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Kaduna dry port succeeding – NSC’s Bello

Hassan Bello, is the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council in this interview he tells our correspondent how things that are making the recently commissioned Kaduna…

Hassan Bello, is the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council in this interview he tells our correspondent how things that are making the recently commissioned Kaduna dry port working. He also spoke on the proposed National Transport Commission (NTC), Truck Transit Parks (TTPs) among others. Excerpts:  


The Nigerian Shippers has achieved some successes, especially in operational reforms and new economic frontiers, as an economic regulator of the sea ports. How did you achieve these?

The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has always been an economic institution. The first executive secretary of the NSC was Dr. Ekong and he was seconded from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when the council was formed in 1978. This underlines the economic future of the council. The second ES was a professional transporter, Dr. Kingsley Usoh and we also had Adebayo Sarumi who was working at the NPA but sent to the Shippers Council as the ES at the time, a very versatile transport expert. We also had Capt. Adamu Biu who was a master marina. 

So you could see the combination and this tells you that the NSC has always been destined to play a coordinating role among the various modes of transportation and we’ve had a good foundation from the past leaderships. Which is why, our job is made a bit easier now.  Also, our job is not restricted to the marine or sea. Our mandate has always been to cover all modes of transport as far as economic issues are concerned; even inland waterways, rail and aviation we in-road there as we do have stakeholders conferences. 

The NSC looks at the economic issues which must be separated from the technical issues. You need multi-modalism, that is availability and functionality of various modes of transportation. But what you need the most is inter-modalism – bringing together, integrating or fusing these various modes together which is what shippers council is all about. If you look at Section 3 of the Nigerian Shippers Council Act 1978, it says that the council will be responsible for the adequacy or otherwise of affordability transportation, the class of vessels to ply Nigerian waterways and so many other things. Specifically it says the NSC should access the stability and adequacy of existing services and make appropriate recommendations. 

The NSC will also advice government on the structure of freight rates, availability and adequacy of shipping space, frequency of sailings, terms of shipment, class and quality of vessels, port charges and facilities and other related matters. So the regulatory function of the NSC has already been provided in the Act. The reason it wasn’t so emphasised was because government was also providing these services. But when the government concessioned the ports to the private sector, the NSC’s functions became more emphasized as a regulator. But, because our pioneer CEOs were professionals and gentlemen, the NSC suffered what people called intimidation and many functions of the shippers’ council were taken away because the CEOs were not involved in the politics. For instance, the cargoes allocation/sharing being handled by NIMASA is our job because even NIMASA was born out of NSC. And when NIMASA was born, cargo sharing, a function of the NSC was taken away to NIMASA. Also, the cargo tracking note is being handled by all the shippers’ council in 41 African countries but was taken to NPA in Nigeria.   

As the current CEO, with a legal practitioner background, what are you doing to correct the wrongs?

 The most important thing is that the regulatory aspect is being brought out now. The National Assembly, using the instrument of law, has said the Nigerian Shippers Council should be the base for the National Transport Commission (NTC) that is coming soon. Other issues, like the cargo tracking note, have been returned to the shippers’ council. 

The NTC is also a multi-sectoral regulatory agency based on economic regulation. Don’t get me wrong – economic regulation is different from technical regulation. Other agencies will be performing their technical regulations. Even now we have collaborated so well with NIMASA and I have to always thank the DG of NIMASA because he is versatile. We have also collaborated with NIWA and we have also collaborated with the Nigerian Railways, all on economic issues.

In the past three years, how would you describe the progress made at NSC?

 It has been challenging but a lot has been achieved. The first thing we tackled was the chaos at the ports. There were a lot of organisations at the ports and you don’t even know what they were doing at there. There was also a lot of corruption. What we did with NPA, ICPC and others was to come up with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at the sea ports and also a standard for boarding the ship. Hitherto, all the agencies would board the ship when the ship comes in. This caused delays and corruption. So we streamlined the operations according to world standards and the Vice President launched our SOP and the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) last year. Now it’s been observed and obeyed by all agencies and the shipping companies. 

There is some unison now and it has impacted the dual time of cargo.  Dual time used to be several weeks but it’s now faster. But we are still working and we will come up with clean operating procedure. Also with the PSSP, the people can complain and make complaints online to the NSC. We can then escalate the complaints to a particular organization and the complainant can track progress. The NSC has vibrant complaints’ units and we have solved most of the problems.

