The Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, yesterday took a swipe at the Federal Government over the shoddy privatisation of the nation’s seaports, which led to the handing over of some of the terminals to to unprepared and ill-equipped terminal operators also called concessionaires.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had in 2003 hurriedly privatised the ports even against the advice of the World Bank, which recommended a phased approach using the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa as a pilot scheme.
However in what appeared as an assessment of the exercise 10 years after, chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise , Hope Uzodinma, while speaking during an oversight function visit to the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, said that there was need for a review of the scheme.
According to him, some of the terminal operators appear not to understand the terms of agreement they signed with the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority, a development that necessitated a review of the agreement with such concessionaires.
To this effect, the committee directed the concessionaires to immediately submit all relevant documents relating to the concession agreement signed with the government to Harvey Road, Yaba Zonal headquarters of Cutoms.
This is with a view to assessing the performance of the concessionaires, an exercise that might lead to the tinkering of their agreements.
In addition, the chairman said that the committee will invite the chief executive officers of the terminal operators to address the committee.
The chairman, who also faulted claims that it is the responsibility of Customs to provide scanners at the ports, said such claims are at variance with the provisions of the laws of the land.
To the contrary, he insisted that it the reponsibility of the concessionaaires to provide such scanners.
He said: “Since the ports have been handed over to the terminal operators through concessioning, it is for them to provide the necessary tools to work. The Federal Government concessioned the terminals to very unserious people, that is why people are making such claims”.
“Customs has no business under the law to procure scanners for the ports because it is the responsibility of terminal operators” the Senator insisted.
He cited section 13 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, which he said provides that the terminal operators should provide facilities and equipment at the ports, wondering why they are providing cranes and forklifts, which are part of the equipment.
“These are facilities that are provided under the law, unfortunately, government concessioned these terminals to some of the very unserious operators. Government will take a review, to look at some of the concession agreements. It is going to look at the performance of each individual operator. Those who have not been performing, their concession agreements will be canceled and another process created for the emergence of serious terminal operators.
“We were in Singapore recently; they were in competition of which terminal operator will deliver one million containers in a month. They provided the enabling environment. If you see Customs’ offices, their toilets and other conveniences, you can even sleep in their toilets. I was at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, if you see where Customs officers and other Nigerians work in the DHL office, you will pity Nigeria unlike what is obtained in DHL office in Ghana”, he further lamented.