These are not best of times for Nigerian ports. With only a few banks working and several shipping lines not encouraging digital transactions, amidst the Covid-19 fears that necessitated lockdown of Lagos and the country in general, these are no good times for importers and their clearing agents.
However, seaport economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council under the leadership of Hassan Bello, is not resting on its oars.
Briefing port stakeholders and representatives of relevant maritime agencies on Friday, Bello, executive secretary, said the Council has taken steps to ensure that cargo flow continues, despite the challenges facing the port system currently due to the impact of the coronavirus.
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Considering the impact of port activities on the economy, it is important that the correct state of affairs be communicated to all stakeholders in order not to exacerbate a situation which has the potential to affect the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians, the council noted.
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for proactively putting in place a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states so as to stop the spread of the Coronavirus amongst the teeming populations of the Federal Capital Territory and these two states of the federation, Bello observed that even in the hardest hit countries, port operations have continued without let or hindrance.
During this time, the Council had visited port terminals and had very useful discussions with the port operators.
These discussions, Bello told stakeholders, had led to the Council intervening on behalf of freight forwarders with banks to extend their services to port operators in order to allow them pay fees to various agencies to facilitate clearance of cargoes from ports.
Bello continued, “We cannot afford to have our terminals clogged up with more uncleared cargoes. We are happy to note that a number of banks have been cooperating as their branches in Apapa to ease transactions fo freight forwarders.
“It gives me great pleasure to report that all stakeholders have been very cooperative in a bid to ensure that activities in the maritime sector suffer minimum disruption. I note that you have been reporting on yesterday’s meeting with NIMASA. We all recognise that we are all in this together and we hope to emerge stronger at the end of this pandemic.
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been engaging the Port Health Services as well, as it works very hard to ensure that port users, and indeed the generality of Nigerians are protected from the virus as essential goods make their way into the country.
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council has made some modest contribution in cash and protective materials towards the fight against COVID-19. However, its most important contribution is in ensuring that it does not drop the ball in terms of its responsibility as Port Economic Regulator in thes very fluid and difficult times. This is why we continue to engage with stakeholders to ensure that the ports run as smoothly as possible under the circumstances.”
The NSC boss that ked the Vice President’s team on Post COVID-19 economy, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who heads the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State and his COVID-19 team and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Kayode Odumosu.
Bello also acknowledged the good works of the Port Health Services, NIMASA, NPA, the CRFFN and “the brave medical workers, security forces, researchers working all hours to find a vaccine and of course all of you present here today.”