NPA: Hajia Usman Major Challenges As The Agency Takes Stock Over Burnt Building In The Guise Of END SARS Protest

 By Stephen Ubanna

Hajia Bala Usman, a Kaduna state born politician  and  Managing Director, Nigeria, Nigerian Ports Authority,NPA, has  a big task at hand: how to restore  Foreign  ship owners  confidence back to the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island and the south east ports of Port Harcourt Area 1, Onne, Rivers port, Delta port and Calabar port, in Cross river state.

This is because the END SARS protest which took  the  nation  by storm and subsequently  hijacked by hoodlums, had  sent a  wrong  signal to the global Shipping Community forcing many of them to abandon the Nigerian ports for other o ports in the West African Sub-region. The greatest beneficiaries of the Nigeria crisis were  the  Autonomous port of Cotonou, Benin, described as  one of the largest ports in the West African Sub-region and  Bollore port, also in Benin Republic.

There are reports making the rounds that for the two weeks that the END SARS protest which  may have  forced the Nigerian ports into a temporary closure, as some cargo and Container including RORO  vessels meant for the Nigeria ports  were diverted to  Cotonou port, Benin or Bollore port where the cargoes were trans-loaded into smaller vessels, awaiting when the coast would be clear to resume  ailing to Nigerian ports and discharge.

With the crisis over, Hajia Usman and  her Management  Team are working round the clock  to convince  the big time Foreign shipping Companies ,  like Maerskline  and several  others that Nigerian ports are safe  for Container and other cargoes vessel to come in and discharge   instead of re-routing their vessels  meant for the  Nigerians through Cotonou or Bollore ports in neighbouring Benin Republic.

National Assembly Committee Members Commiserates With Hajia Usman Over Burnt NPA Office Complex

The Value News learnt that hajia Usman, the NPA Managing Director and the Executive Director Operations, particular, including the terminal  operators in the recent time, have  never had a moment of rest  as they are concerned in winning  back the regular  Customers of the Nigerian  ports.

Even before the END SARS protesters took to the streets in major cities across the country which had  informed why  most of the Foreign  shipping Companies diveredt Nigerian ports  bound cargoes to Benin Republic, the Shippers Association of Lagos had raised alarm  that over 50% of cargoes  meant for the Nigerian ports  were being diverted  to Cotonou oand Bollore ports in  Benin Republic. They had attributed the diversion of   such Nigerian bound cargoes to the Benin Republic ports  to  the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s forex restriction  on some 41 or more  imported items. It was not very surprising why  there had been fewer cargoes discharged  in Nigerian ports while the Autonomous port of Cotonou, and Bollore ports  are booming.

Admitted that the Nigerian  ports had maintained  skeletal operations since the country  was thrown into crisis by the protesters  for much of October, 2020,  Hajia Usman had said that  ‘’all ports operations had  continued  within 24 hours , despite  attack on its facilities by the hoodlums. Hear him.’’We were able to ensure  that  critical  information  and documents are safe  for smooth ports operations’’.

NPA Board Members On Inspection of Burnt Building At Marina

 Many believe that but for the  two weeks END SARS protest, The Lagos ports of  Apapa and Tin can  Island ports had already taking the shine of Cotonou and Bollore ports, going by the number of vessels calling at the Lagos ports, forcing  Hajia Usman, the NPA  boss, to take the bold initiative  to divert some of the cargo vessels  to the abandoned  south east ports.

  The 3-year old  closure of borders across the country with the neighbouring  countries of Benin Republic, Niger and  the Central African Republic of Cameroun, may have made the situation worse for the Benin Republic ports as most of the Nigerian transit  cargo  importers  were forced to relocate back to Nigeria, particular, Lagos ports to avoid  playing into the hands of the Federal Operations, Unit, FOUs, Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, and the Border Drill personnel, across the country, in an attempt to engage the services of  smugglers to bring  into  the country   their transit cargoes   through unapproved routes.

Recall that last August the Maerskline  Stardehorn vessel, the biggest  vessel ever to arrive at any Nigerian port was received at PortHarcourt Area 1, Onne,  Concessioned to West African Container Terminal, WACT, an indication of Foreign shipping Companies confidence on the Nigerian maritime environment.   The Flagship vessel, which had sailed from the Asian country of Singapore, had discharged 9,971 TEUs,  at the WACT Facility, which gave  NPA officials and the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Port Harcourt Area 1, Command, much job to do.

