BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Hon. Emmanuel Jime has expressed concerns about avoidable challenges he said is confronting the activity of the Ports Standing Task Team (PSTT), which in the main are inadequate funding and the absence of legal cover required in part to provide protection for those driving the process as well as conferring statutory life time legitimacy on the process.
According to the Council boss in a chat with our reporter, the two challenges listed above if address timely and conclusively will further stimulate the implementation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM), for which the PSTT is the driver.
This is even as he pleaded with the relevant agencies of government who are partners in the implementation of the NPPM and who have been listed as co-sponsors of the PSTT activities to show more consideration for the success of the implementation of the port process.
Responding to questions of whether or not the PSTT has any challenge, Jime said: “There is, first and foremost, as l said earlier, the PSTT is an inter agency platform that was put together by government to implement the port process manual, the shippers council have only been privileged to provide the leadership. You know l have come to see something in this country…people majorly don’t like to have a regulated environment.
“I think there is this tendency to somehow allow a free environment that allows anybody to do as he wishes…anyway, the fact of the matter is that the PSTT has done well, it has been challenged very, very greatly, some of the challenges bother on, first, the funding strings. We are not well funded and, regrettably, some of the agencies that are members of the PSTT are actually not seeing the need to be as supportive as they can be, because I know that if they really want to support the work of the PSTT they can do more.”
He lamented that lack of adequate funding has continued to make the job of the PSST look like a Lagos affair, irrespective of the fact that it covers the entire nation; noting that all agencies involved in the task team job should be more responsive.
“And l will like to use this platform to plead that they should come to our aid and do a little more than they are doing presently. We need to have personnel, we need to have tools, we need to have equipments. As at today, the work of the PSTT is better recognized in the Lagos ports, but don’t forget we have ports spread far and wide: the Eastern Ports, Delta Ports, the work of the PSTT is not felt in those areas because we are under staffed and because we don’t have the required equipments, we need vehicular capacity to be able to cover all the ports, we need logistics.”
The NSC helmsman also identified the challenge of obvious legitimacy which appeared to have given certain persons the audacity to try to stand on the way of the task team, including unlawful threat to the lives of those driving the process; citing the example of an individual who engaged in disrupting the activities of the PSTT as part of tendencies to allow for the old order.
“So that is one major challenge, the other challenge is, as at the moment, there’s this particular individual the other day who went to Tin Can and started removing all the insignia of the PSST at the port. When he was confronted, he told our staff there and he was very aggressive, told them the PSTT has gone with the previous administration, therefore there’s nothing like PSTT anymore; and that it should not be seen anywhere in the port.
“I am talking about an individual not even a group…that matter is with the police. It is to further demonstrate the kind of challenges we face, why will an individual be so concerned about the activity of the PSTT to go to that extent? We have had situations where members of the task team have been threatened to the point, where their life actually was involved. It has gotten as bad as that.”
He disclosed that whereas the leadership of the task team has shown uncommon courage in the face of harassments and continued to focus on the task on hand, there is need to provide the right legal and statutory protection, nonetheless.
“But in the face of all of that, that is the thing that gives me the greatest pride. That you have people who are ready to dare the consequences, regardless of all the challenges they face, especially threats to their lives just because they chose to serve father land. Quite frankly l find them very commendable, but it doesn’t take away the fact that this is a very serious, serious challenge that the PSTT is facing.
“I want to go further to say that because of that particular argument by that individual about how the PSTT is supposed to have gone with the previous administration, l think the time has come for some sort of codification of the laws in order to further give some better statutory backup for the work of the task team and ultimately the implementation of the NPPM as well, because in any case, the PSTT is there to enforce the implementation. What we are doing in the cause of the amendment that we seek …because l mentioned earlier that we are pursuing the amendment of the NSC Act, is to also incorporate sections that would then give legal codification to the work so that we are no longer challenged.
“Of course, the industry has bought into it, nobody at this moment is disrupting the work of the PSTT but am just saying that we don’t have to leave it to the goodwill of individuals, let’s put it in a structured, codified legal status so that administrations can come and go but the work of the PSTT, very important tool in the industry will continue, regardless.”