No pol­i­tics in Nige­rian ports' op­er­a­tions

We have put struc­tures in place to en­hance trans­parency and re­move all forms of opac­ity hith­erto iden­ti­fied in the op­er­a­tions of our ports.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

Hadiza Bala Us­man, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Nige­rian Ports Au­thor­ity speaks with Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria Edi­tors in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view on the per­for­mance of Nige­rian ports un­der her lead­er­ship and the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the mar­itime sec­tor. Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria (FN): Un­der your lead­er­ship, the coun­try aims to be­come the mar­itime hub for West and Cen­tral Africa. What is the cur­rent pro­file of Nige­rian ports?

Hadiza Bala Us­man (HBU): The Nige­rian Ports Au­thor­ity (NPA) gov­erns and op­er­ates all the ports of Nige­ria. Since 2005, the agency has been repo­si­tioned for greater ef­fi­ciency, ac­count­abil­ity and safety. We are see­ing an in­crease in the po­ten­tials of the ports in Cal­abar, Warri, Port Har­court and Onne and I am glad that we are get­ting re­sults in terms of bet­ter per­for­mance. For in­stance, over the first three months of 2018, the Cal­abar Port gen­er­ated an un­prece­dented N3 bil­lion in rev­enue.

We are work­ing to en­sure that all our ports are func­tional through the dredg­ing of the chan­nels into the ports so as to at­tain the re­quired draught level even as we are

en­cour­ag­ing ship­ping com­pa­nies to de­ploy flat bot­tom ves­sels in the in­terim. Tug­boats and pi­lot cut­ters have also been de­ployed to these ports to in­crease the ca­pac­ity of NPA to ful­fil its statu­tory du­ties of towage and pi­lotage.

In La­gos, we have re­cently com­mis­sioned a few tug­boats, namely MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Ma­jiya. This is one of the rea­sons we were able to re­ceive the Egina FPSO (float­ing pro­duc­tion stor­age and of­fload­ing) ves­sel in Jan­uary this year.

There are also other very im­por­tant ar­eas we have recorded achieve­ments such as dwell time and turn­around time. We have im­ple­mented the pro­vi­sions for ports in the 2017 Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders signed by thenAct­ing Pres­i­dent Prof. Yemi Os­in­bajo on the Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness. The ports in Apapa went into round-the-clock Pro­vi­sion of Marine Ser­vices (Pi­lotage and Berthing of Ves­sels) in June last year. Other agen­cies of govern­ment in­volved in clear­ing of cargo also did like­wise.

To ad­dress the chal­lenges of bu­reau­cracy, which leads to the chaotic clear­ance of car­goes, we have – in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nige­ria Cus­toms Ser­vice (NCS) and Nige­ria Sov­er­eign In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity (NSIA) – de­vel­oped the op­er­a­tional frame­work for es­tab­lish­ing the Na­tional Sin­gle Win­dow, Ports Com­mu­nity Sys­tem and Scan­ning ser­vices. This frame­work is aimed at sim­pli­fy­ing and har­mo­niz­ing the for­mal­i­ties, pro­ce­dures and the re­lated ex­change of in­for­ma­tion and doc­u­ments be­tween the var­i­ous par­tak­ers in the port op­er­a­tions value chain.

We have also ini­ti­ated a num­ber of steps aimed at eas­ing the evac­u­a­tion of car­goes from the ports. Last year, we part­nered with AG Dan­gote Con­struc­tion Com­pany and Flour Mills Nige­ria for the re­con­struc­tion of the Wharf Road in Apapa. NPA con­trib­uted N1.8 bil­lion to the N4.43 bil­lion re­con­struc­tion project.

As we re­alise the im­por­tance of in­ter­modal trans­porta­tion in all mod­ern ports, the govern­ment has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in its re­la­tion­ship with Gen­eral Elec­tric to­wards the con­ces­sion­ing of the rail lines that will ter­mi­nate at the ports.

An ef­fi­cient trans­porta­tion sys­tem is a crit­i­cal driver in en­abling quick en­try and exit of goods. It is im­por­tant we have easy in­flow and exit of car­goes for im­por­ta­tion and ex­por­ta­tion. The util­i­sa­tion of in­land wa­ter­ways is also be­ing ex­plored. In the mean­time, cargo is al­ready be­ing moved by barges. So, all in all, we are on the way to achiev­ing our tar­get and po­si­tion­ing our ports to be the best in the re­gion.

FN: What are the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for pri­vate sec­tor and in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors in the mar­itime trans­port sub­sec­tor in Nige­ria, par­tic­u­larly those op­por­tu­ni­ties that are be­ing pro­moted by Nige­rian Ports Au­thor­ity?

