Deliberate violation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the rampant use of discretionary authority by port officers remain two of the most severe problems at Nigerian ports.
They are a major cause of the country’s inability to do better in its ease of doing business index, says a recent survey of the Convention on Business Integrity (CBi) and supported by the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN).
The survey notes that there is a general awareness of standard operational procedures (SOPs) at Nigerian ports and terminals. But officers working at the maritime facilities prefer to implement the SOPs for their own benefits. Circumventing the procedures allows port officials demand and receive ‘service premiums’ to facilitate the processing of cargo.
The report notes that, “Many public officers are themselves insurance covers for many in their society where many are unemployed thereby further creating and fueling the propensity for cycle of corruption within the economic system of the port.” Additionally, the survey notes that port corruption has strong social undertones.
“The common orientation in Nigeria is that the end justifies the means. Nigeria is a system where people do not ask how people do their work to earn a living but celebrate bogus and unsustainable lifestyles.
“For example, if a port official has a fleet of expensive cars and houses in highbrow areas of the country, Nigerians will likely not ask the source of income but only celebrate his/her time has come and even wish they were like him/her.”
The report notes that the increased application of technology would relieve the ports of the burden of human intervention in the compliance with standard operating procedures.
On a positive side, the rules, regulations and general legal context of port operations are appropriate but the problem lies in the failure of port managers to implement the rules, guidelines and regulations. This creates a fertile ground for corruption and inefficiency.