Lagos — Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman, in this interview, explains how NPA has been able to protect investors' interests in the country.
Under your watch as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, how has it been so far?
It has been, I would say, an interesting period for NPA, in terms of challenges, status-quo and questions arising from some of the entrenched positions that we inherited which we met on ground on assumption of office and some of which were not in the interest of Nigeria
What are those challenges?
Well, we had instances of monopoly; we had monopoly within an industry that was matured enough to allow for healthy competition. We also looked at the concession agreement and how best to review them; how to institute penalty and compensation mechanism within the framework. We also worked and recovered certain funds that were paid to certain firms that had no power to perform their duties. All these are the reforms we did that are now the hallmark of my administration.
What have you done to drive cargo traffic to the Eastern Ports ?
We have given waivers. The harbour due waivers, granted to certain ports in the Eastern Ports are also one of the efforts to make the Eastern Ports more active. We have also sought direct collaboration with shipping companies so that we can work with them to know exactly what they need so that we can provide them to enable vessels berth safely in the Eastern Ports. You referenced it in one of your articles. The berthing of ships at Onne Port in Rivers State was a product of a direct synergy we had with Maersk line. That was something done within 24 hours. We were able to ask them what they needed and we provided it. The outcome is the berthing of the ship.
What is the controversy between Samsung Heavy industries and LADOL over a portion of land owned by LADOL?
Well we have a lot of court cases around that so any information on that will be subjudice. There is a court case filed by Samsung and another by LADOL and we have been served for both court cases. However, related to the land, yes, NPA land within LADOL area and yes NPA took certain measures to enable a level plain field and to also ensure the protection of investment whereby if an entity invests in a country, the entity is given the relevant protection required so that it can reap the benefits of its investment. Those decisions were taken. But I will not be able to go into details because the case is in court.
What is NPA doing to connect Lekki deep seaport by rail in order to avoid the kind of chaotic gridlock witnessed daily in Apapa?
NPA has written to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), to ensure rail connection to the site. Dangote Refinery was also contacted to make provisions for pipelines for products evacuation to avoid trucks parking on the roads while trying to pick products from that axis.
When we took over some years ago, there was no provision for rail connection out of Lekki, in the Deep Seaport plan, which I found quite strange, that you can have a deep seaport without the need for rail connection.
There is also a proposed Lekki by-pass in addition to the road that Lagos State is constructing linking Lekki to Shagamu.
So, one, there must be pipelines for product evacuation; two, there must be rail connection; three, there must be additional means of road transportation, and the Lagos access road also needs to be prioritised.
If we do not deploy what is required now, in five to 10 years' time, Lekki will be unmanageable. I am a believer in starting early; The Deep Seaport is primed to become one of the largest deepwater ports in sub-Saharan Africa as the promoters are targeting about 1.5 million 20ft equivalent units container capacity yearly, which is expected to grow to about 2.7 million and 4.7 million TEUs, when operations commence
What is the ongoing collaboration with the Navy in order to provide security around the waterways?
The present management is committed to improving the existing synergy with the Nigerian Navy and other relevant stakeholders in the maritime industry, particularly in the security of the waterways. Securing the nations' waterways would impact positively on revenue generation for the country through effective monitoring of vessels vis-à-vis improved operational efficiency. NPA would ensure that the enhanced relationship with the Navy is sustained through information sharing.
We have also ensured the maximum use of the Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (CCCI) of both organisations through the swift deployment of its personnel aimed at collaborating on information sharing towards operational security efficiency. The security architecture put in place by the Ministry of Transportation along with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is geared towards ensuring that the nation's waterways are safe for business.
What has NPA done to ensure that containers are evacuated through the waterways?
We have licensed some barge operations and over 30 have been licensed and we are also not charging for the service. In order to facilitate the ports' decongestion, we are also not charging. We have received applications and we ensure that the barges are in good shape and we give certification to operate them. To encourage that, we are not charging for certification. And we are allowing the utilization of our jetties at Ikorodu for them to berth where in certain instances they need that facility. It has facilitated the movement of certain cargoes.
We are also looking at the proper utilisation of the inland waterways. We have signed an MoU with AP Mollap Capital which is an investment arm of APM Terminals. They are housed in Dubai, they came and we signed an MoU. They said that are interested in barge operation and that they want to use the inland waterways for the evacuation of cargo and that they want to establish a terminal meant specifically for that
The discussion also included how agricultural produce will be moved from rural communities to the port for export. This is to meet with the competitive logistics needs of farmers and the role of local ports in supporting the efforts through leadership and infrastructure investment.
It will also provide insight on the different business models currently being used or being proposed to grow container volume on this vital river corridor.
The nation's inland port system would clearly play a critical role in the supply chain.
With the new wave of larger ocean carrier container vessels, coupled with the projected growth in the container market, if nothing is done, the plan to decongest Lagos Ports might not be achieved.
The emphasis here is to reduce truck traffic on the nation's highway system, and NPA is working together with barge operators to provide container-on-barge.
How much did NPA generate as revenue in 2019?
We are yet to complete with the figures but by the time we are done, we will make the figure public.