Why Hajia Usman Is Making A Headway In NPA

By Steohen Ubanna

When Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the 43 year-old , Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was appointed  by President Muhammadu Buhari, of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, in 2016,  not many people gave her opportunity of succeeding  in a male-dominated maritime sector.

This is because of her age and lack of experience on maritime issues. Industry watchers believe that her participation in the ‘’Bring Back Our Girls’’,  Campaign with the likes of Oby Ezekwesili, a one-time minister of Education, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, may have exposed her to governance.

 The ‘’Bring Back Our Girls Campaign’’ may have given her the needed  opportunity of meeting top government officials both at the national  and state level , to discuss with them on the kidnapped Chibok  school girls and how to secure their freedom . 

Many, however,   believe, that her link with    Naisir  el-Rufai, the governor  of Kaduna, her home  state, described as her mentor, who was said to be instrumental to her appointment   may have  added to her administrative boldness in running the agency.

 Aminu Bello Masari, a former Speaker of the House of  Representatives  and  now, governor of Katsina,  Buhari , home state, who was said to have visited  her at the agency Marina Headquarters,  Lagos, may have  further  strengthened  her resolve  to deliver on her Presidential  mandate.

  Given the number of other  prominent APC gladiators  who  were said to be behind her, particular, the Katsina state born Nigerian President, described as a ‘’leader who does not ‘’interfere  in getting any of his political appointees   to compromise  their position and who is supportive of her reform agenda in the NPA’’, she was determined to excel.

 She was said to have made herself the sole approving person for  all  contracts in the agency  that  even  Executive Directors  and  Heads of Department have little or nothing to do. she  did not give them their approving limits to avoid abuse.   

 Insiders  believe that she may have been toughened  by the politicians, who were said to have made  several  attempts to force her to compromise  her position in the award of contracts . She may have alluded to the  political  jobbers, Terminal operators, the  indigenous and the International  Shipping Companies which have the money to throw around.

The fallout was that   proposals had piled up in her office untreated, missing  or shredded after staying for too long without being  sent out  to the appropriate Department for action and then, return to her office for  final approval.  

She was said to have told the   management Team at their first meeting  , that her policies would be anchored on the Katsina state born Nigeria President economic agenda for the nation ‘’  based on diversity’’.  The NPA  boss was emphatic when she told the management : we will strive  for enhanced  operating efficiencies to facilitate  improved revenue generation and inflows into  the national treasury’’.

 Based on the historic speech, she had outlined her programme for the agency which includes capacity building , dredging of the ports, particular, Delta and Calabar ports to accommodate big ocean going vessels,   blockage of areas of  revenue leakages and improved revenue generations at the ports.

This is in addition to investment on information communication technology, ICT,  and rehabilitation of access roads to the ports, infrastructural development, trade facilitation, Capital maintenance, operational efficiency  and building a succession plan for the agency

Close sources informed The Value News that she had pursued the implementation of  the programmes to its logical conclusion that the staff are happy, describing her as a woman of her words. Thre may be staff that have  their reservation about her policies bu had maintained sealed lips.

She may have gladdened the heart of  terminal operators , shipping Companies, importers, exporters and other government agencies personnel working at the ports when she promised to  give them a listening ear  as a way   to improve the agency service delivery to the nation to world class standard.

 As a prelude to ensuring the realisation of her port reforms, she  was said to have taken   staff Capacity building very serious. This is evident going by the training and retraining of the staff both within  and outside the country. She was said to have engaged the services of Consultants who had been involved in the training of the staff. Some staff of the essentai Departments, particular, Safety and Environment and Operations, were said to have been sent abroad for training.

The cost implication of sending the staff abroad for training programmes may have informed why  NPA, under the close watch of Hajia Usman entered into a    Joint Venture partnership with a Lagos based  firm to   build a Simulation centre   for training   of  pilots .

  The Kaduna state born politician has said  that  the local training of the pilots   will save the country over  $1 million or N360  million annually , based on the current official exchange rate of N360 .00 to a dollar. This is  the amount , which  s he had said , had been spent yearly in the past  in the United Kingdom, UK and other European countries including the north American country of the United States, US.

   Another  thing that was said to have drawn ajia Usman immediate attention on assumption of duties was  the rehabilitation of the  access roads to the Lagos ports, which maritime watchers, said  handle over 90 percent of the volume of cargoes coming into the country. She was said to have taken up the matter with Babatunde  Fashola, a former Lagos state governor  and now, minister of Works and Housing on the need to repair the Lagos ports  access road.

 Her persistence  that the government must give priority to the reconstruction of the major  access roads to the  ports to sustain is tempo  as a revenue  earner may have informed why  the Federal Executive Council, FEC, at the instance of the President  gave approval for a N72 billion contract for the Apapa access road.

 Note that Truck laden  Containers have often   fallen  off  the road on entering into  a pothole on the Apapa bad road that Hajia Usman and her Management Team had to go back to the drawing board to find an alternative  way out to the crisis situation until the Apapa  road reconstruction work is completed and commissioned for use.  The agenc which had no option was forced to  synergise with the Nigerian Railway Corporation , NRC, to use its wagons as well as  the engage the services of  some   private Barge Operators to evacuate  cargoes at the  ports to the hinterlands.

