Stories by Isaac Anumihe
The 30 days ultimatum given to port operators to commence 24-hour operation expired yesterday.
A statement by the spokesman to the Acting President, Laolu Akande, said: “The Apapa Port shall resume 24-hour operations within 30 days of the issuance of this order and there shall be no touting whatsoever by officials or unofficial persons at any port in Nigeria. Each port is to assign an existing export terminal to be dedicated to the exportation of agriculture produce within 30 days of the issuance of this order.”
But how are the terminal operators, the freight forwarders and other ancillary workers who have been badly battered by the effect of recession, prepared to implement the order?
At the inception of the economic recession in 2015, importers suffered drop in their business because of high exchange rate. Following the drop in business, most of the terminal operators, the freight forwarders and other operators closed shop. Those who managed to be in business cut their workforce by half.
So far, Nigeria has not recovered from the shock of the economic strangulation and so are the operators.
The exchange rate which determines the volume of freight in the import and export business is still high. As at today the exchange rate of the naira to one dollar hovers around N380 and N400. The infrastructural deficiencies like the roads, the electricity supply in and around the ports have not been attended to.
To this effect, some of the operators opined that the implementation of the 24-hour operation will have a wobbly start because for the order to be effective, some of the sacked workers will have to be recalled. With skeletal workforce, the concessionaires might not be well-disposed to operate on shift basis.
A maritime analyst, Mr Ismail Aniemu, is of the view that the order will not only have a wobbly start, but will not achieve its desired efficiency.
“It will be 24 hours in name. But in terms of efficiency, we may not achieve 24 hours immediately. As we speak, the roads within the ports are begging for repairs. The use of the truck-parking bay has not commenced. That parking bay can contain hundreds of trucks rather than have them park on the roads. Twenty-four hours will start as they insist but it will not be efficient at the beginning.
As we speak, exchange rate of the naira to dollar is still between N380 and N400 to a dollar. So, importation is still not attractive. Many clearing agents have closed shop. Many shipping companies have closed shop and the ones existing have reduced workforce. As they commence the 24-hour operation, we are yet to ascertain whether it will be morning/afternoon or morning/night” he guessed.
A customs officer at Apapa Port told Daily Sun that the agency has the capacity to implement the order.
“Customs has enough manpower to operate 24 hours. Customs will shift itself in such a way that there is always a customs officer to attend to everybody coming for one service or the other” he said.
The fear of lack of manpower by the agency was also allayed by the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Colonel Hameed Ali, who maintained that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has enough capacity to run the process.
Ali gave the assurance at a joint press conference with other government agencies on June 7, 2017 to announce their readiness for the implementation of the order.
Also speaking during the conference, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, warned that unauthorised personnel should vacate the ports.
These include, off-duty personnel of both government agencies and the private-sector. Other agencies to operate in the port are Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS), Police, Port Health and Department of Security Services (DSS).
The agencies outside the list include, National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) etc. But the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is contesting its exclusion from the ports.
In a statement, the Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Muhammad Abdallah, said that its operation at the seaports is statutory, threatening legal action for any misinterpretation of the executive order.
“The operation of the NDLEA at the seaports is statutory and it is pertinent to set the records straight.
“This clarification is imperative in the light of conflicting reports intended to mislead members of the public on the official position.” Abdallah, who is also a retired colonel in the Nigeria army, said.
Citing Section 8 (1b) of the NDLEA Act, Abdallah said that the agency shall work in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Services in monitoring the movement of goods and persons in any customs area, customs stations, customs ports or customs airports and searching cargoes and incoming and outgoing vessels, including pleasure craft and fishing vessels as well as aircraft and vehicles and, when appropriate, searching crew members, passengers and their baggage.
Recall that the exclusion list is not new in the maritime industry. In 2011, the then Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had ordered the exit of the agencies.
Okonjo-Iweala listed Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Ports Health, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian police and State Security Services (SSS) which is now DSS as the agencies authorised by government to operate in the ports.
“The (other) agencies must withdraw from the ports within two weeks. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the task force from the presidency must monitor compliance to ensure that the directives from government are strictly carried out within the given timeframe. They must also ensure strict and total enforcement.
“Customs would work 24 hours and seven days a week to make our ports function efficiently. Customs would invite other agencies to the ports only when their services are needed. We are working to implement the action of government on the medium and long team development. We must stop the extortion and corruption prevalent in the port. We are going to reduce the check- points to reduce the cost of doing business in order to achieve faster turnaround time,” Okonjo-Iweala, said.
Since 2011 when the order was given, all the excluded agencies report to the ports when they are needed. So, the controversy over the exclusion list is coming rather too late having complied with the order in the past.
Reps committee scores INTELS high
The House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) relocation has commended the management of INTELS Nigeria Limited for building and sustaining high standards in its operations.
Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee, Ibrahim Isiaka, who led 12 other members of the committee on a tour of INTELS facility at the Onne Free Zone in Rivers State, said he was impressed with what he saw.
