NPA Lease: Sambo Moves To Save Investment  Worth  $400 million

 By Stephen Ubanna

This is not the best of times for APM Terminal , popular, APMT, ENL Consortium, Port and Cargo Handling Services, Josephdam Port Services and Associated Maritimes Services,  which Leases  had expired since April , 2021.

 The five Concessionaires, described as the ‘’initial port operators in maritime circles, were said to have been granted the Lease during the lusegun Obasanjo’s Administration. The Obasanjo’s government had Leased  and concessioned the various terminals at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan can Island and the south east ports of Onne, Rivers , Delta and Calabar  which it had started in 2006  and sustained by  subsequent Administrations.  As at august 2022, 18 Concessionaires were said to have been granted leases of the terminal.

The roll call: APMT,   Apapa Bulk Terminal, ENL Consrtium, Greenview Development and Stand Flour Mills, BUA Ports an Terminal Limited,, Ports And Terminal Operators, Nigerian limited,  Brawal Shipping limited, Shoreline Logistics, , Associated Maritimes Services and Greenleigh  Ports Nigeria limited and Intels  Nigerian limited, which operates two of the terminals at the Delta ports and the three other NPA facilities at the Onne port Complex in Rivers state.

a A Leased/Concessioned Container Terminal

Until Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state resignation  as the minister of Transportation in May 2022, to contest the All Progressive Congress, APC, Presidential primaries for the 2023, general Election, the formr Rivers governor appears to have paid little or no attention to the renewal of the expired Leases.

 Hajia Hadiza  Bala Usman, a former Managing Director  of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was said to have drawn his attention to the fact    that  five of the Leases ,  granted  during the Administration of former President Obasanjo,  had expired , begging for renewal .The Leases were said to have expired between April and November 2021. The five Concessionaires and other others that may have joined the group were said to have indicated interest to retain their respective terminals. They were also said to have completed the process for renewal which was forwarded to the former minister, for approval in June 2020.

He was said to have approved the request of the five Concessionaires for renewal on December 2020 with a caveat that the renewal process should be driven by an inter-ministerial Committee. The Committee was said to have concluded its assignment and submitted its report to the former Rivers state governor but he failed to act on it, thus delaying the supplemental agreement s and the renewal process till date.  

The ministerial delay in  giving approval for renewal of the expired Concessions and Leases  may have  informed why  the House of Representative Committee  on Privatisation and Commercialisation  had invited Amaechi, the hen minister of Transportation  to appear before it  to explain why he could not act on the inter-ministerial Committee report .Th.The  Committee was said to have told the former Rivers state governor that   the continued  delay in  renewing the expired Leases and Concessions  might cause the government ‘’ to loose  investments  worth over  $400million’’.

The House Committee believes that the renewal of the expired Leases and Concessions by the erstwhile minister of Transportation would encourage the Concessionaires to pay up their outstanding indebtedness to the government which had been lingering over the years. As at 202019, the 18 terminal Operators were said to be owing the government to the tune of about $852.1 million and about N2 billion respectively.  That much was contained in the report of the Auditor General of the Federation report of December 31, 2019

Hajia Usman, the former Managing Director  of NPA, had said that  of the original debt  owed the government  by the  Concessionaires  was $852,093,730.77 and N1,878,560,509.57,  only  $753million  and N1,609,150,534.32,  remained to be paid by the  port operators.

She had cited INTELS, which owe $4,589,576.75, Associated Maritime Services, $328,027.64 and Greenleigh Ports Nigeria Limted,$1,734,492.41 at Delta ports.   She had said that BUA Ports and terminal limited owed $12,254,424.55, Port and Terminal Operators Nigeria Limited,$107,311,506.46 and Shoreline Logistics, $1,181, 023.57 , including  Intels at Onne port , which was aid to have owed  $1,928,250.44.

Recall that last June Gbemisola Saraki, a former minister of state, ministry of Transportation, who has been redeployed to the ministry of  Steel and Mines,  who had toured the nation’s seaports to see things  herself   never made any reference of plans to renew  the expired Leases and Concessions as it was still business as usual.

Mu’azu Sambo, a former Lagos General Manager, Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, and now minister of Transportation, may have known that the continued  delay in the renewal of the expired Leases and Concessions was  a problem why the Concessionaires are dilly dallying  in settling their indebtedness to the government  that  he has given a matching order to Mohammed Bello-Koko, led NPA, Management to conclude the renewal of the expired eases and Concessions within 45 days, starting from Friday, August 13, 2022 to  September 15, 2022. ‘’We are not going to wait for six months to renew the expired leases and Concession agreement’’, he had aid.

Bello-Koko: MD, NPA

Going by the information volunteered by him, he had said  that ‘’all  necessary factors  had been factored  into the new agreement’’, noting that  it will correct  the shortcomings  in the first concession  agreement  that was signed by the parties  during the Obasano’s Administration in 2006.The Kaduna state born technocrat may have spoken his mind  durin a recent tour of Lagos ports of Apapa and Tincan Island to see things himself.

An appciative ambo, who could not hide his feelings had  commended  ‘’the efforts  of  the Concessionaires  in transforming  the nation’s seaports  over the last 16 years  and the massive job  opportunities  that had been availed to Nigerians,   at the terminals, further encouraging him to champion the renewal of the expired Leases and concessions.

Take for instance, in SIFAX alone, there are reports making rounds that over 7,000 Nigerians are in the employ of the company. This is just one terminal caring for this number of staff, meaning that if all the staff employed by the 18 terminal operators are put together it may be running to millions. This is why Bello-KokO, the NPA, helmsman , must take the ministerial directive to conclude the renewal of the expired Leases and concessions serious to avoid t dragging  the country’s maritime sector backward  in the comity of maritime nations.

Given the automation of port operations,  the world over,  the minister who  was accompanied  on the Lagos ports facilities visit by Magadalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary, in the Federal ministry of Transportation,  Belo-Koko, NPA, Managing Director and Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,  he was said   have  encouraged the Authority ‘’to improve on its automation’’.

Ministerial Tour Of Tincan Island Port

The minister may have had his reason for insisting that NPA must improve on its automation. ’’We are are thinking seriously about the port community system because it is crucial to the development of the nation’s maritime sector’’, he had said.

He is optimistic that with’’ improved port automation and an efficient port community system, all port processes will be enhanced very soon’’.  The minister may have taken advantage of the visit to Tin can Island port, to  see the dilapidated   portion   of the   port Quay apron and had directed  BelloKoko, the NPA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, ‘’to forward  the as-built  plan of the Jetty , alongside  other documents  to his office for approval’’.

He was said to have alluded to the earlier advice given to the NPA Management in the past that there is what is called in engineering parlance ‘’programmed preventive maintenance’’. He noting that ‘’this is why at every port there is an engineering Department headed a Chief port Engineer.

  According to him, part of responsibility of the port Engineer   is’’ to draw  out  preventive maintenance programmes  for the port under his jurisdictions  every year  and take to the NPA,  management for approval, and which is expected to form  part of the Authority’s yearrly  budget .

The minister averred  that ‘’ if  the  nation could  get its acts right, the maritime industry can effectively replace he nation’s oil sector as the mainstay of the economy in terms of revenue generation that will run into millions of dollars  annually.

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