The need to reposition Nigerian Ports in line with international standard prompted the Federal Government to initiate and implement the Ports Sector Reform, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Dikki has revealed.
Dikki maintained that it was against that background and the recognition of the role of transport and ports in modern economic growth and development that the Government undertook to reform the Port sector to bring it in line with international best practices.
According to Dikki, prior to the Ports Reform Program, the Nigerian Ports sector was characterized with infrastructure deficit and minimal private sector participation adding that there was a dominant public monopoly in charge of design, development, maintenance and operations of the Ports.
The Director General stated this while delivering a lecture in Lagos entitled: Imperatives of Ports Reform & Its Objectives at the Monitoring and Compliance Conference said the former Ports system was an impediment to efficient transfer of cargo and facilitation of trade.
“The Ports were inefficient and unattractive to shippers and were bogged by long turnaround time for cargo and ships, insecurity of cargo, low productive labour force in NPA, multiple government agencies in the ports, corrupt practices and excessive charges”, he added.
“The objectives of ports reform are located in the overall desire to achieve fast clearance of cargo, quick turn-around time for ships calling at our ports, removal of duplications in the functions of security and related government agencies, and the facilitation of trade”, he said.
Dikki, who was represented by the Acting Director, Transport, Mr. Adamu Yusuf said the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s governance framework at the time was characterized by Unusual degree of centralization, Limited autonomy, Government interference, Burdensome bureaucratic structure, Excess labour force; and NPA’s Conflicting role as a regulator and an operator amongst others.
According to the BPE boss, the result of these was inefficiency in the ports operations with the attendant high cost of processing imported goods and the inability of Nigeria’s exports to compete in the international market.
Specifically he stated that the Ports Reform sought to increase the efficiency of the port operations, decrease the costs of port services to the port users, decrease the costs to government of supporting a viable port sector, boost economic activities and accelerate development and make Nigeria the hub for international freight and trade in West Africa.
He said the Reforms and privatization program of the Federal Government aims at opening up hitherto government-dominated sectors to the private sector and simultaneously divesting government interest in those sectors to pave way for innovative and hardworking Nigerian entrepreneurs to grow the economy.
While noting that no human endeavour is completely perfect, he called for constant monitoring and review of the concession program to keep pace with the exigencies of the times.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Transport, Mr. Idris Umar who was represented by the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, asserted that the port concession program had brought tremendous benefits to the Nigerian economy.