Ag President, Osinbajo

Port operators have expressed serious doubts over the feasibility of the 30-day ultimatum by the Federal Government for Apapa Ports Complex, Lagos, the country’s biggest cargo port to commence 24-hour port operation.

Nigeria’s acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had last Thursday in Abuja issued three executive orders that are expected to enhance operational efficiency among agencies of the government, which is in line with the policy of promoting ease of doing business in the country.

The order directed all agencies currently physically present in Nigerian Ports shall within 60 days harmonise their operations into one single interface station domiciled in one location in the port and implemented by a single joint task force at all times, without prejudice to necessary backend procedures”.

It also directed that the Apapa Port shall resume 24-hour operations within 30 days of the issuance of this order.

Stakeholders who reacted to these orders have argued that while it is desirable for the ports to achieve 24-hour operations like their counterparts in the developed parts of the world, such operations were not achieved through executive fiat rather through careful planning.

A licensed Customs agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, argued that the Federal Government needed to put in place the required infrastructural base that can support such port operation, which would bring about efficiency and timely cargo delivery.

He cited the deplorable state of the port access roads, which have been left unattended to by successive governments, arguing that it took a strike action by some agents and truckers for the government to see the need to rehabilitate the Mile 2-Apapa roads, which connect the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports to other parts of the country.

Another operator, who also reacted to the ultimatum, noted that apart from the lack of basic infrastructure, the security situation across the country would constitute a seerious hindrance to the projection.

He insists that no right thinking importer would for instance take delivery of his cargo at night when he knows that such consignment would not be safe due to the security challenge across the country.

The orders had specifically directed all agencies currently physically present in nation’s seaports and airports to harmonise their operations into one single interface station domiciled in one location in the port within 60 days and implemented by a single joint task force at all times.

This is without prejudice to necessary backend procedures.

In addition to requiring all agencies to have one single interface station at ports, the orders also outlawed the practice of touting at seaports and airports across the country.

A statement from the office of the acting President said the executive orders also stipulate specific sanctions and punitive measures designed to address violations where necessary.

The issuance of these orders was sequel to an earlier interactive meeting with all relevant government officials, including Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs, among others, held at the old Banquet Hall of Presidential Villa Abuja.

The meeting, it was gathered was designed to directly engage government officials who would be implementing the orders and the new instructions, with a view to getting their buy-in.

The executive orders give specific instructions on a number of policy issues affecting the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in the country, support for local contents in public procurement by the Federal Government, and timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies, including companies owned by the Federal Government.

The executive order on promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment was mainly to “create an enabling environment for businesses and entrench measures and strategies aimed at promoting transparency and efficiency”.

The statement also explained that the orders were part of the efforts to promote domestic and foreign investments, creation of employment and stimulation of the national economy.

It was in the light of this that President; Muhammadu Buhari then constituted the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council headed by the Vice President to coordinate the implementation of this new policy direction.

In terms of promoting transparency in government business, the agencies of government are required under the new dispensation to publish a complete list of all requirements or conditions for obtaining products and services within the MDA’s scope of responsibility, including permits, licenses, waivers, tax related processes, filings and approvals.

This will include all fees and timelines required for the processing of applications for the products and services.

On entry experience of visitors and travellers, the order stated that ordinary tourist and business entry visas to Nigeria shall henceforth be issued or rejected with reason by the Consular Office of Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions within 48 hours of receipt of valid application.

The statement said: “The timeline shall be notified to the public by pasting a notice conspicuously at every Consular Office and by publication on every website of Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions.

“A comprehensive and up to date list of requirements, conditions and procedures for obtaining visa on arrival, including estimated timeframe, shall be published on all immigration-related websites in Nigeria and abroad, including embassies and High Commissions, and all ports of entry into Nigeria.

“The processing of issuance of visas on arrival shall be carried out in a transparent manner. Visas on arrival shall be granted at all Nigerian ports of entry once applicants have met all the published requirements”.

On port operation, the order said: “there shall be no touting whatsoever by official or unofficial persons at any port in Nigeria. On duty staff shall be properly identified by uniform and official cards. Off duty staff shall stay away from the ports except with the express approval of the agency head. The FAAN Aviation Security (AVSEC) and Nigeria Ports Authority NPA Security shall enforce this order”.

“All non-official staff shall be removed from the secured areas of airports. No official of FAAN, Immigration, security agency or Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) or any other agency is to meet any non-designated dignitary at any secure areas of the airport. The official approved list of dignitaries that have been pre-approved to be received by protocol officers shall be made available to AVSEC and other relevant agencies ahead of their arrival at the airport.

“Any official caught soliciting or receiving bribes from passengers or other port users shall be subject to immediate removal from post and disciplinary as well as criminal proceedings in line with extant laws and regulations.

“All relevant MDAs at the airports shall within 30 days of the issuance of this Order merge their respective departure and arrival interfaces into a single customer interface, without prejudice to necessary backend procedures.

“The new single interface station at each Port shall capture, track and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria and remit captured information to the head of the MDA and the head of the National Bureau of Statistics on a weekly basis.

“Each Port in Nigeria shall assign an existing export terminal to be dedicated to the exportation of agriculture produce within 30 days of the issuance of this Order.

On registration of companies, the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) shall within 14 days of the issuance of this Order ensure that all registration processes at the CAC are fully automated through the CAC website from the start of an application process to completion, including ensuring the availability of an online payment platform where necessary.

The Office of the Acting President had first held an interactive meeting at the old Banquet Hall of Presidential Villa with all relevant government officials, including ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of departments and agencies among others.