“I am impressed. Like I said earlier on, this is an environment I lived on and I have seen a lot of improvement especially in the expansion of the new phases you are bringing up.
“I am highly impressed with the facility on ground, the newly acquired Big Mama Crane, the mother of all cranes you have, the lifting operations; so all we need do is to gain back the confidence in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria so that all these idle vessels, idle hands, idle facilities will become operational again and people will have one or two things to do,” he said.
Isiaka said the Ad-hoc Committee was set up to prevent the relocation of SPDC from Rivers State because of the potential negative impact such move could have on the Niger Delta region and on the national economy.
“I can assure you that with the confidence we have gained back from Shell and those that were gained from other stakeholders, by the grace of God, we should not be talking about any major oil company leaving Rivers State. The consequences are grave; they are high. The implication is there, so no one should think about it. No one should think about leaving an environment like this. What for? They should just look at grey areas and have them resolved. And that is why the House is going to intervene. The Speaker of the House, in his wisdom, has put this calibre of people together in the committee and you can see what we have done so far,” he said.
While conducting the lawmakers round the expansive facility at the Onne Free Zone, Head of Administration and General Services of INTELS Nigeria Limited, Mr. Chibuisi Onyebueke, said the oil and gas logistics giant has developed a “One-Stop-Shop” concept to enable it provide top class logistics service to industry operators.He said the Onne Free Zone, which was developed by INTELS, provides a wide range of services needed for all drill and exploration projects in the oil and gas industry in sub-Sahara Africa. These services, according to him, include pipe coating and modifications, sub-sea installations, logistics, accommodation, catering, helipad and a proposed airstrip.Mr. Onyebueke said INTELS also provides a wide range of port services to its clientele, while attracting much needed investment into Nigeria, and at the same time creating thousands of jobs for Nigerians.
According to him, the company operates with the highest global safety and security standards obtainable in the industry. He said all INTELS’ facilities are fully compliant with provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
INTELS, he said, has an edge over other oil and gas free zones on the African continent because of its wealth of experience that spans over three decades, proximity to concessioned blocks for oil and gas exploration, strategic location to serve as a regional hub and its highly trained and skilled workforce.
He said Onne is the only port in the country capable of providing series of oil and gas logistics service all at one place. He listed the services to include clearing and forwarding, drilling support, support vessels and working boats, tubular stocking and machine shop, pipe coating, cement and drilling fluids services, wellhead and subsea equipment, environmental services, dry dock/ship builders, machinery and catering services, among others.
According to him, INTELS implements the most reputable international standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and ABS Quality, which are unmatched in the maritime and oil and gas industries.
Mr. Onyebueke also told the visiting lawmakers that INTELS Nigeria Limited is fully committed to maximizing the use of Nigerian human resources, materials, equipment and services in its operations without compromising the company’s values, quality, health, safety and environmental standards.
He said INTELS has continued to enhance the participation of Nigerian businesses and local contractors in its operations in compliance with the Nigerian Oil & Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010.
Customs intercepts 384 parcels of Indian hemp from Ghana
Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘A’ Ikeja, Lagos has impounded 384 parcels of Indian Hemp from Ghana.
Disclosing this in Lagos, Controller, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba said that the parcels were concealed inside six bales of second-hand clothing.
The consignment, he said, was impounded along Iyana-Ipaja Road, Lagos while assuring that both the content and the suspect will be handed over to National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for prosecution.
He also disclosed that his officers intercepted a total of N607,717,535.55 contraband between April 1 and June 12, 2017, adding that the zone intercepted contraband with a duty-paid value (DPV) of N334,042,396.8 and recovered a total of N273,675,138.75 from duty payments and demand notices on general goods that tried to beat the system from seaports, airport and border stations in the guise of false declaration, transfer of value and shortchange in duty payment that are meant for the Federal Government of Nigeria.
According to Garba, a total of 10 suspects have been arrested and 152 seizures/detentions have been recorded.
The items seized, he said, include, vegetable oil, foreign parboiled rice, frozen poultry products, smuggled vehicles, Indian hemp, used tyres and various general merchandise.
“You will agree with me that smuggling is a global phenomenon which cannot be curbed entirely but can be brought to its barest minimum. Let me use this opportunity to praise the commitment and diligence of the officers and men of the FOU A for thwarting the antics of some dare-devil smugglers who used different methods for concealment.
“Based on information and after physical examination we have seized five containers that contravened customs law by means of false declaration and breach of import prohibition list by trade. While two of the containers carried 4,982 pieces of used tyres, the other containers carried 1,292 pieces of general calcium vehicles batteries and piston ring compressor as against pneumatic transmission valve and cylinder linear declared in their SGDS. This act of false declaration falls under section 46 (f) of CEMA Cap C45 LFN 2004, which is tantamount to outright seizure. One of the containers was also loaded with unprocessed rough wood ready for export” he said.