 The other time we spoke, you said recent initiatives of the NSC with other stakeholders  will lead to 24 hours clearing at Nigerian ports. Are we close to achieving that?

 We are getting close. The terminals and the shipping companies have developed so much. They have invested in this country and some are ready for 48 hours operations. The NPA is also on this issue and we are working together. We want our ports to be opened 24 hours and very soon in 48 hours, your cargo is delivered to you. But there are challenges. For example, some agents – freight forwarders, very cardinal, may not come. Sometimes the customs may not be on ground because of the shift and manpower issues but slowly we are working through that. There is also the issue of security and the bad access to the ports but all these issues are being tackled by the government. But I can assure you we will soon have that 24 hours ports operation.

 The Kaduna dry port was launched by Mr. President in January this year. So far, how has the experience being? When are we having others come on stream?

 Last week, we had a meeting with the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) with the concessionaire of Jos ICD, Duncan International. The idea is to lay the tracks going to the ICDs. We hope in three weeks, the process of laying the tracks will resume. There is a small problem of finance but the concessionaire is working hard to resolve that. But in the Kaduna ICD, we have exports coming to Kaduna already. About three weeks ago, a businessman sent in 10 containers through Kaduna and if you go to Kaduna, you will see how busy they are there now.  

The Nigerian Customs have been very cooperative. They have already provided the station code to Kaduna and they are also training the Kaduna dry port staff on NICIS 2 -that is Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System II so there will be seamless clearance of goods from Kaduna. What we are waiting for is also the railway. In our meeting, the NRC promised to allocate 20 train wagons to Kaduna for goods to be moved to Kaduna. On how they will generate the cargo, it’s the concessionaire’s business. But I’m happy that ICNL, which is the concessionaire for Kaduna dry port is opening offices in London and China to solicit for cargo. 

When people know that they can clear goods in Kaduna without going to Lagos, they will use Kaduna. The state government is also providing a lot of support to make sure they have a seamless operation so Kaduna is a success story already.

 Rail track has not been connected to Kaduna dry port. Effectively, cargo bound for Kaduna must be trucked from Lagos to Kaduna. This throws up some issues like security of the cargo, diversions, accidents and even tampering. What is being done to check these? 

Yes! There are challenges of security and even diversion. We have to be careful. The customs are also very sensitive of diversion because the duties are accessed in Kaduna so we don’t want diversion. The Nigerian Shippers Council is also coming up with a tracking mechanism to track containers from the seaports to the dry ports so that no container will be missing. We are also ensuring no cargo is tampered with.

 Can we have an update on the proposed truck transit parks (TTPs)?

 The Federal Government set up a lab where investors will go and submit their proposals for investments. I can tell you the TTPs have been a delight to investors so far. They are on top among the interest shown by investors, local and international. We are in the process of working with the ICRC to deliver at least, the processes latest May 2018. 

We have already appointed transaction advisors for Lokoja and Enugu. These are the two we will start with. In Lokoja, land has been allocated to the NSC, it has been leveled, cleared and the area marked. We also have got two lands in Obolo-Afor, in Enugu State. We are also clearing them. After all the processes, we will advertise for expression of interest for investors to come develop them. 

 I will also like to have an update on the national shipping line or national carrier as it were. You chaired the committee to see that happen, where are we?

 Yes, I chaired the committee. The committee at present, we are working with NEXIM Bank. Very soon, we will have a company we will be working with. They will concentrate on inter-African trade. What our committee would do is to recommend they are accorded national carrier status. We are also working with NIMASA and the NNPC who are members of our committee. When we first started, we called for private participation but at that time, there were no takers. The national carrier is not just bringing ship but sustainability. Sustainability in terms of ship repairs and all. We also have to look at our nautical colleges like the MAN Oron and make them sustain the national carrier. The banks and insurance companies also have key roles and all that. The ship registry too is key. It will be private sector driven.

  What should we be expecting from the council in the next five years? 

In the next five years, we hope the council will have its regulatory duties well spelt out in law, in the National Transport Commission. But it is not the shippers’ council alone that will constitute the NTC. Other agencies that have expertise in other areas will be co-opted. It’s not a wholesome transmutation of the shippers’ council into NTC but the council will be the base or nucleus if you like because it is one that is best suited to perform that function. We will draw from aviation, NPA, railways and others so we can build capacity and competence.


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