Critical stakeholders in the Ports Sector have pledged their support for the implementation of an Anti-Corruption Policy to curb corruption and improve the ease of doing business in the sector.
A statement on Tuesday by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the pledge was made during a meeting of CEOs of port agencies held at the headquarters of the anti-graft agency in Abuja recently.
TheFact Daily reports that at the interactive session aimed at improving service delivery in the sector, ICPC Chairman, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, stated that the maritime sector was a critical part of the economy, but was not delivering the values due to corruption, which was causing Nigeria to lose business to neighboring countries, as well as revenue.
Owasanoye also noted that the newly developed policy for the sector was an important mechanism for improving their operations as well as the compliance function of all agencies operating within the sector.
He declared that the aim of Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) conducted in the ports was to sanitise the system and infuse ethical practices in the conduct of their operations and defuse the negative perception about the country, and added that the intervention was successful because of the zero-tolerance for corruption of the government and collaboration of relevant agencies involved. As a follow-up to that, a Ports Standing Task Team (PSTT) was set up.
“The Policy, which was developed through the support of the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI), focuses on ethical codes within the sector, prescribes punishment for unethical behaviour as well as defines consequences for infractions within the industry”, he emphasised.
Owasanoye, while stressing that the Commission would not back down on its demand to ensure that the proper processes and procedures are followed, urged all parties to work together to support the sector’s anti-corruption goal.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Emmanuel Jime, said, the meeting’s goals were to foster mutual understanding, trust and build potent alliances for enhanced national capability.
On some of the successes recorded by the task team, Jime revealed that the team had fostered the reduction in delays and operational cost of doing business at the ports and saved government about N5.4 billion from illegal demands, demurrage; declaration of “Operation Free Ports Corridor” in Tincan and Apapa ports to ease traffic along those routes, amongst others.
On the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) by Port agencies, Jime said, it was an effort to stress the importance of compliance and request for the buy-in and full cooperation of all relevant agencies in the sector.
Referring to government’s Executive Order E01 of 2017, which sought to promote ease of doing business, he said, “the manual was desperately needed to institute a new culture of compliance and transparency that will fast-track the re-tooling of the maritime sector. It does not seek to eliminate the powers of existing SOPs of statutory agencies at the ports, but serves as a harmonisation of the different SOPs into a single document that allows effective coordination and efficiency.”
Also speaking at the event, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Yusuf Jamoh congratulated ICPC and other important players for their efforts to rid the ports sector of corruption and corrupt practices through the CRA carried out.
He continued by saying that actions taken by NIMASA, such as the implementation of automated systems, synergised data with pertinent agencies, and partnerships with stakeholders have also contributed in sanitizing the industry.
Speaking about the highlights of NPPM, Head, Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Mrs. Jane Adidu-Onwumere stated that the Policy, which started in 2011, harmonised existing anti-corruption policies of all the agencies in the ports with the aim of establishing a culture of integrity, compliance for users of ports services.
“The policy is aimed to encourage the highest levels of professionalism in the sector since it would be a powerful instrument for preventing corruption, thereby promoting an environment favorable for ease of doing business and direct foreign investment”, she said.
Representatives of Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Police, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service and the Department of State Security expressed the readiness of their agencies to support the sanitisation of the Sector in order to ensure transparency and accountability and to promote effectiveness and efficiency in the port process.