By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Between Monday , September , 9, 2019 and Monday, September 16, 2019, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and his Management Team , were not sure that the House Adhoc Maritime Committee would be at the Marina Headquarters to confer with the Management before embarking on their tour of the Western and Eastern ports.
Even when Maritime Journalists started showing up at the NPA Marina Office, the staff of the Public Relations Department were still at a loss that the Committee could still make it . Eventually, they made it.
The value News learnt that Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN, who were invited to be part of the entourage , going by the centenary of the Committee. Note that their first point call was the Lagos state Government House to see Babatunde Sanwo-Olu, the state governor and whose state is a major maritime stakeholder going by the port levies it collects before coming over to NPA Marina Head office to get the approval of the Authority Managing Director to proceed to the ports witha security support.
But unknown to the Staff, Aajia Usman, the NPA boss, had prepared the mind of the Management Team about the House Adhoc Maritime Committee Visit in order to receive and brief them about the activities of the Authority and also to provide the needed security to accompany them on the tour of the ports.
The Committee had shown up around 12 PM at the NPA Marina Headquarters and were quickly ushered to the Board to meeting the waiting Management Team. After a brief discussion, where Yakub, the Committee Chairman had informed the Management that they are on a fact finding mission on’’ why the seaports are not functioning maximally and what is holding back the Onitisha Inland port in Anambra state, south east Nigeria, from taking off the ground.
It was an opportunity for the House Adhoc Committee members to meet with one of the major stake holders in the nation’s maritime sector: NPA. The Magazine learnt that the port Managers of the Western and Eastern ports were alerted to prepare their mind about the visit of the Committee members in order to receive and take them round their respective ports.
Going by their intenary, they were expected to visit Apapa, Tin-can Island ports and close the visit to the Western port port with a Stakeholders Forum to be hosted by the Premier port. Insiders informed the Magazine that all arrangement has been made for the Forum, where Stakeholders were expected to air out their views on how to make Nigerians ports a much better place to do business. The Committee may not have kept to its schedule because of the time constraint.
Eyewitness account disclosed that they could only visit APM Terminal at the premier port where they were briefed by the port Manager who informed them about the unavailability of functional scanners at the port and while Containerised Cargoes were examined manually, which was said to have been described as an act of economic sabotage by one of the Committee members. The Committee could not make it Tincan Island port where the port Manager was said to have made adequate arrangement to receive them based on the directive from the Management. Contrary to reports making the rounds that the western ports are experiencing Congestion congestion instead of NPA diverting most of the Ocean going vessels to the Eastern ports which are under utilised, Mohammed ABBA-Kura, the Customs Comptroller, Apapa Command , may have disabused the mind of the Committee members that there is no Congestion at the western ports.
The Customs Comptroller was said to informed the Committee that the Authority do not have the powers to force any importer to use any of the Eastern ports because this is where they have the market for goods. He disclosed that the importer alone has the prerogative to determine which port to use. It is not surprising why most of the importers, particular, the multi-national Companies like Cadbury and Nigeria Tobacco Company , use the Benin terminal , Cotonou and Bollore port in Republic of Benin and other port ports in the West African sub-region to take delivery of transit cargoes through the Seme –Krake Joint border.
The Yakub led Committee were said to have left for the Eastern ports , on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Going by their antennary , they will start their tour of the Eastern ports from Warri port in Delta state, south-south region before proceeding to other ports in the region. These are the Onne port, Onne Export processing and Free Trade Zone, Port Harcourt Area 3, Rivers state and Calabar port, Cross-Rive state.
The Committee is expected to present the report of their finding to Femi Gbajabimiala, the Spear of the House after a tour of the ports. Many believe that the Committee members visit to the eight seaports in Lagos and the Niger Delta, would force the government to expedite action in fixing the broken down scanners at the seaports and land border areas.
While NPA official are working the clock to ensure that there is no congestion at the Lagos ports, which handles , over 90 percent of the Cargoes coming into the country, unconfirmed report said the success achieved by the presidential Task Force, PTF, on the Apapa gridlock, Headed by yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President but currently Coordinated by Kayode Opeifa, had been with support of the Authority.
A source informed the Magazine that from the onset the Authority had shouldered the responsibility of footing the bills incurred by the Task Force personnel in feeding and Accommodation in Rockview Hotel, Lagos. The source disclosed that when the bills became too much and the warning by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation that that the government is expecting substantial revenue from it , it was forced to scale down its expenses.
Opeifa and other members of the Task were said to have been relocated to a less expensive hotel within Lagos which the Team did not find funny. Moreso, its insistence that Hajia Usman, the Authority Managing Director, must attent its meetings which was turned down was seen as an insult. The NPA, boss was said to have given approval to the General Manager security , and the Apapa and Tin can Island port Managers to always attend the Task Force meetinds but the team members not satisfied with it. Many believe that their instance to see Hajia Usman, at their meetings was to use that as an opportunity to present their requests to the Authority , which she would not hesitate but to approve. They got it wrong.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that that the initial plan of the Presidency was that the Team would clear the Apapa gridlock within two weeks but it has turned to be an endless assignment. From two weeks , the members have been in the hotel incurring expenses on the pocket of NPA. When the going was good, the Magazine was informed that no bill that was present to any approving Authority in the agency that was never honoured before it gets to the Managing Director’s office for final approval.
The question non the lips of most people was why President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Task Force on the Apapa grid lock without making financial allocation to them to do their work instead of shifting the responsibility to an agency which at the end of the year is expected to account for the revenue generated from its Operations.
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