Interview conducted by Leadership Newspapers with the Alh. Hassan Bello is the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council:
Nigerian Shippers’ Council is trade facilitated, which means we have to put up certain things, to protect certain things, so that our international trade will be very positive. We are also in the transportation arena trying to be the Ombudsman. As you know, transportation drives the economy, especially now that we are forced by circumstances to diversify our economy. You cannot find a better place for diversification than transportation. Somebody has always said that if we get our transportation policy right, we might as well go and close the oil wells because transportation will be able to finance the budget of this country.
We have contributed in no small measure to the ports where we are the economic regulator. When I came here two years ago, I said we are doing a lot of things to sanitize what is happening in the ports. We started with standard operating procedure and I am happy to announce that this has been done to the extent that every agency in the port know what they are supposed to do according to international standard. This has been launched by the vice president- t that time he was not the acting president. Before then, there is the position of this Standard Operating Procedure being enforced by ICPC which was pantry.
We also have ports supports systems where all complaints from the ports are now done online. These were developed by Nigerian Shippers’ Council. It has been adopted by the Ease of Doing Business Bureau in the vice president’s office. It is now an industry system and one will be able to trace all the complaints or comments as far as the post system is concern. What we are trying to do is to introduce efficiency, transparency, friendliness and competition of Nigeria’s ports so that Nigeria will become the hub or the centre throughout the West and Central African sub region. We will handle more cargoes than our ports because we are in competition with other ports, especially Cotonou and we won’t allow that to happen. Sometimes, as I have said, diversion of cargoes to Cotonou (you have heard about it), is the choice of the shippers.
The Shippers have the right to take their cargo to any port and it is mostly an economic decision but I am happy to tell you that since Shippers Council assumed this regulatory role, we have been bringing cargo to Nigeria. Even our neighbours like Niger and Chad are now bringing cargoes through Nigerian ports. Hitherto, they were bringing cargoes from Ghana, Ivory coast and Togo. So, the need for competition is very important and there is need for us to have efficiency. Many things are going to be instituted and we have the support of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Nigerian Ports Authority, together with our critical partners like the terminal operators, the shipping companies, the fret forwarders, the truckers and many other interests in the ports.
There is the need for us to get automated ports, ports that are linked with the transparent system. One does not need to go to the port to clear his goods as there should be less physical interaction. We are going to do what is happening all over the world where you can sit down in your office and clear your goods from the ports and we are on the path of doing that.
We are having cooperation from Nigerian Customs Services and we are also having cooperation from the Nigeria Police Force. Only last week, an Assistant Inspector General of Police was in our office where we discussed issues of mutual interests and the economy.