By Stephen Ubanna
Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary , Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, appears, to have joined the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, to struggle to take over the responsibility of Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA , in overseeing the country’s seaports.
. NIWA, officials were said to have started the undeclared war against Hajia Usman , when a former Managing Director of the Agency was said to have said to the hearing of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and now minister of Transportation that it is not the responsibility of the Authority to issue License to Barge Operating Companies to evacuate Containers from the seaports, to the Inland Container Terminals at Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, Epe and other approved terminals in Lagos state but that of the Authority. The agency officials were said to have made all the efforts they could to win the heart of the minister in order to force NPA to abdicate the responsibility to the Authority but no luck.
Only recently, Bello, the NSC, Executive Director, had hosted the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Economic Outlook Team who were said to be going round all the seaports in the African Continent to facilitate the preparation and compilation of the 2020 Economic Outlook of the Organisation.
Note that the NPA, officials may not have participated fully in attending to the Team because of the implementation of the cargoes diversion directive to the south east ports on Monday, January 27, 2020 and the Media inquiries on the scandalous approval given by Hajia Usman for the increased local airfare return ticket allowance for Staff of the agency based on the recommendation of Jatto Adams, the Agency General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications .
Jatto may have been encouraged to send the recommendations to the Managing Director, to give approval for the upward review of the local airfares because of the recent hike in prices of local air tickets across the country by Airline Operators. The GM, was said to have proposed between N180,000.00 and N320,00 for a return trip on business class, depending on the route and between N150,000.00 –N290,000.00 for a two way trip on the economy class, which was said to have been approved by the NPA , boss, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Between the Managing Director’s office and the Corporate and Strategic Communications Department, the information may have leaked out to the press, leading to the media inquiries.
The media enquiries over the airfaire, which were considered outrageous, were directed at the NPA, GM, may have occupied much of his time that he may not have given the IMF visit a priority. It was not surprising why the NSC, boss, took up the challenge to host the IMF Economic Outlook Team.
He may have seen it as an opportunity to expose the poor supervision of the ports by the Authority under the close watch of of Hajia Usman as it had not been able to stamp its foot down to encourage the government to provide the basic infrastructural facilities particular, scanners, that could facilitate the clearing of cargoes at the ports .
The IMF, Team, may have been miffed at the absence of the National Single Window Platform and scanning machines that could assist the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, personnel, at the ports to do their work.
It is instructive to note that while on a guided tour of the Lagos ports last Saturday, the NSC, officials, were said to have taking the Amine Mati, the IMF Chief and senior Resident , Representative for African Department, through the Oshodi-Apapa road, which may have exposed the NPA poor management of the ports to them. They were said to have come to the conclusion that poor logistics and basic infrastructural facilities, particular, scanners and road infrastructure, are the major challenges of the Nigerian ports.
The Team which visited the APM Terminal, at Apapa port, described as the biggest Container terminal in the West and Central Afican sub-regions, Greenview Development Terminal, GVDT, owned by Dangote Operations and Port Multiservices Terminal Limited, popular, PTML, were, however, impressed at the level of work done by the terminal Terminal Operators to attract vessels.
Perhaps, based on what they saw at the terminals visited, the Team, may have sent a signal to NPA, that there is need to accelerate the provision of scanner machines at the terminals located at the Lagos and the south east ports . The issue of the Congestion at the Lagos pilotage district which had manifested at the terminals may have drawn their attention as they were said to have discussed it with the NSC officials.
It was not surprising why the IMF Chief told Journalists who covered the tour that they are trying to determine the different economic policies and priorities that had been put in place by the government and how it could facilitate the provision of scanners, and the National Single Window platform expected to accelerate the clearing process.
Barely three days after the IMF officials visit to the some of the terminals at the Lagos ports, the Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order at Apapa Environment ,information has filtered that the Presidential Task Team , which was placed under the supervision of Yemi Osinbajo , the country’s Vice President, has finally created a Special Window for Manufacturers to load their cargoes unhindered at the port. This is a good news for the Dangote Group, which was said to have lost billions of naira last year because of the Appa gridlock.
Recall that on the issue of the Lagos port Congestion which the Team had discussed with the NSC, Hajia Usman, the Manging Director of NPA, had taken the bold initiative to decongest the Lagos pilotage district and Terminals , by seeking the consent of the APMT and other Terminal Operators within the Lagos axis to divert some of the ocean going vessels carrying cargoes to Delta port, Calabar port, Cross River , Onne and Port Harcourt Are 1, in Rivers state, all located in the south east
.Not that the IMF Team, also have a word for Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos state and minister of Works and Housing, to use his close contact with the Katsina state born Nigeria President to ensure that the roads outside the Lagos seaports are fixed because of its importance to the movement of cargoes in and out of the ports. The contractors handling the rehabilitation of the Oshodi Apapa road which have mobilised on site are said to be doing everything within their powers to complete the project within the time frame given to them. That much was said by Aliko Dangote, President Dangote Groups, when the minister , recently undertook a tour of the project to assess the level of work done.
The IMF officials were emphatic that if the roads outside the ports could be fixed, it would go a long way to improve the movement of cargoes in and out of the port as trade is picking in the country.
Bello, the NSC, Executive Secretary may have spoken the mind of Hajia Usman, the NPA , boss, when he described Nigerian ports as the busiest in the West and Central African sub-regions because of the volume of cargo imports coming into the ports daily, believed to be over stretching the facilities.
According to him , the country’s ports, alone, controls, between 40-60 percent of the total volume of cargoes discharged by the shipping Companies in the seaports member countries of the two sub-regions annually.
He is optimistic that between now and the end of the second quarter of this year, most of these challenges which had been identified by the IMF Team would be addressed, particular, provision of scanners, to enhance the examination of cargoes. At present cargoes are being examined 100 percent physically at the ports which agents described as time wasting and leads to added increased costs of clearing goods at the ports.