By Bassey Udo
The first ever real-time anti-corruption help desk at Nigerian Ports has resulted in the drastic reduction in the cost of ship berthing in Nigeria, from $150,000 per vessel to about $20,000.
The help desk involves the joint efforts of various Federal Government agencies, namely the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), the Technical Unit on Governance & Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), alongside the Convention on Business Integrity (CBi), through the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network, (MACN).
The high cost of berthing a ship in Nigeria, which often aggravated by unreceipted extortions by port officials when vessels arrive in the country.
But a delegation of the CBi led by Olusoji Apampa briefed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on the progress so far during a visit in Abuja on Monday.
Apampa said the success recorded through the desk has now attracted international reviews as countries such as Egypt, Ukraine and India were planning to adopt the “Nigerian miracle” model to produce similar gains in their countries’ ports’ operations.
The collaborative efforts of the Federal Government with the private sector and a Civil Society group, CBi, to curb corruption at the Sea-Ports has earned international praise and won the first ever “Outstanding Achievement in Collective Action Award” of the Switzerland-based Basel Institute on Governance.
The international award recognized the work of the Nigerian MACN, which created a real time-based Help Desk to resolve complaints and concerns of shipping companies as soon as they berth at the ports.
The Swiss-based international body recognized the initiative for the collective action where government, business and civil society have worked together for change.
This was made possible by the establishment and success recorded by the first ever, real-time Anti-Corruption Help Desk in Nigerian Ports, which instantly reports and resolves corruption-related issues.
The CBi presented the international award to the Vice President during the courtesy call on Monday and said to him, “this would not have been possible without your interventions.”
Receiving the delegation and the award at the Presidential Villa, the Vice President praised the CBi and the MACN, commending them for their efforts alongside FG agencies, noting that the Buhari Administration will continue to support initiatives that improves the business environment and economy in general.
“This is cheery news on our anti-corruption efforts,” the VP said adding that what was required was to stay focused in the fight against corruption.
Osinbajo said the narrative on the imperative of integrity and fight against corruption has to be deepened, explaining that “we need to get the attention of the young people also. This is something we have to do.”
Based on the Executive Order 001, ICPC conducted a successful sting operation in 2019 to support Federal Government’s port reforms.
In December 2020, the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) comprising the Shippers Council, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) and the Department of State Services (DSS), was established.
In addition, the Nigeria Ports Process Manual (NPPM) was launched and the PSTT, led by the Shippers Council, was given the responsibility to implement and enforce compliance.
“Before the PSTT was formed, there were 266 cases of demands for large, unreceipted cash payments by officials at the ports in the process of vessel clearance.
“Such practice has now dropped to 128 cases following the establishment of PSTT in 2020. By 2021, the cases fell further to 84 cases, and so far in 2022, it has remained below 50 cases.
“In the same vein, prior to the intervention of the PSTT, Port Calls were costing on average $150,000 per vessel per visit (including illicit demands and the cost of delays occasioned by trying to avoid the illicit demands). This has now dropped to an average cost of $20,000 per port call,” the MACN said.
The group further noted that since the government instituted the Help Desk in 2020, it has monitored just under 700 ships arrival to Nigerian ports.
Also, it would be recalled that the VP Osinbajo-led Presidential Task Force was established in 2019 to address the issue of port congestion in Apapa and resolve traffic gridlock in the axis.
Following the completion of its assignment, it handed over duties to the Lagos State Government in 2021.
The Presidential Task Force had representatives of the Inspector-General of Police; Lagos State Government; NPA, Nigerian Shippers Council, Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), among others.