SHOCKS over the United States Government’s order that Nigeria has to improve ports security or face sanctions – stoppage of vessels sailing to Nigerian ports – are indicative that Nigerians do not fully appreciate the implications of being members of the global village. It may be a village, but it has standards.
The US wants ports standards that would guarantee safety of its investments (worth more than $40 billion in 2012) in transporting goods in and out of Nigeria. There are many allied businesses involved: insurance, safety of the goods in transit, the certainties of industries and other services that depend on them running smoothly all through the year, and guarantees of safety of these investments.
Would the US have bothered if the standards were in order? Did we need the US to tell us the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea were affecting Nigerian waters? Who created the room for the US to meddle in our affairs? We did.
Nigerian officials, for decades, did things with their standards. They signed international conventions they had no plans to implement. After the sessions they return to the “normalcy” they prefer at home.
The chaos at our ports was replicated at our airports until the same US insisted on standards that had to be met if planes would fly from Nigeria into its territory. It is a shame as some people have noted that the authorities had to wait until America barked orders for them to know that our ports deserved better standards.
Nigerian business people have mourned for years over the high costs of goods passing through our ports.
The major causes the number of agencies that clear goods at the ports, all charging different fees for doing the same thing, or mostly nothing and higher costs of shipping and insurance to Nigeria. The authorities ignored them. They were unimportant, as if governments were uninterested in the businesses these Nigerians did.
It took the warning of middle level diplomats at the US Embassy and government in half the time wants to secure the ports. It feared the US would mobilise its partners to boycott Nigerian ports.
Must Nigerian governments wait for promptings to act? In improving the ports, government should realise Nigerians expect high standards in all its services to them. With the official clamouring over Nigeria being West and Central Africa’s shipping hub, nothing practical was being done to achieve the ambition.
We must set higher standards for ourselves and in our engagements with others. There must be an aspiration for Nigerian standards to be high, such that others strive to attain them. Promotion of excuses and mediocrity would never create standards that would inspire others.