- Business Drags as 24 Government Agents Inspect Ships
The ease of doing business initiative of the Federal Government is under a serious threat from the activities of some government agencies at the seaports.
Our correspondent learnt that about 24 personnel from more than seven government agencies would go aboard ships for inspection whenever a vessel berthed at the country’s port.
According to some concerned port operators, most of the time, what the agents do inside the vessels is either to loot or extort their owners.
The delays to vessels calling at the ports due to the multiple checks conducted by government agents aboard ships led to a recommendation by an inter-agency and port stakeholders’ committee on the implementation of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s Executive Order on port operation, that the number be reviewed.
Stakeholders have said that the processes of the agencies slow down ship discharging operations.
Those agencies listed for vessel inspection are Port Health Authority (four or five personnel), Nigeria Immigration Service (four personnel), Nigeria Customs Service (three personnel), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (three personnel), Marine Pollution (three personnel), Department of State Service, (two personnel), Nigerian Ports Authority’s International Ship and Port Facility Security (one personnel), State Port Control (four personnel).
Our correspondent gathered, for instance, that cargo operations could not commence except the following documents were issued: free pratique, which is issued by the Port Health Authority; break bulk, which is issued by the Customs.
Also, it was learnt that Immigration would go through all the crew contracts thoroughly, a process which was said to be of no importance to the government of Nigeria, as the contract was strictly between the ship owners and the crew.
According to global best practices, only Port Health Authority should board vessels.
A search by our correspondent showed that in almost all the countries operating a maritime system, representatives of government agencies would not board vessels except for the purpose of determining the safety standard of such vessels or in the event of suspected terrorism.
Also, pre-arrival documents are sent through email for distribution to government agencies.
The Chairman of the International Freight Forwarders Association, Sunny Nnebe, faulted the practice in Nigeria, noting that since the cargo was to be brought down from the ship, there was no point in agencies boarding ships to inspect any cargo.
“The agencies physically examine the consignment after they have been offloaded from the ships; so there is no point in boarding ships and causing delay at a time we are working towards achieving the ease of doing business at the ports.
“Also, after the inspections at the port, police still stop containers along the highway over claims that the goods were not properly checked, as if they were not part of the government agencies that examined the cargo at the port earlier,” he said.
While confirming the allegation of extortion levelled against some of the agents by operators, Nnebe noted that some shipping companies encouraged it.
He said, “Some shipping companies bring in things and fail to reflect them on the manifest and when the security agencies discover this, the shipping companies will buy their silence through bribery,” he alleged.
He, however, noted that the problem was that the agencies were now charging a fixed amount, whether there was an infraction or not.
A maritime expert and lead researcher at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Vincent Nwani, also said that government agencies were not needed aboard vessels.
He pointed out that the vessels were not the items of import but the cargo which should be checked by the Customs when uploaded at the terminals owned by the terminal operators.
The activities of the government agencies aboard vessels, according to him, cause delay and have privacy implications for the vessels.
“Government agencies should stop going into ships, except for engineers who are supposed to check if the ship is in good condition or officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority that handle cases of bunkering where such arise.”
Responding, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, NPA, Mr. Ibrahim Nasiru, said that some workers of government agencies were authorised to board ships, depending on what was found in the ship.
He said, “What determines the number of agencies that go on vessels is similar to what happens when a cargo is on the ground. When an agent goes on board the ship and suspects that there may be hard drugs, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency will be called in and when there is health issue, the PHA will be called in; the NIS will also be invited when there is suspicion of breach of immigration laws.
He pointed out that Nigeria could not eliminate ship inspection by agents completely because most processes in the country were still being done manually.
Sterling Homes Plans To Reduce Housing Deficit
Sterling Homes Limited has said it is committed to working with the government through private public partnership to reduce housing deficit in all the geo-political zones in the country.
The Managing Director, Mr Kunle Adeyemi, said this during an event on the company’s rebranding organised as part of its 10th year anniversary in Lagos on Friday.
During the event, the company while expressing commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction, unveiled its new logo with colours to define its mission and objections.
“We want to be present in all the six geo-political zones on Nigeria by providing affordable luxury homes, excellent torch. So for us, there is a need for us to rebrand and have a new direction and vision.
“We want to partner with the government on the present housing deficit; we want to embrace a public, private partnership with the government to reduce the deficit in every geo-political zone.”
The managing director said that one of its unique selling points was its after sales services which was top notch.
He said it ensured that its customers were taken through the journey of actualising their dreams of becoming home owners.
While noting that everyone deserved to have a comfortable home despite the economic situation, he said it had designed a structure payment plan with zero interest in some cases to help intending home owners.
He said it also had provisions for high breed options and developing areas to accommodate various income levels.
Before the end of the year, he said, Sterling Homes would be establishing new presence and projects in other regions.
Mutual Benefits Drives Financial Inclusion
Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc says it is committed to deepening financial inclusion and creating easy accessibility for insurance in the country.
A statement from the firm on Friday said it expressed this commitment when it inaugurated its South-West region franchise operations in Ibadan, Oyo State.
The Managing Director, Mr Femi Asenuga, said this was part of its efforts to develop the insurance business and create values.
He said, “The role we all have to play is to be ambassadors of Mutual Benefits.
“A franchise is a well-known word and the way Mutual Benefits practices franchise is in our normal style of creating and adding value; we never rest.”
Asenuga said that the firm was working with stakeholders to increase awareness and take its message to the grassroots.
In developed economies, he said, insurance firms owned banks. He regretted that this was not the situation in Nigeria.
He said the firm would provide stakeholders with the platform and support to make them excel as a member.
The Managing Director, Mutual Benefits Life Assurance Limited, Mr Ademola Ifagbayi, appreciated the stakeholders and urged them to take advantage of the franchise.
The Group Managing Director, Odua Group, Mr Adewale Raji, in his address, advised stakeholders to be committed and showcase good character and integrity.
He said, “The Odua investment is owned by the six South-West governments and it is in our interest when economic, businesses and investment spreads across the South-West states.
“This is an opportunity for us to strengthen insurance penetration within the South-West states.”
CAC Sets Three-Hour Circle For Company Registration
The Corporate Affairs Commission on Sunday stated that following the successful deployment of an end-to-end registration module, it was now prioritising the reduction of the registration circle for new companies to just three hours before the end of year 2021.
Registrar-General of the commission, Garba Ababukar, gave the indication at a dinner in honour of the Chairman, Governing Board, CAC and Nigerian Ambassador Designate to the Kingdom of Spain, Ademola Seriki.
The commission disclosed this in series of tweets posted via its Twitter handle on Sunday.
“To achieve the target, the registrar-general said the commission was making arrangements to empower over 400 approving officers with working tools to process and approve registration applications either from home or anywhere necessary,” the agency stated.
Abubakar noted that the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic had adversely hampered CAC’s delivery timeline.
He, however, said the CAC was resolutely committed to serving its customers despite being forced to operate with less than 50 per cent of its workforce.
While bidding farewell to Seriki, the registrar-general said he received the news of his appointment with mix feelings as CAC was going to miss his tremendous support and guidance.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, described the outgoing CAC Chairman as a man of immense pedigree and endowed with enormous potential to justify the confidence reposed in him by the president.
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