HBU: There are myr­i­ads of op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­vestors in Nige­ria’s mar­itime sec­tor. As you are aware, the 2005 con­ces­sion ex­er­cise made the Au­thor­ity land­lord of ports rather than own­ers and di­rect op­er­a­tors. What this means is that the Au­thor­ity by virtue of the Nige­rian Ports Au­thor­ity Act 2004, CAP 126 LFN, ceded op­er­at­ing rights in Nige­rian ports to the pri­vate sec­tor while the NPA still re­tains own­er­ship of port land as well as keep­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for li­cens­ing op­er­a­tors and reg­u­lat­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties.

25 ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tors, all pri­vate com­pa­nies, emerged from the con­ces­sion ex­er­cise. The NPA is also al­lowed by its en­abling law to en­gage pri­vate en­ti­ties to carry out its statu­tory re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of pi­lotage, towage, se­cu­rity of the ports as well as main­te­nance dredg­ing. There are op­por­tu­ni­ties in sup­port ser­vices like power, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­er­i­sa­tion and equip­ment leas­ing. This is not to talk about the enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in the up­grad­ing of port in­fra­struc­ture and the de­vel­op­ment of deep sea­ports as is cur­rently go­ing on. In essence, there is no limit to the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Nige­rian mar­itime sec­tor.

FN: The need for re­forms of Nige­rian ports has been a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion in the last few decades. What are the re­forms that you have pri­ori­tised since your ap­point­ments

The ports in Apapa went into round-the-clock Pro­vi­sion of Marine Ser­vices (Pi­lotage and Berthing of Ves­sels) in June last year.

as NPA Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor in 2016, and what are the over­ar­ch­ing re­form goals you are pur­su­ing?

HBU: Let me start from the goals of our re­form ef­forts. My hope is that we would be able to de­liver re­forms that would en­trench a cul­ture of ef­fi­ciency and trans­parency with the aim of mak­ing ours the ports of choice on the con­ti­nent. To achieve this, we must lead by ex­am­ple, and show the ca­pac­ity to govern by the books and be above board. Be­yond that, we have also put struc­tures in place to en­hance trans­parency and re­move all forms of opac­ity hith­erto iden­ti­fied in our op­er­a­tions.

In June 2017, we launched the Rev­enue In­voice Man­age­ment Sys­tem (RIMS), a web­based billing and rev­enue col­lec­tion ap­pli­ca­tion which has fully au­to­mated the en­tire billing cy­cle of the NPA. Be­sides be­ing an ef­fi­cient pay­ment method and im­prov­ing cus­tomer ser­vice de­liv­ery in port op­er­a­tions, the RIMS has erad­i­cated losses as­so­ci­ated with fraud and rev­enue leak­age.

We have made our bud­gets open to the pub­lic. We have also made in­for­ma­tion on tar­iffs ac­ces­si­ble any­where in the world be­cause it is now pub­lished on our web­site. We have also di­rected all ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tors to do like­wise.

The man­age­ment of NPA also im­me­di­ately com­plied with the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s direc­tive for all rev­enues ac­cru­ing to MDAs to be paid into the Trea­sury Sin­gle Ac­count (TSA). The fail­ure of one of our ma­jor part­ners to com­ply with this pol­icy caused a ma­jor row in 2017 be­cause we had re­solved not to make any com­pro­mise.

In ad­di­tion to the pur­chase of the tug­boats, which I spoke about ear­lier, we have com­mis­sioned a Com­mand & Con­trol, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre. This fa­cil­ity is one of the most so­phis­ti­cated in the sub­re­gion and it serves as a sur­veil­lance cen­tre for all mar­itime ac­tiv­i­ties and as an in­for­ma­tion net­work cen­tre for se­cu­rity agen­cies in the ports. So do­ing, we have pri­ori­tised safety and se­cu­rity.

In ad­di­tion to the 24-hour port op­er­a­tions in La­gos, there is the na­tional sin­gle win­dow plat­form, which al­lows all govern­ment agen­cies to come un­der one plat­form for the in­spec­tion and clear­ing of car­goes. We are also work­ing to­wards the pro­cure­ment of a mod­ern scan­ning de­vice that will speed up our pro­cesses.

FN: Would you like to high­light some other suc­cesses that have been recorded by the cur­rent man­age­ment of the NPA that you lead?

HBU: There are a cou­ple of things that have made us glad, even though we are nowhere near where we hope to be. One has to do with the con­di­tion of ser­vice at the Au­thor­ity. We are aware that no mat­ter what we do, it would be im­pos­si­ble to ef­fect pos­i­tive change if we do not pay at­ten­tion to the wel­fare of our staff. We have em­barked on what is ar­guably the most com­pre­hen­sive con­di­tion of ser­vice re­view in the coun­try’s pub­lic ser­vice.

