Going by the regent barge accident that occurred along KLT/Mile 2 / Maza Maza water channel where over Five Hundred Million Naira worth of electronics (new LED TV sets) contained in (6) 40ft containers went down the deep, stakeholders have demanded that the report of the investigation undertaken by NIMASA over the incident be made public as soon as possible.
The stakeholders which comprises of six different groups, noted that the accident was a result of the identified regulatory negligence and lapses on the part of the government agencies saddled with licensing , regulation and supervision of barge operation in the country.
Addressing the press in Lagos, on Monday, the President, Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol, on behalf of six other groups hinted that proper licensing and regulations of the barge and jetty operators and its related operations cannot be overemphasized.
He added that it is criminal attending to regulatory obligations with gross nonchalant and negligence or without utmost good faith at all times.
According to Nicol “It has been reported that over one million TEUs and more than ten thousand (10,000) trucks have been moved via barges in the last three years. Agreeably, it could be said that in the recent times, without the intervention of barge operations amid the reported ailing port congestion, chaotic port access roads, the corrupt practices therein among others, the port situation would have been compounded.
“Notwithstanding the prevalent situation, it is not a leeway or a suggestion that barge operations should thrive on the premise of carefree and negligence nor professionalism jettisoned nor operational abuses, impurities, high handedness condoned or regulatory obligations compromised at will”, he said.
He noted that following the press conference addressed on the 8th of March, 2021 over the incident, they were able to deduce that there were many unlicensed and unregulated operators in the barge operation sector, that regulatory negligence and lapses exist, operational non-compliance to set standards, interagency supremacy tussle occasioned by overlapping functions of the presumed regulators and absence of a standby functional emergency rapid salvage rescue team during accident or emergency.
“In this case, all concerned stakeholders folded hands and watched helplessly as the containers drifted into the bottom deep. To sum it up, there was no cohesive, restructured and practicable regulatory architecture for the barge operations prior to the commencement of barge/jetty operations whereby professionalism, safety and security concerns was never a driving force rather profit making is the core driving force.
“At this juncture, we imagined the huge loss and pains the cargo owners are going through on an operational hazard that is avoidable but because someone sitting on an executive position allowed administrative laxity to thrive in a delicate and sensitive industry engagements. In a sane environment, someone would have voluntarily resigned from office for failing in his duties but it is not so in an atmosphere where corrupt practices thrives and even the perpetrators go unpunished or unsanctioned rather, they are celebrated and reckoned with in operation”, Nicol quipped.
He therefore demanded for full compensation for the cargo owners, stating that the conditions and situation leading to the loss of cargo is not theirs.
Stating further “The operational arrangement was skewed against them, the non-firm supervision and monitoring by the agencies of the government is not their fault as they relied on the leadership to safeguard their investment. Hence, regulatory objectives and administration failed them. Hence, the three agencies mentioned by BOAN for their overlapping functions are all under one control and supervisory ministry, Ministry of Transport, we therefore request Ministry of Transport to direct for the immediate compensation for all losses incurred by the affected shippers.
“We demand that the heads of the three (3) agencies vested with these regulatory responsibilities namely; NPA, NIWA and NIMASA should resign forthwith. Above all, the transport ministry should step up its supervisory roles in the port operations.”
Other stakeholder groups that participated in the press conference apart from the Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS), are Ndigboamaka Progressive (Traders) Associations, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), African Association of professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria APFFLON, Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarders Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON), Justice and People Care Foundation and Sea Empowerment and Research Centre.