The Chairman, Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, has said the Presidential Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business at the ports has not yielded meaningful results, as agencies continue to frustrate businesses at the nation’s gateway.
Haastrup, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, ENL Consortium, in an interview with The Guardian said the Executive Order issued by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was aimed at sanitising the ports for improved efficiency, but some government agencies have failed to implement the policy, thereby posing difficulty to businesses at seaports.
For example, she said the 24-hour cargo clearance is currently not operational, just as the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), constitutes encumbrances at ports gates and on the roads.She said: “I know the Vice President visited the port, and he is very concerned about the issue of traffic, and other things that are militating against the Ease of Doing Business at the ports, but I tell you, it’s one thing to give the order, and another thing for people to implement the order given.
“Let me say that as far as I am concerned, I haven’t seen any impact… Sometimes, I am forced to ask, is the NCS bigger than the whole of this country?” she said. Haastrup also accused some government agencies that were asked to vacate the ports, but refused to obey. “Apart from the Customs, government agencies that were asked to vacate the place are still there. In fact, they are even increasing in number. That is the true position of things at the ports today. I am telling you this because if we don’t say the truth, things will never be fixed.
“Orders and instructions have been given, but nothing has been carried out, and I tell you right now, I am sure that even the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, must be tired because the situation on ground appears to be bigger. If so much effort is not getting enough support from where support should come from, I am sorry, nothing will happen.
“Terminal operators are working at night, but I haven’t seen a Customs officer working at night. I know that by 6:00p.m. or 7:00p.m. you don’t get to see NCS officers around anymore, but I don’t know of any 24-hour cargo clearance that is going on. If anything, they are only carrying it out with mouths. It is not happening, and that is the truth,” she said.
The Federal Government Executive Order sets out to achieve efficiency, encourage export trade, facilitate international trade, and eliminate corruption at the ports.The order stipulates definite directive on how to address issues of corruption at the ports with penalties for offenders. Part of the executive order reads: “Any official caught soliciting or receiving bribes from port users shall be subjected to immediate removal from the port and disciplinary as well as criminal procedures in line with extant laws and regulations shall be applied with immediate effect.
“All agencies currently physically present in Nigerian ports shall within 60 days harmonise their operations into one single interface station domiciled in one location in the port and implemented by a single joint tasks force at all times, without prejudices to necessary backend procedures;
“The new single interface at each port shall capture, track and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria and remit captured information to the head of the MDA and the head of the National Bureau of Statistics on weekly basis,”“Each port in Nigeria shall assign an existing export terminal to be dedicated to the exportation of agricultural produce within 30 days of the issuance of this order; The Apapa port shall resume 24 hours operations within 30 days of the issuance of this order.”