Akabogu advocates for decentralized ports authority to encourage competition


Maritime lawyer, Mr. Emeka Akabogu has called for a decentralized ports authority in Nigeria so as to encourage competition and ensure optimization of port services.

Akabogu who made this call in an interactive session with journalists on the sidelines of the 2nd Transport Leadership Lecture organized in Lagos recently by Kings Communications, publishers of MMS newspaper, recounted that Nigeria had eight ports which were known and quite a number of terminals, all of them being managed by the Nigerian Ports Authority.

While pointing out that under this arrangement, port services had not been optimized, he submitted that port services would be optimized if there was increased competition by the different ports such that shippers had a clear choice based on identified empirical standard as to which port they should go at every point in time.

He added this could be achieved if there is a regime where ports authorities are in charge of specific ports, even when there is the same legal regime for the administration of ports broadly.

In his words,” We have a situation now where the moribund or still born port and harbours bill made provisions for ports in the east and the ports in the west. Now, this is not to achieve independence of port administration according to regional lines but it is simply to ensure that there is an administrative system which sees competition on the individual ports as being primary as opposed to a wholesome administration where there is nothing to encourage individual operators. So that was the point which I was really making.

“So, under the constitution of Nigeria, ports and ports services remain under the exclusive list of the constitution, it is still going to be owned by the federal government but the mandates are mandates which are specific to individual ports and these mandates will now ensure that relevant indices for optimization of standards are all followed.”

On whether the present concession agreement between the government and the private terminal operator do not encourage competition, Akabogu who is also the Principal Counsel, Akabogu and Associates stated, “Specifically, it does but I am speaking from administrative point of view, the ports authority remains the landlord and the ports authority as landlord has many checklist items with which it uses to check the operations of the individual port. The ports authority has to be minded towards actually optimizing efficiency and if it is not minded towards that, then chances are where you have monopoly system, then, those can compromise the efficiency which you are talking about.”

He contended that even though there were concession services currently running, it could best be described as quasi monopoly operations.

“So, we don’t have the full competition which you get where you should, you have the monopoly which you are talking about and one of the reasons why I am sad that the National Transport Commission was never passed because that would have been able to deal the issue of having dominant players in the market. Currently, we have dominant players who are able to unilaterally or together as cartels ensure that things happen just along the line that they want but the competitive environment which you are talking about, they may have been able to avoid that.”

Speaking on the clamour for government to make the ongoing review of the concession agreement open and transparent, Akabogu argued that the agreements were individual agreements with the private sector operator noting that it was not for the general public.

He added,” However, to the extent that we have the government interest represented in these agreements, I think it will be incumbent on government’s interest to ventilate the broad areas of engagement with the private sector operators so that the public knows. So, the public need not know the precise details of each possession but the public should at least be aware of the broad areas which need to be covered. That is the responsibility of both the Bureau for Public Enterprises and the Nigerian Ports Authority.”

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