By Martin Nwamadi
Nation Building is a collective effort, a phenomenal task undertaken by all strata of the society be it in public or private sectors but must be shouldered by the national or sub national governments.
To achieve sustainable growth in the economy and build modern infrastructure, government must therefore have the vision, flexibility to embrace change, command influence, and operate within the ethics and norms of the society. A government that constantly breaks its laws weakens its foundation which in-turn germinates corrupt tendencies.
For decades, Nigerian Ports have been branded as a haven for corruption and extortion. This toga has not gone down well with the Federal Government and its agencies at the Maritime sector. Infact, several intervention committees / task forces have been constituted by the Federal Ministry of Transportation to reduce the cancer trying to undermine our economic growth. But all to no measureable success.
Recently, the Federal Ministry of Transportation after an extensive and through ‘Laboratory’ analysis going by the rules of engagement of the National Port Process Manual (NPPM) which was launched December 9, 2020, and this gave birth to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The SOP is to say the least ‘Bible’ on how government agencies and private sector corporations in the Maritime sector have to operate.
To achieve this goal, the government set up another task force called Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) which is domiciled at Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Port Economic Regulator as the lead agency to drive the process. The establishment of PSTT is looked at as a well thought out plan designed to rejuvenate the downward trend of our ports. It is rather a new re-awakening by the government to not only stimulate trade but a conscious effort to buoy the nations Maritime trade to its enviable height. Recently, some non – state actors, groups that resist change tried to puncture or scuttle the struggle to free port corridors of impunity and corruption. The PSTT staff on duty were roughly handled and attacked at the Apapa Port Corridor, intimidating them, with a view to cowing them to submission thereby abandoning the task. Is corruption on revolt? Many Port operators have interpreted this attack as intrigues by those who feel that their source of wealth or cash cow is been dismantled.
Remonstrating on this affront, the PSTT National Coordinator Mr. Moses Fadipe regretted that attack and insult on the team was anticipated given the tremendous success the task team has achieved within the short period of operations. It is infact corruption fighting back.
According to Fadipe, PSTT has built a resounding image, created the camaraderie and integrity that stakeholders in the ports environment are proud of. Infact genuine Port Operators have come to trust our deep passion for openness. Our humane approach and commitment to creating national values has endeared many to the task team.
Are we winning the war on impunity and corruption at the port corridor? Fadipe resonates; Yes. Unlike the previous task teams, we employed the best front – line staff, re- defined the process of how to get this work done and have never allowed ego to prevail in our work process. Hear him, “Our team’s vision is that we are a small core group, all on the same page and committed to changing the dynamics of how business is done in our land. It should not be business as usual”, he stated.
Are the challenges enormous? Fadipe concurs. At the moment, one of the gravest symptoms of our maritime system is the fact that many people are unduly harvesting from the ports while adding no value to the system. You see people of diverse characters loitering but when you dig deep on their mission, you will discover that they are members of a corruption syndicate network operating in and outside of the ports. Lives have been threatened and are still threatened. There is inadequate logistics, operational needs and gadgets for a more robust work environment. The task is herculean but so far, we are on top of the gear, Fadipe said.
Launching the second phase of the project, the Hon Minister of Transportation Senator Gbemisola Saraki represented by the Deputy Director in the Ministry Mr. Adams Ofie commended the PSTT for the successes recorded so far and urged them not to be deterred by the ugly confrontation by the unseen hands. An assignment of this magnitude will be resisted by those who want the status quo to remain, Ofie noted.
Mr. Ofie reassured the task team that all their requests are currently receiving attention as very soon they will see a new lease of life while performing their duties.
Presenting a profound and brilliant picture of the new Port order and achievements of PSTT in the past few months, the man bearing the brunt, Executive Secretary / CEO Nigerian Shippers’ Council Barrister Emmanuel Jime said that when you face a challenge that demands a solution, you either emulate what others have done or be creative and intelligent to design a concept that will fit into your environment. The concept and establishment of Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) is at best finding an innovative solution to cancerous issue in the Maritime industry.
According to the helmsman who has been directing and footing the bills on PSTT all alone insists that we must create new development opportunities or break barriers that are limiting our Maritime growth trajectory or hindering our ease of doing business which is a cardinal principle of this government
The impunity and corruption at the port environment was / is a national calamity which the NPPM concept was deigned to achieve. And with the coming of PSTT, the creative arm of NPPM, there are several break thoughtsand sanity is gradually returning to our ports, Jime revealed.
“I am proud of the achievements so far and in the foreseeable future you will see total transformation of the Ports environment. It is a new dawn.”