Maritime: Why NPA Abdicated Its Responsibility To Host IMF Economic Outlook Team To NSC

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.

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