By Suleiman Umaru
The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, aappear to have joined the league of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Access , Zenith, Gurantee Trust Bank, popular GTB, Dangote Group and the BUA Group, among others to heed the call of the government to support the control of the dreaded disease, Coronavirus, from further spread in the country.
The agency donation may have taken time to come to come because Hajia Bala Usman, the Managing Director and her Management Team had been much involved over the last two months in implementing measures to prevent theWuhan of Hebei Province of China sickness: Cornavirus, from spreading into the country through the seaports.
Note that the government, particular, officials of the Federal ministry of Health and the Nigerian Centre For Disease Control, NCDC, feared that dreaded disease might spread into the country through the seaports because of the number of ships coming into the country’s ports from the Asian country of China and Europe.
This may have forced the government to bean its searchlight on the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tincan Island including the Calabar, where one of the Terminal Operators run a Passenger vessel from the Central African country of Camerron to Nigeria as high risk ports for the disease.
It was surprising why the country eight seaports between Lagos and the Niger Delta states of Delta , Rivers and Cross river had been tightened to ensure that suspected vessels did not berth at any of the
ports. Satisfied that port pilots and Medical personnel are fully on the alert to effectively monitor the movement of vessels in and out of the port to avoid the spread of the sickness through the seaport, Hajia Usman and his Management Team may have settled down to address the demand of the Presidential Committee to source for Financial ,relief material and facilities to accommodate the Coronavirus victims. This may have informed why the agency, which is the majority shareholder alongside other shareholders of the Agura Hotels, had agreed to donate the 130 bed facility to the NCDC, as an Isolation centre to accommodate the COVID 19 victims at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. “This is a social responsibility initiative aimed at supporting the efforts of the government to contain the spread of the virus in Nigeria’’, Adams Jatto, an Engineer and the Maritime Landlord General Manger ,Corporate and Strategic Communications had said.
Medical experts said the 130 well funished five –star Hotel facility had come at a right time because of the increasing number of Coronavirus cases at the FCT, mostly , important personalities and top government officials , who had never experienced denial of basic amenities in life. They described the Agura Hotel facility as a home for the big man Corona victims that would be accommodated there, noting that it would facilitate their healing and quick discharge.
In a related development, Hajia Usman, and his Management Team, who feels for the financial plight of the importers because of the global Coronavirus diseases, were said to have moved to cushion the effects on them to avoid giving to room for them to relocate back to Benin Terminal , Cotonou and Bollore port in Benin Republic as well as other ports in the West African Sub-region to take delivery of their cargoes.
Note that the Border closure across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and Cameroon, and the outbreak of the sickness in Nigeria last February, appear to have forced many Benin Republic based importers to relocate to Nigeria seaports, particular, the Lagos Port Complex, LPC. That much was said by Mrs. Olutu Fumil ayo, the Port Manager.
The NPA Managing Director may not want the agency to lose any of these returnee Customers to Benin Republic, particular, because of the alleged high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports as she was said to have directed APM and other Terminal Operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage dues on Consignments, demurrage, for a period of 21 days . The directive which caught some of Terminal Operators unawares, according to Adams, the agency Spokesperson became effective on Monday, March 23, 2020.
According to him, the” gesture was in recognition of the pressure that the COVID- 19 pandemic imposes on businesses, particular importation’’, stressing that it is the responsibility of the agency to cushion this burden on the Customers as a way of attaining the government objective of the ease of doing business at the ports.
The Terminal Operators may have planned how they would rip-off the importers with outrageous Demurrage, in this trying times. But they have no cause to worry as the Hajia Usman and his Management Team have some palliatives for them in order not to loosely completely within the 21 days that these policies would be in operation.
“The Authority recognises the financial implication s of these policies on the Terminal Operators and will consider a shift in its operational charges to ameliorate the situation of the stakeholder’’. This should gladden the heart of the APM officials and Other Operators, who were worried that the Hajia Usman directive would affect their business and distort their monthly revenue projections.