The National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Increase Uche has given reasons why the association chose to celebrate the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello in the manner that it did yesterday.
Speaking in his welcome address during an event to celebrate the achievements of Hassan Bello at the NSC in the last eight years, Uche noted that there was every reason to celebrate a man who had demonstrated vision and accomplishment in various ways during his tenure in office.
He maintained that in the history of ports operation in Nigeria, Barr. Hassan Bello’s courageous efforts to bring about immeasurable growth and development of the maritime industry could be rated as the highest so far saying “this is why NAGAFF after a painstaking evaluation of the past performances of other heads of government agencies, found Barr. Hassan Bello worthy of being honored and celebrated.
According to him, “He performed official duties with unswerving integrity and fearless determination. His forthrightness, humility, frank and honest attitude in relation to public matters stamps him as being destined for higher office responsibilities. Moreover, the standard he has established in the leadership of the Council is now, the barometer to measure any upcoming CEO of the agencies in the maritime industry.”
Recalling the situation in the industry before the coming of Hassan Bello, the NAGAFF boss said, “Barr. Hassan Bello came to the position of ES/CEO of NSC against the normal political run of the mill having been picked from the staff-list of the Council rather than externally. Though professionally attuned to the details of the Council’s mandate and properly prepared as a technocrat who rose from the ranks as a career officer.
“The question that readily comes to the mind of the ordinary person is what could be the need for this celebration especially when an individual is singled out? Many of the headships of the various MDAs often retired unnoticed. Some ended up being sacked in office, while others exited with nothing to show for the good number of years they put in– they merely occupied the position without making any positive impacts. The case of Barr. Hassan Bello is a different ball game. His appointment as the ES/CEO of the NSC coincided with the period in which the quality of shipping services, cargo clearance and documentation processes were fast deteriorating.
“It is on record that the Ports concession of 2006 was part of the federal government’s reforms of the general economy with particular emphasis on the maritime industry. The aims of the port reform were to stimulate port efficiency, competitiveness, user friendliness, reduced port cost and optimize port productivity amongst others. Within the first 3 years of the post port concession era, there were remarkable and noticeable improvements in our ports operations but, from 2010 to 2013 the ports were characterized by uncertainties leading to ports congestion, traffic gridlock, high local shipping charges, cargo diversion to neighboring ports, highhandedness and arbitrariness by the service providers, long dwell time of cargo at the ports, long waiting time of vessels, server failures and endemic corruption.
“This was clearly the scenario when Barr. Hassan Bello took over the mantle of leadership of the NSC. Little did some of us know that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act of 1978 clearly gives the Council the mandate of ensuring efficient and timely delivery of shipping services to shippers and moderation and stabilization of costs (freight rates, Ports charges, local Shipping charges and haulage charges). The NSC Act of 1997 also empowers the NSC to investigate and handle complaints from ports users, advocacy services, advisory services, stakeholders support services, and to negotiate charges in favor of merchants. Further in 2015, the NSC was confirmed the ports economic regulator to moderate ports tariffs and charges. It was during the tenure of Barr Hassan Bello that the full implementation of these statutes under which the NSC was established came into limelight and the enormous benefits became visible.
“In all these glitches, the freight forwarder whose major function includes the linkage and bringing together of all the relevant parties involved in the process of international trade and cargo documentation chain was completely at the receiving end and grossly shortchanged without any rescue. It was the intervention of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) under the leadership of Barr Hassan Bello from the middle of 2013 that provided respite to Freight Forwarders till date.”
He listed some of the achievements of Bello to include; abrogation of all forms of illegal and unapproved charges by the terminal operators and shipping companies, which brought about immeasurable relief to shippers and freight forwarders; mediation role to address all forms of arbitrariness by the service providers; promotion of inter-agency relationship to ensure synergy and collaboration amongst them; re-enforcement of the Complaint and Monitoring Unit of the Council for prompt response to complaints and grievances from users of port services; constant stakeholders’ engagements and regular interface with relevant parties in the maritime logistics supply chain; paying personal unscheduled visits to shipping companies and terminals for on – the – spot assessment of their performances; deployment of NSC officials for constant monitoring and close supervision of the various Service providers; setting up of conflict management and resolution mechanism to address all forms of disagreement and protection of cargo and shippers investments through various interventions.
Others include; collaboration with other Shippers’ Councils in the West and Central Africa to address issues of peak period surcharge, war risk, bunker adjustment factor, high freight rate by the shipping lines, etc.; organizing yearly Judges Conference on Admiralty to ensure update on new developments in the sector to ensure quick dispensation of justice in maritime related matters; the recent move to introduce the use of Insurance Bond to replace the payment of container deposit and demurrage charges; efforts to ensure that the Federal Government re-introduces the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) to check all trade malpractices in the cargo import documentation and clearance processes and carried out comprehensive survey on how to address the Apapa traffic gridlock by the deployment of International Consultants.
He, according to Increase Uche, made every effort to unbundle the port system through a bill to create a National Transport Commission (NTC); piloted the creation of Standards Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for all the stakeholders in the industry to support the implementation of the ease of doing business reform of the Federal Government; championed the creation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) to consolidate the (SOP and PSSP) in digitalizing the ports and elimination of corruption of various degrees as well as carrying out comparative studies with other neighbouring ports to make our ports competitive and attractive with reduced port cost while improving efficiency through the elimination of all forms of delays.
“He was instrumental to the creation of ICD’s across the six geopolitical zones of the country, a global innovative approach that serves as buffer to ports inventory management, decongestion and efficiency of operation. This is also an indirect provision of the opportunity for the creation of rail freighters segment in freight forwarding services. He worked assiduously to secure palliatives for shippers and freight forwarders through six weeks waivers on container demurrage to cover the COVID 19 induced delays at the ports”, he added.
While re-assuring the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) that they should always count on the association’s support, he stated that “we shall continue to do whatever is in our powers to buoy the NSC so that the dividends of the mandates of the Council to freight forwarders and shippers shall be sustained.”
“It is our hope that even as he retires (we know he is not tired), our great country which is in need of development, will find another place, now at higher level, to utilize him, where he can deploy his wealth of experience for greater service to our nation”, he submitted.
Photo: NAGAFF President, Chief Increase Uche PhD.
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