By Godfrey Bivbere
The immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, has said that his biggest regret is the gridlock in and around the Apapa port environment which lasted throughout his tenure.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Maritime Report, in his office in Lagos, Bello explained that about four years ago, the management of NSC had commissioned a study which looked at the issues facing the ports in Lagos.
The NSC ex-boss said at the end of the study, the Council entered an agreement with a Jordan-based firm, NAFITH Logistics, to build holding bays, automate the port entry points and create an electronic call-up system.
He said one of his regrets is that the project was abandoned for an individual’s personal reason and that the industry is still suffering from non-execution of the project.
According to him, “We were supposed to have the traffic management system introduced by NAFITH. This was acknowledged and appreciated by the ministry of transportation but unfortunately (not unfortunately really) it was handed over to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, but for some reasons the NPA could not execute it.
“My regret is that this traffic that has lingered for a very long time has distorted everybody’s achievement, most special the NSC. We saw that this traffic will do a lot of damage; there must be modern traffic systems entrenched in port operations but there was some resistance that Shippers’ Council has nothing to do with traffic, but that is not true
“Shippers’ Council must ensure that there is a convivial atmosphere for the operation of shipping and traffic is one of them. So we commissioned a study that was supported by Africa Finance Corporation and the World Bank. Jordan-based logistic firm, NAFITH Logistics, has done so much in Jordan and some other countries that have the same problems we have.
“So eventually, this was taken out of our hands; this is not anything really because we do not have to execute the project. Though I think it is sad that the project was not done, otherwise we would not be having all the problems we are having now.
“This was about four years back; if we had executed that project we would not have had the traffic gridlock that we have today. Electronic gates, a call-up system, provision of infrastructure like truck parks and stages so that you are only called when you are needed. You do not even need so many policemen, no more extortion. You have an electronic card; if you come, your truck cannot get through unless you have been called.
“We found out that there are 7,000 to 8,000 trucks every day in what we call the logistic ring while what we need is 2,000. So what is the excess doing there? So that is it, a beautiful idea and it was supposed to be a Direct Foreign Investment, DFI, meaning we are not supposed to spend our money.
“So that is one of my regret that the project was not allowed to materialise. If it had happened; the distortions in the maritime industry today would not be happening. It is a shame and an embarrassment of a nation, for some selfish reasons.
“You know some of these things when I look at it I feel extremely pained. We are so territorial; agencies keep things to themselves as if it belongs to them,” he concluded.