Maritime experts believe that but for the END SARS protest more of such big time  ocean  going vessels could have called at the Nigerian ports. But  all hopes  are not lost,  a top official of NPA, had told the Magazine. This is because of the policy measures that had been put in place  by   the Hajia  Usman led Management in the recent time  to attract more cargo vessels to the Nigerian ports., notwithstanding the two weeks set back.

In a related development, between October 25, 2020 and  Wednesday, November5, 2020,  the NPA, Managing Director , had played host to different groups of people  who had visited the Authority over  , N5 billion   rehabilitated Corporate Headquarters and other items  which were set ablaze  by the hoodlums, who were said to have  hijacked the END SARS protest on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 .

The latest to visit the NPA  burnt facility to Commiserate with Hajia Usman, and see things himself, was Nasir El-rufai, a former minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT,  and now governor of Kaduna state, north west Nigeria, described in political circles as her godfather. He was said to have showed up at the NPA  burnt building on Thursday , November 5, 2020.

Tincan Island Port, Affected By END SARS Protest As Cargoes Were Diverted To Neighboring Benin Republic Ports

 The  members of the Senate Committee  on Marine and Transport, as well as the  House Committee  on Ports and Harbour were said to have also visited to Commiserate with the NPA Managing Director  and THE Staff to see things themselves, on Thursday, November 5, 2020. The  Lawmakers , who were said to have had audience with the NPA  boss, were said to have  promised   to do everything within their  powers   including making adequate budgetary provisions  to mitigate  the building process  of the agency.   This should serve as a cheery news to the NPA, as the support would facilitate the rehabilitation of the building.  The Consortium of Insurance Companies   which  had insured the building are also evaluating the cost of rehabilitating and bring it to the former state before  the END SARS protest.

  Another  group tohave  visiteduh the NPA  burnt building were the Authority Board members led by  Chief  Akin Ricketts. The Board members were said to have been conducted round the premises by the NPA Managing Director, who is also a Board member.She may have gladdened the heart of the Board members when she disclosed that some  six suspects were arrested and in Police custody. The suspects,  she had said  are currently being interrogated, preparatory to dragging to Court to face the full weight of the Law as a deterrence to others  who  may want to take the Law into their  hands to resort to arson in the future.

Hajia Usman ,Conducts Some Selected Journalists Round NPA Burnt Building

Recall that on Sunday, November 1, 2020, She had played host to some selected Journalists from the Print, Electronic and On-line publications  amidst  tight security to see things for themselves instead of relying on hearsay to do  their report.  It was a no hold  bar discussion after the tour as she was said to granted the Journalists  interview outside the building with armed security men strategically positioned  to ward off any intruder.

. the Journalists were said to have taken advantage of the meeting to ask  questions connected to the burnt building and how soon  work on the rehabilitation  process  would commence.

She had said that the  facility  was comprehensively insured with a consortium of firms and the agency had  never defaulted in paying its premium to the Companies. The message was very  clear : we will not have any problem with the rehabilitation f the building as the Consortium of Insurance  Companies that had  insured the building were  equal to  the task.

Hajia Usman In A Group Photograph With Journalists At The Defaced NPA Premises

 Attempts by the her media Team to cut short the question and answer session to give her a breather was rebuffed  as she insisted that every Journalist  must  be allowed to  ask  their questions as  she was prepared to answer  no minding the mood of the nation over the burnt building. True to her words, she responded  to all the questions  asked  and  even gave more insider information to some of the technical questions asked, which most government appointee Chief Executives  could have  avoided.

 Perhaps, what may have surprised the Journalists was when she said that in terms of  employment  the youths of the Community  where the NPA Corporate office is located are  well favoured.  She was emphatic: most of the drivers engaged  by the Agency are from this Lagos Island Local government area Community while those who have Professional qualifications like Engineers and Medical Doctors , are made to Compete with others from other area for available vacancies which are conducted  in a very transparency manner.

This may have informed why  she is  pained  that NPA, Corporate office, could be singled out for  destruction when there are other imposing   government agencies, building  along the busy Marina street. A former National Electricity Power Authority, NEPA, Corporate Headquarters, now inherited by ECO Distribution Company, one of the Companies  carved out  from the old NEPA, The Bank of Industry Industry and several others.   

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