The Chairman, Port Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin has said that the only answer to seamless and hitch-free cargo clearance in the Nigerian ports lies in integrating the process of Single Window project or the Port Community System as obtainable in other climes.
Folarin who made this known in a lecture he delivered at a one day seminar for maritime journalists held in Lagos recently said that the structures of the individual agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service which still witness a long queue of desks were no fashionable as other countries had set those manual method aside and had already implemented the Port Community System.
He however regretted that for many years, Nigeria had been trying to establish Port Community System but to no avail even as he hinted that so many countries in the region had gone beyond that and were at another level of interface.
In his words,” The Port Community System links everybody on every particular function together, the shipping companies will have access and know what you are doing in customs, the customs will know what you are doing in NDLEA, and the NDLEA will know what you are doing in NPA. The Port Community System is an ICT that links all the operations in the port together.
“There is another project called the Single Window project whereby all the activities will be in one place. In one place, you can do all the activities and you eliminate face to face contact. If we can eliminate face to face contact and you don’t have to see anybody who is dealing with your work, the person dealing with your cargo, you don’t need to see him, you don’t need to know him and you can only interface electronically and you can only be able to know what he is doing through the electronic system”.
While questioning the benefit of all the agencies that present in the port if the country cannot achieve the United Nations 48 hours cargo clearance convention stressing that,” We cannot achieve it, other countries have achieved it and we have been struggling to get the 48 hours cargo clearance mandate delivered but we cannot because one of the reasons is that directives conflict, objectives conflict. If the Minister of Transportation says release this cargo and the Minister of Finance says do not release it, it stays. So, you have failed because of that conflict unless you find a way to resolve the conflict. That is why I said go back to the 3Rs- until you reform, until you restructure and regulate, the conflict will persist”.
The PCC Chairman however maintained that for the inter-agency conflicts in the port industry to be contained, agencies concerned may have to go back to their enabling Act and seek the removal of the aspects of the Act that were causing problem for them and put all the powers in one Ministry so that there would be a single command.
“It is the issue of a single command that is causing the problem, even within the port system; you can hardly be able to give directive to somebody from the Standards Organization of Nigeria or to NAFDAC. We have tried it and said, customs you are in charge of releasing cargo, if there is issue of bad food or drugs coming in illegally into the country or if the cargo is drug, whether it is illicit drug or illegal drug, call NAFDAC, call NDLEA and let all of you together examine once.
“But no, the allegation is that customs will not call them and then deal with issue of examination and release the cargo or if that happens, NAFDAC will wait for customs to release the cargo and then seize the cargo and say we have not examined it or the NDLEA can say I suspect all the containers are from the high risk zones of the world, the ship has visited Hong Kong or Bangkok, so it is possible it is carrying drugs, just to exercise their own power that they have the right to intercept the cargo. With what is happening now, can you now say no, NDLEA cannot intercept cargo or NAFDAC should not seize containers of Tramadol?
“So, there are justifications but the only answer is integrating the process of Single Window or the Port Community System as they are done in Ghana”.
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