The Federal Government’s ports reform was to reposition the sector into a modern and efficient system capable of exploiting modern trade and sea freight opportunities, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Benjamin Dikki, said.
Mr. Dikiki, who spoke on the “Imperatives of Ports Reform & Its Objectives” at the monitoring and compliance conference held in Lagos, prior to the exercise, said the ports lacked the basic infrastructure, with minimal private sector participation.
According to him, public monopoly was dominant, particularly in the areas of design, development, maintenance and operations of the port facilities.
Represented by the acting Director, Transport, Adamu Yusuf, the Director General said until the reform process took off, the ports constituted an impediment to efficient transfer of cargo and trade facilitation in the country.
He said the governance framework of the Nigerian Ports Authority at the time was characterized by unusual centralization, limited autonomy, excessive government interference, burdensome bureaucratic structure, bloated labour force, and conflicting roles as regulator and operator.
According to the DG, the result of these was inefficiency in the ports operations with the attendant high cost of processing imported goods and the inability of Nigeria’s exports to compete in the international market.
“The ports were inefficient and unattractive to shippers and were bogged by long turnaround time for cargo and ships, insecurity of cargo, low productive labour force in NPA, multiple government agencies in the ports, corrupt practices and excessive charges”, he said.
Considering the role of transport and ports in modern economic growth and development, Mr. Dikki said the government decided to undertake the reform to bring the sector in line with international standards of best practices.
The objectives of ports reform, he noted, were the overall desire to achieve fast clearance of cargoes, quick turn-around time for ships calling at the country’s ports, removal of duplications in security functions and related government agencies, and trade facilitation.
Again, he said the exercise was to boost the efficiency of port operations, decrease port services costs for users, reduce costs to government of supporting a viable port sector, boost economic activities and accelerate development, while making Nigeria the hub for international freight and trade in West Africa.
The Federal Government reforms and privatization programmes were aimed at opening up hitherto government-dominated sectors to the private sector, by divesting government interest in those sectors to open the way for industrious local entrepreneurs to participate in growing the economy.
While noting that there has never been any completely perfect human endeavour, Mr. Dikki called for constant monitoring and review of the concession programme, to keep pace with the exigencies of the times.
The Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, who was represented by the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, said the port concession programme had brought tremendous benefits to the Nigerian economy.