CURBING CORRUPTION IN THE NIGERIAN PORTS

Victoria Hanson
Corruption, according to Economist Ian Senior is an action to secretly provide  good or a service to a third party  so that he or she can influence certain actions which  benefit the corrupt, a third party, or both  in which the corrupt agent has authority. 

Daniel Kaufmann,from the World Bank, extends the concept of corruption to include ‘legal corruption’ in which power is abused within the confines of the law—as those with power often have the ability to make laws for their protection.

 The export and import business is not left out of corrupt practices
Research shows that corruption is carried out mainly by port officials operating in the port system, customs officials and port operators.
Report says customs officials hold greater discretionary power to extract bribes than regular port operators, given their broader bureaucratic mandate and the fact that they can access full information on each shipment, and each shipper, at all times. Customs officials possess discretionary power to decide which cargo to stop and whether to reassess the classification of goods for tariff purposes, validate reported prices of goods, or request additional documentation from the shipper.
Regular port operators, on the other hand, have a narrower mandate to move or protect cargo on the docks, and at times even lack access to the cargo’s documentation specifying the value of the cargo and the client firm. This category of officials includes those receiving bribes to adjust reefer temperatures for refrigerated cargo stationed at the port; port gate officials who determine the acceptance of late cargo arrivals; stevedores who auction off forklifts and equipment on the docks; document clerks who stamp import, export and transit documentation for submission to customs; port security who oversee high value cargo vulnerable to theft; shipping planners who auction off priority slots in shipping vessels, and scanner agents who move cargo through non-intrusive scanning technology.
However, Corruption has grown rapidly in the Nigerian ports and this has become the major issue and the high point of discourse in maritime functions over the years. Stakeholders from different maritime agencies had however proffered ways to eliminate this incessant acts from the ports.
Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, founder National Association Of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), in an exclusive interview with the Blackface Media said that in order to address the issue of corruption, there is a need for the president, Muhammed  Buhari to Surmount all the maritime stakeholders and organise what he called ” Maritime Summit as this would create an avenue for people to speak out their minds before the government in order to bring positive growth to the industry. 
Aniebonam who stated that one major problem facing the port has to do with compliance explained that people are not complying to regulations, in order to fight corruption,people must be forced to comply through enforcement of regulations. 
he said, ” for instance a lot of people talked about customs being corrupt speaking from a very good point of observations, the customs operation zone is in two segments, traders zone and custom zone. The traders zone is where you have all the stakeholders, freight forwarders , importers, exporters. 
Your duty is to fall in- line with the import and exports regulations and that means you must make general declarations open. if you have not done that you are initiating corruption, do you understand? Before you go to custom zone, so custom as far as I am concerned, yes we can still fault them because they are agents of the government with mandate to protect the interest of the government and therefore none of them has the reason to connive with the trading public , that means that those who operate from that angle will be calling on customs but again. you can also  see section 10 of the custom law which says the port is custom port and we always look at customs, but there are major issues in the chain of actions, the freight forwarders itself, the importers, exporters, the shipping company, terminal operators, the regulatory agencies of the government, like NAFDAC, Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), but no one is calling them but this is where corruption is lying .
He condemned the Nigerian ways of fighting corruption which according to them is recovering of money as not fighting corruption, ” recovering of money and all that, are matters that has to do   with offences that have been committed and so there are legislative instrument  that takes care of such things, that is for criminality.  So That is from one part, recovering money to me is not fighting corruption, is offence that had been committed    and there are laws on that regard  so is as good as taking the people through proper investigation.
 But to fight corruption is to look at the remote cause of all those issues in our country, go ahead and block them that is the effective way of fighting corruption” he maintained.
In a related development,  Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) disclosed that Widespread corruption among government, agencies, bad roads and touting are the biggest impediments to cargo clearance at the nation’s seaports.
National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu said this while playing host to a delegation of top management officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) at the association’s headquarters at Amuwo Odofin, Lagos recently.
He said, “Corruption also contributes so much to high costs in the port, but sometimes, we are told that NPA gave them approval for increase of charges. We all must put our hands on deck to make our ports more competitive, because the ports are now less competitive that is why importers use land borders. Our ports are large enough to contain our cargoes.

meanwhile,Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, said The Federal Government planned to install anti-corruption mechanisms at Nigerian ports to tackle fraudulent and criminal activities as part to fight corruption.

she said that the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption would soon open an office in the NPA in line with a report submitted by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the corruption index in ports administration.
Usman, who is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, affirmed that the Authority would embark on strong anti-corruption measures this year.

The NPA boss, who visited major customs agents and freight forwarders early this year,  assured that the authority would interact more with stakeholders in 2017, to keep abreast with happenings at the various ports.

To this end, she said the NPA would introduce quarterly stakeholders’ meetings to know what is on ground at the ports, and be better informed on the plight of operators. 
She also acknowledged the need to block revenue leakages.
As part of measures To fight corruption at the ports, the Federal Ministry of Transportation in 2016 introduced   the Standard Operating Procedures, SOP and the Port Services Support Portal, PSSP, in the Lagos Ports Complex. The SOP was designed by the Federal Government to stop illicit activities, corruption, increase transparency, accountability and to make Nigeria Ports users friendly. 
 The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi who spoke at the official launch in 2016, said that the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network and the UNDP had in 2013 noted that the pre-requisites for port effectiveness and efficiency in Nigeria are in short supply and recommended intervention by government. Amaechi, who was  represented by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms Hajia Usman, said “As you are aware, the corruption risk assessment project is an anti corruption project focusing on strategies to reduce corruption in the Nigeria Port sector.”
A report on the performance of Nigerian Ports also revealed that the country loses over N1 trillion every year to port inefficiencies, process failures and corruption.
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