By Dave Oso
African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APPFLON) has condemned the exclusion of major stakeholders in the maritime industry, most especially, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) from making input in the preparation of what seems to be a surreptitious Ports concession agreement.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday, and made available to journalists,APPFLON’s National President, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, said that the exclusion of the NSC and other stakeholders from making inputs on the ports concession agreement is an indication that the process lacked transparency and was shrouded in secrecy.
He called on all stakeholders to reject the agreement in its entirety for the good of the industry in particular and Nigeria in general.
Earlier on, the Shipper’s Association, Lagos State (SALS) through its President, Dr. Jonathan Nicole, had lent its voice in condemning the exercise as it beckoned on the Federal Government to turn down any port concession agreement prepared by the NPA without inputs by industry stakeholders, insisting that it would be foolhardy on the side of the government to accept another port concession agreement that was secretly prepared by NPA without the knowledge and inputs of industry key players.
In the same vein, Freight Forwarders have also shown displeasure over the sad development, accusing NPA of reneging on earlier promises to interface with stakeholders after closed-door meetings with Terminal Operators.
The condemnation came up as aftermath of the protest letter written to the Federal Ministry of Transport by the Executive Secretary of NCS, Mr. Hassan Bello, in which he demanded for due process.
Meanwhile, APPFLON President, Otunba Ogunojemite unequivocally condemned the process of the concession agreement, saying that the exclusion of the NCS and other stakeholders from the entire exercise was shocking, describing it as a great insult on the sensibilities of Nigerians, as well as an affront to all the industry perators .
Ogunojemite also lamented that NSC as port economic regulator shouldn’t have by any reason be shut out of the concession agreement, saying : ”We are talking of the economic regulator which is Shipper’s Council, why should it be excluded from such critical development.
“This is obviously a tussle for power and influence in the port industry, but it is uncalled for. NPA should realise that it would subject the nation’s port sector to numerous challenges that wouldn’t have been if stakeholders were given the opportunity to make inputs.”
He noted that neglecting the Nigerian Shipper’s Council’s input on policy making in the maritime sector is indirectly stripping it of its statutory powers (if any), thereby placing it on a pedestal where it would be seen as serving no practical purpose.
He went further to urge the Government to empower the body with the needed instrument of authority to enable it carry out its regulatory duties efficiently, and to the betterment of the Maritime sector.
Ogunojemite urged the Minister of Transport to intervene in the matter by calling NPA to order, and to ensure that the NSC, freight forwarders, Shipper’s, Customs and others relevant industry stakeholders are allowed to make inputs on the review.