‘Our Implementation of Port Reforms Have Been Poor’ – Hassan Bello
BY FUNMI ALUKO
Former Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barrister Hassan Bello says the prevailing under capacity utilization of some of the nation’s port system stems from poor reforms implementation often due to narrow considerations that overrides the national interest.
The former NSC boss, currently Principal Partner, Justicia Legal Practitioners and regarded for all time as the apostle of port development also decried what he described as the lack of competition between port operations with defined comparative capacities.
Bello who was speaking as special guest at the maritime National Discourse organized by publishers of Nigerian Maritime newspaper at the Rockview Hotel Apapa Lagos Tuesday also urged state governments to desist from scrambling for the establishment of deep seaports without possessing the comparative advantage to so engage; noting that ports are established to trade and compete; and to efficiently deliver operational services but not to serve as political white elephant ornaments.
He posits that whereas the establishment of more deep seaports is not out of place, citing them indiscriminately like ‘constituency projects’ also forecloses their sustainability he said, and urged stakeholders to engage in proper feasibility studies to ensure that such ports are constructed with economic purposes.
Speaking on the theme ‘New Ships and New Ports: Challenges of Infrastructure, Skill Sets and Tools’ Bello said smart ports needs the compliment of modern ships and operational efficiency to be able to be competitive in the today’s sea borne trade.
His words: “The consignment that the port attracts makes it what it should be. It should have integration. We should not just build ports because we have water. Our ports must be efficient and must be competitive. You decide what you want, the choices and designs.
“When you look at our ports, they are not export designated, they were designed for import trade, so kudos should be given to the Nigeria Ports Authority that is restructuring and putting in place export designated terminals. Competition is critical to the development of ports but it looks like we don’t have it.
“Our ports must be smart, a no contact port, must be efficient. Our ports are built to keep receiving, and any nation that does that alone will die.”
The former shippers’ council boss explained that a maritime nation is almost always engaged in affiliate shipping activities, noting that Nigeria has the potential for also getting involved in non cargo shipping activities.
“The question of shipping will be decided if we decide what we want to be. Is it ship building or ship repairs, we have the potential. The government has a bigger role to play in shipping business of the nation but we say government has no business in business and so, shipping activities should be led by the private sector.”
Other speakers at the event include Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, Alhaji Mohammed Umar, Mr. Charles Okorefe, Captain Tajudeen Alao, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam represented by Dr. Omotosho and President of NISA, Otunba Sola Adewunmi, represented by Gbolahan Adu.
In his welcome address, convener of the National Discourse, Mr. Kelvin Kagbare rued the under capacity utilization maritime training institutions and the neglect of building capacities across board.
He said, “With many state governments showing interests in the development of deep sea ports, one hopes that there should be purposeful engagement in this direction towards achieving a quick break in reinventing our ports and maritime transport economy.
“Building deep sea ports is perhaps the easiest of the tasks, those driving the ideas should also make the effort to make them function optimally as viable ventures, aside also conferring some measure of regional political power on Nigeria,” he submitted.