Minister of Finance and Head of the Economic Management Team (EMT), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala yesterday ordered the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other eight federal agencies out of the ports, saying the action is aimed at reducing cost of doing business in Nigerian ports as well as eliminating delays caused by the multiple government agencies at ports.
Addressing port industry stakeholders shortly after touring the Lagos ports yesterday, she said the decision to prune down the number of government agencies in the ports from 14 to just four was ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan who according her has expressed his determination to ensure that the Nigerian ports start to working like others elsewhere in the world.
Aside from Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, the four other government agencies allowed to operate in the ports are: Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Police and Port Health. The State Security Service can still operate in the ports. Others will have to commence winding down their port operations immediately and should be completely out of the ports in two weeks time. The Nigeria Customs Service will invite any other them from time to whenever it needs their attention as is the standard practice all over the world, Okonjo Iweala said.
The Minister who was on the tour in company with the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar and other members of the Economic Management Team including the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Engr. Omar Suleiman, the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises, Ms Bolanle Onagorowa and the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Abdulahi noted that the objective of the port reform is to reduce time of doing business in the Nigerian ports to at least one week as well as eliminate extortion and achieve faster turnaround time of cargo. To this end, she ordered the Nigeria Customs Service to commence 24 hours operations seven days a week.
She also ordered the Comptroller General of Customs to immediately disband his Taskforces on 100 percent inspection and anti-smuggling and remove them out of the roads immediately. According to her, the aim of the directive is to remove all the obstacles that inhibit trade facilitation for honest people who want to invest in the Nigeria economy.
The Minister further ordered the Nigerian Ports Authority to take responsibility for the regulation of the Concessionaires to ensure that they comply fully with the Concession Agreement particularly with regards to investing in port infrastructure and cargo handling equipment.
She explained that the directive is an interim measure, saying the Transport Commission Bill, which aims to have a commercial regulator for the ports will be accelerated to ensure its early passage by the National Assembly.
She assured that in the next three months, most of the government plans to ensure that the ports are working will start to materialize.
She also assured that no government agency asked to leave the ports will be able to get any letter of authority from the presidency to come back to the port.
In a remark, the Managing Director of Nigerian ports Authority, Engr. Omar Suleiman describe the action of the government as a landmark move which would bring efficiency to the ports. She further assured that in no distant time the port access roads “would be full rehabilitate and step by step we will reach our target of transforming our ports to become the hub of the West and Central Africa,” Suleiman said.