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FG blocks N56bn illegal payment onboard vessels

The Federal Government has curbed illegal payment of N56billion ($80million) to private hands onboard vessels. It has also trimmed the number of agencies boarding about 4,000 vessels calling at various seaports to five annually. It was gathered that the activities of Nigerian Shippers’ Council’s Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) had saved vessel captains $20,000 being spent illegally as gift to government officials boarding their ships. Between 2020 and 2022, the task team has blocked illegal payment of N168billion.

It was revealed that the statutory agencies to board the vessel within the first one hour of her arrival includes are Port Health Service (PHS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Department of State Services (DSS) with a maximum time of 45minutes in the vessel.

Besides the five agencies, the Presidency also approved the inclusion of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) into the Nigerian Shippers Council’s Port Standing Task Team (PSTT). Other agencies represented on the PSTT are Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Department of State Services (DSS) Nigerian Police Force, Lagos State Government among others.

According to the National Coordinator of the PSTT, Comrade Moses Fadipe, the boarding of ships at Nigerian ports in the past was a free for all, saying that all the irregularities have been corrected since the launching of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) which was implemented by PSTT. Fadipe said that there were other agencies including Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Port Pollution Control agency which also have statutory duties to carryout onboard the ship during its stay at berth. The coordinator explained that movement of vessels from anchorage to berth in Lagos was averagely 5-hours in the past, but it has dropped to 90minutes presently. He said: “In the past, anybody can board a vessel at Nigerian ports, but today, only five agencies are allowed to board the vessel.

First is the Port Health and the maximum time given is 45minutes. If for any reason you spend more than that, you must explain why it is so. “Secondly is the NIS and NCS at the same time; customs can only board with two officials, while Immigration can board with three officials, the maximum time allotted to the two agencies is 30minutes. “When you are boarding, there is a muster point where you de-robe yourself, the only thing following you onto the ship is your identity card; if you have any money on you, you must drop it, if you are returning from the ship and we see any money on you, we would confiscate it.

“The NDLEA and DSS also board the vessel and spend 30minutes, if they spend more time than that, it means there is credible intelligence for them to do so.” Fadipe explained that pruning the number of agencies became necessary because of the Corruption Perception Index 2018 of which out of the 161 nation in Africa Nigeria ranked 157. It became a source of worry for the Federal Government and this led to the launching of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM). He noted that this led to the creation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) in March 2021, which was a combination of all agencies at the port and their timelines. The coordinator added that Shippers’ Council, ICPC and DSS were created to implement the NPPM with a proviso that other agencies can join with the approval of the presidency. Fadipe stated that the activities of the PSTT had saved vessel captains $20,000 which was being spent before now, but today all these has stopped. He said that last year 2022, Nigeria won an award in Basel, Switzerland for fighting corruption. Explaining the mandate of the task team to the NSCDC Commandant, Comrade Fadipe corrected that PSTT was not drafted to the port to control traffic or port gridlock. According to him “The government asked PSTT to stop the extortion tendencies that is fuelling the gridlock and the congestion, this is the mandate. “This was why we later allowed other agencies to come in, we brought in the police, customs, FRSC, Lagos Government, Local Government.” According to him, the activities of the PSTT would no doubt increase ship calls at Nigeria, and also make Nigerian ports more attractive for business, and that Nigeria shall no longer lose businesses to Benin Republic and Lome Ports.

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