Benjamin Dikki, director general of the Bureau of public Enterprises, at a lecture in Lagos, last week, defends the port reform programme of the federal government
THE need to reposition the ports as a modern and efficient port system to service the demands and exploit the opportunities of modern trade and sea freight prompted the federal government to initiate and implement the Ports Sector Reform, Benjamin Ezra Dikki, director general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, has revealed. Prior to the Ports Reform Programme, the Nigerian Ports sector was bedeviled with infrastructure deficit and minimal private sector participation. There was also a dominant public monopoly in charge of design, development, maintenance and operations of the Ports.
Delivering a lecture entitled “Imperatives of Ports Reform and Its Objectives” at the Monitoring and Compliance Conference with the theme: “The Experience of Compliance With Concession Agreement Eight Years After”, organised by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, in Lagos, on Thursday, March 12, Dikki said Ports system up to the eve of the reform process was an impediment to efficient transfer of cargo and facilitation of trade.
Adau Yusuf, director general, acting director, Transport, who represented Dikki, said the Nigerian Ports Authority’s governance framework at the time was characterised by unusual degree of centralisation, limited autonomy, government interference, burdensome bureaucratic structure, excess labour force; and NPA’s conflicting role as a regulator and an operator.
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.
“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 said.
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.
“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.
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. The reforms and privatisation programme 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.
Earlier, Idris Umar, minister of transport, who was represented by Hassan Bello, executive secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, asserted that the port concession programme had brought tremendous benefits to the Nigerian economy.
— Mar. 30, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT