From Left:

Head, Shipping Development and Engineering, Mr. Anthony Ogadi; Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi; Head, Compliance Monitoring Department, Nigeria Shippers’ Council‎, Mrs. Ifeora Celine and Acting General Manager, Business Development, Nigeria Ports Authority, Mr. Stanley Yitnoe at the 2017 Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at  the University of Lagos, facilitated by the SIFAX Group .

The SIFAX Group and other maritime stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency consider the adoption of the Public-Private Partnership PPP model to address the current decay of port infrastructure across the country, which is also hampering efficiency of the seaports.

SIFAX Group is a multinational corporation with diverse interests in maritime, aviation, haulage and logistics, oil and gas and hospitality,

It is projected that the Federal Government would need to make over N10billion investment annually for over 10 years to address the current infrastructural deficit in the port system, an amount the government might not easily raise given the economic realities at this time.

This was the unanimous view of leading academic, business, legal and maritime experts who gathered at the just concluded second edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference, a partnership between the SIFAX Group and Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos, which was held on the university campus recently.

Some of the participants include the Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi,  Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium, Princess  Vicky Haastrup, Senior Partner, ACAS-Law Firm, Mrs. Funke Agbor SAN,  Executive Director, SiFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited, Major Henry Ajetunmobi (Rtd), Strategy and Operations Lead, Deloitte West Africa, Mr. Bola Ashiru, Chairman, Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi and Alhaji Mohammed Bulangu, former Managing Director, Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited, among others.

While delivering the keynote address on ‘Developing Critical Port Infrastructure through Public-Private Partnership PPP,  Ajetunmobi said that the public-private partnership model remains the most attractive option opened to the government to develop and maintain critical port infrastructure due to its inherent benefits.

These benefits, according to him include maintaining and improving upon service level, leveraging on private sector skills and competencies in project execution and service delivery through improved skills, technologies and innovation, unlocking access to capital and cost efficiencies, maintaining safe and secure operations and freeing government funding for other sectors of the national economy, other than port development and port renewal.

“As the government’s concession of the ports to private terminal operators enters the second decade of its existence, one expects stronger consolidation of the gains of concession that are already witnessed beyond dispute by various classes of port users and operators as well as government agencies. Consolidation can come only through greater investments in port infrastructure anchored on stronger public-private enterprise involvement.

“The current bad state of port access roads, especially to the two ports in Lagos, Apapa and Tincan – the ports that receive over 70 percent of the total cargo throughout in Nigeria – is a rather sad commentary on the way we have fared as a nation even on the one transport mode we appear to have chosen. As it is well known, the negative consequences of this development are not just telling on the economy and the state of equipment; they also impact adversely on human health both of port users, operators, and residents of the host communities themselves.

“This is one area that would benefit from decisive PPP – driven investment intervention. Perhaps the time is now right to start considering adoption of other options and models of maintaining and improving upon the quality of our port access roads, including concession through  tolling or perhaps we should strive for bolder and more ambitious option”, he said.

Dr. Taiwo Afolabi and Princess Vicky Haastrup, who also spoke at various times during the event, noted that the high-level of efficiency synonymous with the private sector would improve service delivery and facility if the government deepens the involvement of the private sector in the maritime sector, adding that the success recorded by the terminal operators in the port concession should help government decide in favour of the PPP model.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Funke Agbor said there was a need to strengthen legislation to take care of the new role the private sector are expected to play even as  Ashiru further urged the government to maintain consistency in its policy formulation in a bid to boost the confidence of prospective investors.

The stakeholders argued that the intents and purposes of the Executive Orders issued by the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo would not be achieved if urgent efforts were not made to address the current gross dilapidation of port and road infrastructure, especially using the PPP model.