When we came in as the new man­age­ment of NPA, we found a sit­u­a­tion in which peo­ple’s re­mu­ner­a­tions ac­tu­ally re­duced when they got pro­moted. So, no one wanted to be el­e­vated and peo­ple were happy with monies that came in from so­lic­i­ta­tions and kick­backs. To im­prove the level of trans­parency and ef­fi­ciency, this sys­tem had to change and we suc­ceeded. In ad­di­tion to that, we set up a per­for­mance-based

There are myr­i­ads of op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­vestors in Nige­ria’s mar­itime sec­tor. As you are aware, the 2005 con­ces­sion ex­er­cise made the Au­thor­ity land­lord of ports rather than own­ers and di­rect op­er­a­tors.

man­age­ment sys­tem. I have talked about the process we have set in mo­tion to ef­fect trans­parency in our op­er­a­tions.

We also re­alised that a lot of agree­ments en­tered into by the NPA were to the detri­ment of the na­tion. We have re­viewed quite a num­ber of them in spite of strong op­po­si­tion and even black­mail. I am also happy that we have been able to re­sus­ci­tate ac­tiv­i­ties at the Eastern ports. We have also se­cured the ap­proval for the dredg­ing of Warri Port.

All of these have in­creased in­vestors’ con­fi­dence in the mar­itime sec­tor. This is ex­em­pli­fied in the ac­qui­si­tion of NPA’s eq­uity in the Lekki Deep Sea­port by the China Har­bour En­gi­neer­ing Com­pany. There is also the will­ing­ness of the TangerMed of Morocco to de­velop a greenfield ter­mi­nal lo­gis­tics base in Nige­ria, amongst many other such on­go­ing dis­cus­sions.

FN: The hor­ren­dous traf­fic con­ges­tion on the di­lap­i­dated roads to the ports in La­gos, of­ten ex­ac­er­bated by the truck­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in and out of the ports must be taken as a pub­lic re­la­tions night­mare for the NPA. The roads are be­ing re­con­structed now. But is the NPA also re­new­ing its in­fra­struc­ture, per­haps as part of its sus­tain­abil­ity com­mit­ments and strat­egy?

HBU: Oh yes, we are. I have given some ex­am­ple of such in­fra­struc­ture re­newal pro­grammes in the course of this in­ter­view. We are also in­sist­ing that ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tors and ship­ping lines work­ing in the coun­try must also re­new the in­fra­struc­ture at their ter­mi­nals and fa­cil­i­ties. It is the only way we can re­main com­pet­i­tive and there is no way we would al­low any com­pro­mises in that area.

In terms of the roads to the ports, we have ac­tu­ally mooted the pro­posal for NPA to take over the roads through the Fed­eral Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion. The roads are cur­rently un­der the man­age­ment of the Min­istry of Power, Works and Hous­ing. But we think they would be bet­ter main­tained by or­gan­i­sa­tions like the NPA who do busi­ness in Apapa.

FN: To what ex­tent does the NPA act in­de­pen­dently, serv­ing the mar­itime sec­tor of the Nige­rian econ­omy, as op­posed to the po­lit­i­cal agenda of the govern­ment of the day?

HBU: The NPA is an in­de­pen­dent body and we are for­tu­nate to have Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, whose vi­sion is for a bet­ter Nige­ria, and Rt Hon Chibuike Ameachi as Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion at this time. We are here to en­sure that Nige­rian ports be­come the best in Africa and we are get­ting all the sup­port that we need from the govern­ment.

There is no ques­tion of pol­i­tics in our op­er­a­tions as long as peo­ple con­form to the law of the land. When peo­ple or or­gan­i­sa­tions run afoul of the law, we will not fold our arms. It does not mat­ter how much black­mail and false news they ped­dle.

FN: What are your lead­er­ship val­ues and how are they brought to bear in your lead­ing the NPA?

HBU: I would say hard work, first of all. Then I would also say lead­ing by ex­am­ple, and pro­vid­ing the lead­er­ship that is re­quired to en­sure NPA is run pro­fes­sion­ally.

The ad­van­tages of be­ing rel­a­tively young is that you have the phys­i­cal and men­tal en­ergy to take on your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. When you are lead­ing by ex­am­ple and do­ing the heavy lift­ing, your col­leagues re­spect you.

Hav­ing worked as Chief of Staff to the Gov­er­nor of Kaduna State kind of pre­pared me for this job. I also in­sist on trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. That mes­sage is cur­rently per­me­at­ing through the Au­thor­ity and stake­hold­ers in the sec­tor. FN: What is your out­look for the Nige­rian mar­itime in­dus­try in the next five years?

HBU: I see the sec­tor be­com­ing the fore­most on the con­ti­nent. We have got all that it takes, so we just need to put our acts to­gether. I am con­fi­dent that with the nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal will, like that which the Au­thor­ity is cur­rently get­ting, we will get there. We are also com­mit­ted to get­ting there by pro­vid­ing a level play­ing field for all in­vestors and em­pha­sis­ing the ease of do­ing busi­ness at the ports.

Hadiza Bala Us­man, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Nige­rian Ports Au­thor­ity

Hadiza Bala Us­man

Hadiza Bala Us­man

Hadiza Bala Us­man

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