Hassan Bello, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council’s (NSC) immediate past Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, has called on the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to expand economic recovery assistance to the maritime sector.
Bello made the call while facing questions from journalists at the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in Lagos ceremony honoring him.
Bello believes it is past time for the federal government to look to the maritime sector for economic growth, particularly since the country is still in recession.
“The government should look to the maritime industry for economic growth, particularly in terms of diversification options and choices. The Nigerian Central Bank has made interventions in agriculture, Nollywood, and other areas. We are begging with the Central Bank to investigate the marine industry if the country’s economy is to be revived,” he said.
Bello also demanded that the federal government relinquish control of ports to local governments.
“The federal government cannot be burdened with ports; instead, it should approve local government ownership of ports,” he stated. Except for some security challenges and regulations, all local governments and other tiers of government should own and administer their ports; we don’t need the federal government to own ports.”
In terms of port digitization, Bello stated that the Shippers’ Council, in partnership with terminal operators, has achieved close to 100% paperless transactions for all port operations.
“We’re on our way to having paperless port transactions. The majority of terminals handle roughly 60% of transactions; in fact, a terminal operator’s transaction is completely paperless. All port transactions must be automated as soon as possible, done online, and our ports must be digitalized. We will reach 100 percent port digitization if all maritime players grasp the message,” he said.
Bello went on to say that having 100 percent port digitization and a port community system would stop any income leakages, adding that the country’s ports would be more efficient, and shippers would want to export their cargo to Nigeria.
IN THE MEAN TIME, stakeholders in the maritime industry praised Bello for starting and implementing efforts to address issues that the business and its participants face at ports.
Increase Uche, NAGAFF’s National President, noted that when Bello was appointed to lead the shippers’ council in 2013, the quality of shipping services, cargo clearance, and documentation processes improved.
Despite the fact that the first three years of the post-concession era saw significant and noticeable improvements in port operations, uncertainty plagued the ports from 2010 to 2013, resulting in port congestion, traffic gridlock, high local shipping charges, and cargo diversion to neighboring ports, according to Uche.
Others, he claimed, include service providers’ highhandedness and arbitrariness, extended cargo dwell times at ports, long vessel waiting times, server failures, and endemic corruption.
The freight forwarders, according to Uche, were not exempt from the problems because they were fully on the receiving end and were severely underpaid with little recourse.
“Abrogation of all forms of illegal and unapproved charges by terminal operators and shipping companies; promotion of inter-agency relationships to ensure synergy and collaboration among them; protection of cargo and shippers investments through various interventions; collaboration with other Shippers Councils in West and Central Africa to a large extent,” he said.
Other achievements, according to Uche, include the creation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all industry stakeholders to support the Federal Government’s ease of doing business reform, as well as the creation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) to consolidate the (SOP and PSSP) in digitalisation.
Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the founder of NAGAFF, who presented Bello with the industry performance award, praised Bello’s leadership and suggested he be appointed Minister of Transportation.
He said that as the NSC’s Executive Secretary, he brought several interventions to the maritime industry that revolutionized it, and that if appointed Minister of Transportation, he would transform the entire sector and everyone associated with it.
“Hassan Bello must return to the maritime industry. He should be considered for the position of Transportation Minister. While at the NSC, he had limited powers but nevertheless made changes that revolutionized the maritime industry; but, as a minister, he will have complete authority and will be able to make significant and good changes in the sector,” he said.
However, Aniebonam assured the NSC of the freight-forwarding group’s continuous cooperation, ensuring that the dividends of the Council’s mandates to Freight Forwarders and Shippers be maintained.