By Godfrey Bivbere
STAKEHOLDERS in the maritime industry have called on the Federal Government to adopt the public-private partnership (PPP) model for the development of port infrastructure in the country.

The stakeholders made this call in Lagos at the second edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference, a partnership between SIFAX Group and Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos.

Group Executive Vice Chairman of Sifax Group, Taiwo Afolabi, who spoke at the event, noted that the high-level of efficiency synonymous with the private sector would improve service delivery and facility if the government deepens the involvement of the private sector in the maritime sector.

Vicky Haastrup, Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium, explained that the successes recorded by the terminal operators in the port concession should help government decide in favour of the PPP model.

Bola Ashiru, Strategy and Operations Lead, Deloitte West Africa, noted that attracting private sector funds requires the buy-in of all stakeholders in the sector which will give confidence to private investor to bring in their funds.

Similarly, Executive Director, Sifax Haulage & Logistics Limited, Major Henry Ajetunmobi (retd), in his key note address said that the public-private partnership model remains the most attractive option opened to the government to develop and maintain critical port infrastructure due to its inherent benefits.

Ajetunmobi said that the benefits of PPP include maintaining and improving upon service level; leveraging on private sector skills and competencies in project execution and service delivery through improved skills, technologies and innovation; unlocking access to capital and cost efficiencies; maintaining safe and secure operations and freeing government funding for other sectors of the national economy, other than port development and port renewal.

He stated, “As the government’s concession of the ports to private terminal operators enters the second decade of its existence, one expects stronger consolidation of the gains of concession that are already witnessed beyond dispute by various classes of port users and operators as well as government agencies. Consolidation can come only through greater investments in port infrastructure anchored on stronger public-private enterprise involvement.

“The current bad state of port access roads, especially to the two ports in Lagos, Apapa and Tin-can, the ports that receive over 70 percent of the total cargo throughput in Nigeria, is a rather sad commentary on the way we have fared as a nation even on the one transport mode we appear to have chosen. As it is well known, the negative consequences of this development are not just telling on the economy and the state of equipment; they also impact adversely on human health both of port users, operators, and residents of the host communities themselves.

“This is one area that would benefit from decisive PPP-driven investment intervention. Perhaps the time is now right to start considering adoption of other options and models of maintaining and improving upon the quality of our port access roads, including concessioning through tolling. Or perhaps we should strive for bolder and more ambitious option”.

Other speakers at the event were also in support of adoption of the PPP model for the development of the much needed port infrastructure.

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