, has no record of their investments at the ports.
According to him, the BPE had since, through the NPA, distributed investment audit forms to all concerned parties in the port reform to fill and to return same through the same channel, adding that many of the concessionaires were yet to respond.
Urging them to return the forms for proper audit to commence, he said the proposed verification exercise was necessary in view of various claims of investments at the ports by the concessionaires in the media.
“We have requested you to document your investments that you are claiming you have made in your concession areas. We want to verify them to ensure that what you are claiming is true”, he said.
The Executive Director, who represented the Managing Director, Habib Abdullahi at a meeting on how to move the port sector forward, said 4,000 containers had already been identified and marked for relocation, from the Lagos ports, to a dedicated terminal meant for overtime cargoes in Ikorodu by the government, through the NPA, as part of efforts to decongest the ports now that yuletide period is fast approaching.
He also pledged that his authority would work in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers Council to determine the consumer price index (port charges), which has been very unstable in the last few years.
The concessionaires had insisted that port charges would no longer be fixed, but to be determined, henceforth, by the country’s inflationary trend.
The concessionaires had highlighted some impediments to smooth port operations, saying the 100 per cent examination by the Nigeria Customs, the inadequate scanning equipment and the long dwell time for cargoes at the ports were problems requiring urgent solution.
Managing Director of Tin Can Island Terminal, Y. Kotik, said about 2,192 containers should be transferred to Ikorodu from his terminal alone, adding that the long dwell time for the containers had necessitated a 100 per cent utilisation of his terminal which, he said, should be under 70 per cent utilisation in order to accommodate new arrivals at any given time .
He defended the increase in his terminal handling and delivery charges, saying such increase was inevitable because of the increase in inflation. “
“In January, based on inflation of last year, we have to increased our local charges in line with the inflation” he said with a promise that henceforth, charges would be determined by the level of inflation in the country.
Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Ascanio Ruso, also expressed concern about the Customs’ insistence on 100 percent physical examination of cargoes, which according to him, has not yielded any positive result.
He said seizures and arrests made so far by the Customs was as a result of intelligence reports
“The major problem affecting the terminals is long cargo dwelling time due to cumbersome release procedure, the 100 percent examination. The ports are like markets and there is no control of human traffic. This is making the port to be target of terrorism. The shanties around the ports should be cleared” he said, even as he commended the Nigerian Ports Authority for improving the draft at the Lagos channel.
“We comment the NPA for the continuous dredging as deeper draft has now been achieved, but that is not enough yet. I don’t think we are up to the standard a country like Nigeria will want to be yet.”
Other concessionaires, who spoke at the parley, complained of insecurity at the ports waterfront, inadequate scanner and pilotage services and low draft of some of the channels especially the Warri and Calabar ports.
Information from The Guardian was used in this report.