The Hajia Usman NPA Management was said to have moved a step further to complete the trailer park at Apapa that was said to have been  started  by  a former managing  Director of the agency  including transforming its  Lilipond  property  initially handed over to the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, for use as a Bonded Terminal , into a Trailer park to ease the pains of importers with their agents .These measures may have reduced the pressure on the Oshodi –Apapa Expressway in the evacuation of cargoes  to the Importers’ warehouse  from the ports in Lagos.

Another issue that  he was said to have  attracted the attention of the NPA, managing director,  was the dredging of the port channels, particular,  the neglected   ports of Warri, Delta state, and Calabar port, Cross River state in order  to accommodate Container vessels. The dredging of the Calabar port, alone , was said to have gulped N50 billion .

  It was not surprising  why  a Container  vessel arrived the Calabar port in 2014. Before now, only flat bottom vessels had access  to  the port because of the  alleged shallow  depth of the long channels. The NPA  boss, who believes , that what matters in governance  is the ability to deliver  on one’s mandate may have informed why  she  could beat her chest that she has opened up new sources of revenue generation  for  the agency.

 She had said  that  the   which  inagency which herited a yearly contribution of N18 billions into  the Consolidated Federation  Account has improved on the performance over the last three years .

Given an insider information she claimed that the current management had succeeded in blocking areas of revenue leakage at the port  which had   improved on   the agency revenue generation and  remittance into the Federation Account  According to the Kaduna state born Human Rights  activist the agency generated and remitted into government coffers N30 billion, in 20 17 and 2018 respectively, barely two years  in office.

 The revenue generated by the  agency in  2019, was said  to be much higher than  the two previous years record because of the debt recovery measures put in place. There were speculations  making the round that the  agency generated and paid into the Federation Account  a whopping N300 billion in two months in 2019.

Rotimi Amaechi: Former Minister Of Transportation

 The information may have been very embarrassing  to  the NPA  managing Director   who reportedly described it  as untrue .  Putting the records right, she was said to have said that between January and August, 2019, the agency had generated nN177 billion , which was remitted into the Federation Account.  She was said to have attributed the  improved  revenue generation to the 10 percent  increase  in the volume of cargoes traffic at the ports.

She had further attributed the improved revenue generation to ensuring prompt payments from third party Contractors , for any  contractual relationship that requires remittance .

 She may have alluded to the terminal operators and the shipping Companies which take their cargoes to the  Nigerian ports which were said to have  defaulted in making their remittance to the government coffers. This is in addition to the debt recovery drive of the port managers as directed by the Management. Aware of the rot in the Authority in the past, the NPA  current management  were said to have  given the port mangers target to ensure they do the right thing  by collecting all the  debts owed the agency .   

Maritime  analysts  believe that NPA , under Hajia Usman  could beat its chest that it had successfully blocked areas of revenue leakages  at the port which had improved revenue generation at the ports    because of the regular  auditing of its Financial Statements. ‘’We had inherited  a backlog  of unaudited  Financial Statements and cleared it’’. She he had said.

In spite of the lofty achievements that had been made by the NPA boss in the areas of Capacity, dredging, ICT and revenue generation, analysts believe that  the  greatest achievement that had been recorded by  the NPA  boss over the last three years was in the area of of Safety and Environment.

 It was learnt that she was instrumental in ensuring the domestication of the Basel, MARPOL 73 and 78 , United Nations , Conventions  which had been in existence over the years. The good  news  was that the domestication of the Conventions have become a major source of revenue Authority. Take for instance the MARPOL 73/78, Convention, which has become a revenue spinner as it  had prescribed different fines  of $15,00 and $50,000 for minor and major oil spillages.

It was gathered that  the agency fines for   non- Compliance  t the MARPOL 73/78 Conventions  by Industry operators have been included  in the agency Dues and Rates Regulation which had been approved by Rotimi Amaechi , the minister of Transportation.

Some   Oil Producing and Exploration Companies which were said to  have contravened the Conventions because of machine or equipment failure to cause minor or major spills were said to have been fined.  The situation is the same for shipping Companies which ships  are exposed to operational and accidental pollution.

An environmental expert fisclosed that the MARPOL Convention is very ‘’robust in terms  of regulation to curb  the menace  of marine pollution’’. The expert has said that what is lacking for  now, in the agency is ‘’doing what  needed to done  to implement  the principles of the Convention. It is believed that   with strong commitment from the ‘’port state, Flag state and ship owners the full implementation  of the principles of the MARPOL Convention would be achieved and marine pollution minimised .

There was an incident where a company in Niger had wanted to use Nigeria as a transit country to ship  uranium element  to France. A source   disclosed that the agency officials were invited for a meeting in Niamey, the Capital for a meeting but the request turned down.

One UN Convention which Nigerians are still looking up to NPA to domesticate is the Ballast Water . The agency   may not have done anything yet to ships that have contravened the law because it was not yet come into force in the country. There areindications that the agency is loking seriously into domestication as the sister agency, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety has done it it.

 The refusal by NPA to domes Convention bfore npw my have informed why ship Companies behave like law unto themselves as thy could dump anything in Nigeria waters and go without facing the full weight of the Law. This may have informed why the water hyacinth which is a plant species in Argentina was exported to Nigeria waters.. Ever since information leaked out out that the agency has made all the necessary arrangement to domesticate the Convention fear appear to have gripped the shipping Companies as they know what the NPA Safety and Environmental Department officials could do..

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