The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has locked horns with the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) over its plans to concession marine services to private investors.
The authority, under the auspices of its Senior Staff Association, kicked against the concession plan of BPE on the marine services presently carried by the authority.
Since the concession of the nation's seaports over seven years ago, an exercise which was supervised by the BPE in the wake of the economic reforms programme initiated by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, NPA has been divested of the day-to-day running of the nation's seaports. Though the authority remains the landlord, it is no longer in charge of cargo handling. The concessionaires are now in charge of port operations since 2006.
The authority expressed fear that if BPE succeeds in its bid, marine operations would no longer be within its purview, a development it fears would deprive it of huge funds presently accruing into its coffers.
President of the Senior Staff Association, Mr. Umar Omeiza Jimoh, said the decision of BPE, as contained in a letter addressed to the Managing Director of NPA dated January 18, 2013, did not have legal backing and it would amount to concessioning of already concessioned services under public private partnership (PPP).
Continuing, Umar, who addressed a media briefing in Lagos, said: "The move of BPE to snatch marine/harbours ancillary services from NPA has no legal backing and the port activities enable NPA to involve PPP in all her service. BPE should remember that the terminals concesioned (PPP) by BPE, NPA and other government agencies was done under the Port Act of 1999. Based on the above premise, we believe BPE is suffering from reactive declining syndrome."
He noted that NPA is healthy and is carrying out all these services beneficially for the nation and there is no need for BPE putting plan for the concession of the services. He advised BPE to stay clear of NPA and beam its searchlight on areas it has not performed well.
"NPA is healthy and we are on top of maritime business. BPE should flash its torchlight on areas it has not performed well like NITEL, PHCN and others not NPA," he said. He described BPE as fronting agent for some persons he called "cabal" in the government.
To the labour leader, the concession exercise, if carried out, would lead to security threat, loss of government revenue, high cost of services, mass sack, and denial of common user facilities in the ports.
Urging the government to stop BPE from going ahead with the plan, the unionist said: "The country has witnessed enough insecurity in the recent past. With her marine and harbours in the hand of private operators, one can imagine the chaos this will trigger security-wise. Gideon Okar's coup issue should be remembered.
"Today, government is earning revenue in its totality from services of marine/harbours and its ancillary services to the port users, if given to private hands, revenue coming to government will reduce tremendously while the cabals will be smiling to the bank and government will be strangulated. NPA has been effectively performing her responsibility in rendering monies to federal government account as when required.
"The cost of services rendered at the terminals (concessioned areas) today is three to four times higher when compared to charges of NPA then, this high has driven some of our customers to other sub-West African countries. We should be careful.
"The level of unemployment in the country is very high which is directly proportional to the level of crimes that have taken all facets of our life. This government is not in support of further loss of jobs both in public and private sectors. BPE, the advocate of job loss, should note that further job loss in NPA will be highly resisted by the entire workforce. It should be noted that as a result of terminal concession, over 8,000 of NPA workers were sacked in 2006.
"If the BPE is allowed to forge ahead with her plan, common users facilities guaranteed under NPA management of marine/harbour and its ancillary services will not be guaranteed anymore. The resultant effects will be high cost of services, congestion, unhealthy competition which will lead to corruption and business class struggle will set in. All these will undermine whatever efforts government might have invested in the maritime sector", he added.