By Godfrey Bivbere
STAKEHOLDERS in the maritime industry are in agreement that automation is the key to curbing corruption in the sector and ensuring efficient port operations.
The stakeholders are of the opinion that automation will ease all processes in the port industry and drastically reduce human contact that breeds corruption.
Speaking on the issue, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, said that automation will reduce cargo clearance operations for efficiency at the ports and reduce the current traffic gridlock in and around Apapa, Lagos.
Bello stated this during a visit to some shipping terminals in Lagos. He said adoption of automation will improve cargo clearance, minimize the current gridlock being experienced in Apapa and reduce human traffic at the terminals.
Bello added that the Ease of Doing Business Executive Order is realizable when there is synergy among various players in the transport and logistics chain.
He emphasized the need for all terminal operators to register with the Council in addition to maintaining functional websites and proper records of daily transactions, which would help regulators and government in policy formulation.
The Executive Secretary reiterated that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as Port Economic Regulator is interested in ensuring international best practice, adding that if other countries could attain the minimum operating standards at the ports, Nigeria should strive to achieve it.
Responding to these, immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Olayiwola Shittu, toldVanguard Maritime Report that automation is the way to go and that all the government agencies in the sector are aware but that the political will to commence implementation is the problem.
Shittu explained that government agencies were benefiting from the present chaotic system and therefore not willing to change.
He noted that the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, recently directed that vehicle importer should assess their duty from the Pre-Arrival Assess Report, adding that a valid PAAR report approved by NCS was required to clear goods entering Nigeria.
He noted that all that is needed is for the Service to get the globally accepted software that requires a personal identification number, PIN, which every vehicle has inputted and everything about that vehicle will appear.
He said the Service was unwilling to get the software because of the personal benefits for the officers and men. According to him, the amount paid as a duty for the same vehicle at the various ports in the country has been changing because it is determined by a valuation officer.
He pointed out that in other West African countries that have the software all that is required is the inputting of the vehicle PIN and everything that is needed, including cost which determines the duty, appears.