By YUSUF BABALOLA Lagos
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has faulted its exclusion from the review of port concessioning agreement with terminal operators by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
It described the action as “arbitrary, inexplicable and unjustified.”
NSC’s executive secretary, Barr. Hassan Bello, said that it was a paradox that a government agency created to regulate the activities of terminal operators was not in the know about the contractual agreement operators had with government.
He asserted that the review of the concessioning agreement without the input of NSC would be counter-productive for the economy.
It recalls that the federal government had appointed the Shippers’ Council as port economic regulator, with a mandate to regulate the cost and efficiency of shipping and other auxiliary services in the sector.
According to Bello, the concession agreement is not secret and does not belong to any agency and argued that the port economic regulator must be mentioned in the deal.
He said: “It baffles me why issues like that (Review of Port Concessioning) should continue without resorting to the economic regulator (Shippers’ Council) but that is how things happen and we have made protest to the Ministry of Transportation to say whatever happened, the council has never been involved and the worse we got was to observe when we are critical stakeholders.
“We are not happy on the way we are being excluded in critical decisions like port concessioning and some others. I don’t know anything about concession agreement. The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been called observers and when we are the port economic regulator.
“So, whatever happens to that concession agreement affects you and me and every village in Nigeria. So, it should have been opened for contributions of critical stakeholders in Nigeria so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that we had in the past,” he said.
Bello disclosed that other stakeholders are also excluded in the review process said the concessioning isn’t an exclusive reserve of any agency of government.
“It’s a paradox that the council is not aware of an agreement it’s to regulate. It is a paradox, inexplicable and not justified by any stretch of imagination. It pains me personally that such a critical decision in the ports is being determined without the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, without contribution from the freight forwarders, consolidators, dockworkers, and other stakeholders.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cannot decide what happen to us in the seaport neither the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE). What competence does the BPE has in port administration, concessioning is not the exclusive preserve of a certain parastatal to determine what happens even without the contribution of the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMoT); so we have to have a relook, write and advise again that signing of concession agreement and I will write a stronger letter because we cannot allow the future of this country to be decided unilaterally, arbitrarily without consultation.
The Shippers’ Council boss, who said that the implications of the agreement without his agency’s involvement are huge on the economy, said that legal issues were disregarded in the concessioning review.
“No one knows the implications on the economy and that’s worrisome. And this is an open society and an open society has enemies. Also, we are not running a cult-like sector, so why will a critical stakeholders like Shippers Council be shielded away and when they are to regulate issues of cost, efficiency and other critical issues?
“In the Act that set up the Shippers’ Council, it has a role to play in the port as an economic regulator and to supervise port concessioning, but all these legal issues were disregarded,” he stated.
On the construction of the Lekki Deep Seaport, Bello said that the NSC was also excluded from the committee set up to integrate the transport modes in order not to have a repeat of Apapa and Tin-Can Island transport crisis.
When contacted, the general manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of the NPA, Engr. Adams Jatto, said that it was only the managing director that can give reasons for the exclusion of the NSC from the exercise.