By Martin Uba Nwamadi
Larry Norman in his treatise, “Confluence of Paths”, said… “Two roads diverged in the middle of my life, I heard a wise man say; I took the road less travelled by; and that’s made the difference every night and every day.”
I believe that Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM), a new policy change across port operations will build the road that will bring about the difference in our pursuit to seamless port operations in Nigeria.
In December 2020, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched the Nigerian Port Process Manual in Abuja. According to the vice president, the process manual on port operations is expected to be one of the key indicators for the effective implementation of Executive Order I.
On Tuesday February 2, 2021, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, minister of transportation, and key agencies in his ministry, alongside stakeholders in the maritime industry, customs, immigration, SON, Ministry of Finance and Budget, MAN, NACCIMA, freight forwarders, diplomatic corps, assembled in Abuja to take a holistic view of the document. The findings and assessment revealed that the document, if religiously implemented, will usher a new vista in Nigeria’s drive to becoming the maritime hub in sub-Saharan/Central Africa region.
What then is Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM)? The manual is, in a nutshell, a set of step by step instructions compiled by patriots in the industry to help workers or port users carry out routine operations.
The manual lists all the tasks that are essential for port operations, how to do these tasks and who is responsible for the tasks so listed. It presents a simplified detail of how port operations can bring about a robust and enhanced productivity while reducing micro managing of operations in the industry. It just ensures that clients get the best possible experience in their various dealings. NPPM from all projections is an answer to correct the way we were doing things which could not lift our economy or place us where we are supposed to be.
The NPPM is designed to enable us to optimize our resources, promote ingenuity, create strong institutions while providing an environment that promotes excellence and creativity.
Since after the launch, some critical stakeholders, bystanders along the port corridors and industrialists, are posing questions that need clarification. Some of the posers are, is the country ready for this vision? Yes. We are. Is the vision realistic or conceptualized with local flavour that will make Nigeria a maritime superpower in Africa? Yes. It has all the intrinsic values. Is the interest of our business community, maritime stakeholders, industrialist, etc. fully espoused in this vision? Yes. They were all consulted and taken into consideration. Did the document allay the fears of ‘supremacist theories’ in the agencies? Yes, to an extent. Is the government cum private sector teams assembled to drive this vision capable of taking Nigeria to the promised Land? Yes. They are sound professionals cum management experts well grounded in the industry. Will the government and Ministry of Transportation be consistent and strictly adhere to the principles without shifting the goal post. We hope so.
From the posers above, people’s expectations are high on this manual. The primary goal now is to focus on how to achieve and utilize the basic norms in the manual to greater glory of the land. The institutions laid out in the manual must be strengthened to ensure its sustainability. The manual must therefore be part of the functioning system of the maritime industry and must be seen as the guide to achieving seamless port operations.
I am excited that the manual has specified team spirit, customer service, efficiency and productivity as its hallmark of excellence, but we have to add patriotism as the catch phrase. Once we drop our egoistic tendencies for the greater glory of all, the nation will benefit from the new port order.
The greatest challenge that may face NPPM from our not realizing the full potentials will be from government agencies and their ‘supremacist’ theories. The tendency of agency officials ascribing superiority roles or rankings in the industry may create stumbling blocks on the way. The ‘supremacist’ attitude of NPA may not go down well with that of the customs or marine police and vice versa. What this may portend is that institutions saddled to deliver on the key principles of the manual are already against each other and the resultant effect is that the manual and its intendments may crash before takeoff. We must avoid rancour.
Furthermore, the federal government should use this window offered by the manual to ensure full automation at the ports. This has been a crusade championed by Nigerian Shippers Council that for our ports to remain competitive, efficient and assume the leadership role in sub-Saharan /Central Africa sub region, our ports must be automated and fully digitalized. Port automation is a sine qua non in a 24 hour port operations and will add value while drastically reducing the cargo dwell time in Nigerian ports. Also, our global ranking will appreciate tremendously. The federal government must endeavour to install scanners in all Nigerian ports for this manual to achieve its goal.
The crisis in our ports is basically that we have all failed to do what we were supposed to do at the right time. We had deficit in leadership and there was no co-ordination in our mission. In fact, interests of some top bureaucrats, policy makers, politicians sometimes were overriding national interests hence our port system remained comatose. But with NPPM, it is a new dawn in the offing.
The Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, succinctly said that a nation’s economic growth is shouldered by the government, the public and private sectors, including the entire people of the nation. Everybody must be linked to the chain.
Bello, whose agency is set to drive the NPPM, has been emphatic and resilient that the manual will deliver on its promises by promoting efficiency, ensuring predictability, accountability, reduction of corruption in the port process, eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks while also reducing the opportunity for illegal demands in the ports. It will change the narrative and perception that our pots are a cesspool of corruption. The NPPM is intended to accelerate exponentially the maritime industry as next to oil sector. The foundation as premised in the manual will encourage ship acquisition by Nigerians and equally boost business for shipping companies, freight forwarders, logistics chain operators while attracting huge foreign direct investment into the country, Bello added.
In conclusion, we must advise Nigerian Shippers Council that this is a huge responsibility. NSC should appreciate that port operations are complex due to various behavioural tendencies. The Council has a renowned pedigree and institutional principles that drive its regulatory roles in the industry. The vice president was firm in stating that Nigerian Shipper’s Council was chosen to drive this manual because it is endowed with professionals and staff with integrity whose past are not in doubt. He implored the Council not to disappoint the country in their expectations.
Corroborating the vice presidents assertion on Nigeria Shippers Council integrity, the minister of transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, commended the Council for the integrity test and popular belief that it has the capacity and wherewithal to drive NPPM. He promised every assistance to ensure that this goal is achieved. Amaechi also commended the group that took time to bring this intellectual piece of work to reality. The patriotic group has demonstrated that the shortest way to expanding knowledge lies in creativity and pioneering spirit. The NPPM as a document will surely increase output in our ports, uniformity of performance while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations. It is not yet dawn for its assessment.
Frontpage August 10, 2020