• Experts score NPA MD high
In any economy, the maritime industry is akin to a cash cow. Nigeria’s is not an exception.
Hence the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has a very crucial role to play in economic growth and development.
A top Federal Ministry of Finance (FMoF) official told The Nation at the weekend, that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman to unlock ports and sea potential to facilitate economic prosperity and generate employment.
NPA, the official said, has made the seaports attractive for business by investing on equipment and port infrastructure in terms of loading and unloading cargo as well as reduction in the cost of doing business.
Ms Bala-Usman was appointed four years ago by President Buhari.
The NPA chief, the FMoF official and other maritime stakeholders said, had done well.
The official, who asked not to be named, said the NPA, in the last four years, has generated a huge revenue in local and foreign currencies, which has made it possible for the Federal Government to invest part of the money generated from the industry in the economy because of the dwindling oil revenue.
The official lamented that there had been a reduction in cargo volume since the beginning of the year, blaming the problem on COVID-19 pandemic and some policies on importation.
“It would be recalled that in 2006, $1 exchanged for about N130, but today, it is between N380 and N400 to a dollar, which implies a significant decline of about 70 per cent in the value of the national currency since port concession and that is why some of us are impressed with the positive initiatives of the current management of the NPA,” the official said.
Strengthening the ports
Yearly, the ports handle over several million tons of goods. This, the FMoF said, makes seaports important to the economy.The management of NPA, he said, needs to be supported to strengthen the ports across the country.
“Every day, everyone in Nigeria even during this COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians are using products and raw materials that enter the country through our seaports. This may not be possible if not for the consistent efforts of the NPA and collaboration with other maritime agencies.
“ It is based on the usefulness of seaports, that we have various industrial companies – for example, chemicals, refineries and metal – raw materials processing that are paying enormous tax to the government. The main competition the seaports face comes from other neighbouring seaports, but the land borders have been under lock and key for so many months. This means our seaports have to be attractive in terms of loading and unloading cargo as well as being attractive places to establish businesses.”
The Managing Director of NPA, a maritime lawyer, Mr Adekunle Onabanjo said, is strengthening the sector.
To this end, the NPA, Onabanjo said, should ensure that the seaports are accessible via waterways, rail, road and pipelines; optimise the use of the infrastructure, such as roads and railways, make optimal use of the limited space at seaports.
Also, NPA’s General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Affairs, Mr Adams Jatto said the agency has drawn an action plan aimed at strengthening the seaports and make it competitive.
The plan, according to the image maker, focuses on the following: the seaports and its neighbouring countries, accessibility and logistics, entrepreneurship and the labour market, sustainability and innovation, seaports and their surroundings, port collaboration and safeguarding public interests and information technology IT, among others.
According to the Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto, the Managing Director of NPA has performed.
He said: “The seaport is a place where the ships are sheltered. It is also the place where the goods pass, or even where they are transformed. Therefore, anybody that had managed it successfully, the way Hadiza has done in the last four years deserves our support.’’
Ports and shipping are foremost tools of international trade. There is a reciprocal growth, world trade in volume, tonnage transported by sea, tonnage handled in ports and the world fleet. This interdependence has been demonstrated empirically and theoretically, other stakeholders told The Nation at the weekend.
Investing in infrastructure, equipment
After years of neglect and inconsistent government policies, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has invested in equipment and infrastructure to ensure ports are efficient and competitive.
Findings revealed that in the last four years, the NPA has invested over $300 million in equipment and infrastructure. For instance, as part of the efforts to attract vessels to the eastern ports, the NPA commenced the dredging of Warri port at the cost of $44.861million (N16.150 billion).
The dredging has since been completed and vessels have started calling at the port. Aware of the perennial gridlock in Apapa as a result of increased activity at the Lagos port due to the closure of land borders by the Federal Government, the NPA partnered terminal operators to acquire multimillion dollars state-of-the-art Mobile Harbor Cranes (MHCs).
Nigeria’s biggest container terminal operator, A. P Moller Terminal Apapa, in April took delivery of the cranes valued about $80million (N33.6billion), to boost its service delivery at the Apapa Port.
The investment brings A.P. Moller’s total investment by the company in Apapa since 2006 to N184billion ($438million).
In 2018, the NPA deployed equipment worth over $30 million in Onne Port, the Rivers State.The measure, Ms Bala-Usman said, was to boost efficiency, security and make the port attractive for business.
Onne Port Complex, as one of the key ports under the NPA, also got several equipment to boost activity at the port.
According to Farinto, NPA should urge the Federal Government to review import policies, especially the foreign exchange (forex) restriction on 41 items.
He added that there was the need for other maritime agencies to develop regulatory and legal frameworks like NPA that will properly manage maritime resources and address the challenges facing the sector
He urged collaboration with NPA to tap into the huge resources in this nation’s oceans to boost the its economic development and provide jobs for Nigerians.
Lagos State Shippers Association Chairman, Mr Jonathan Nicol, also advised the Federal Government to address the high exchange rate to enable many firms to produce most of the items that we use locally. He said the companies to do this must attain at least 80 per cent installed capacity.