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We can shut down oil wells once we get our transport system right

 The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barrister Hassan Bello, has called for the modernisation of the nation’s ports and transport sector, saying the federal government can afford to close up the country’s oil wells once the sector is fixed correctly in line with trade facilitation strategies. Bello disclosed that the NSC management had been working round the clock to correct certain anomalies in the transport sector to redirect the country’s international trade towards the right direction. According to him, the NSC was determined to apply shipping to drive the economy, especially now that the country was being forced by circumstances to diversify its economy. He said, “You cannot find a better place for diversi¿ cation than transportation. Somebody has always said that if we get our transportation policy right, we might as well 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 were doing a lot of things to sanitise what was happening in the ports. We started with the standard operating procedure and I am happy to announce that this has been done to the extent that every agency in the port knows what they are supposed to do according to international standard.” Bello explained that the NSC has ports supports systems where all complaints from the ports are now being done online. The system, he said, was solely developed by the Council, adding that it has been adopted by the Ease of Doing Business Bureau in the VicePresident’s office. “It is now an industry system and one will be able to trace all the complaints or comments as far as the ports system is concerned. 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 other ports do. We are in competition with other ports, especially the port of Cotonou, and we won’t allow them to outdo us.” On the diversion of cargoes to other West Africa seaports, the NSC Executive Secretary said that shippers had the right to take their cargoes to any port since it was purely an economic decision. “I am glad to tell you that since the Shippers Council assumed this regulatory role, we have been bringing cargoes 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. 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 freight forwarders, the truckers and many other interests in the ports,” he said. Bello stressed the need for Nigeria to have automated ports linked to a transparent system, stating that with this, there would be no need to go to the port to clear goods as there should be less physical interaction. He said, “We will 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 the Nigerian Customs Services and the Nigeria Police Force.”

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