How NPA is losing over N50.6m monthly in towage contracts in Lagos ports—Investigation

By Samson Echenim

In spite of desperate efforts by the Federal Government at generating more earnings from the various internally generated revenue (IGR) windows available in the country, there are fears that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) may be losing over N50.6 million monthly to contractors of its towage services in Lagos ports alone.

Despite acquiring and maintaining tug boats and pilot quarters with government funds, the NPA contracted out its vessel towage services to third part companies for the various ports, leaving a critical part of its service to contractors who merely remit peanuts to NPA far below global value of what is charged for vessel towage internationally.

Investigations by SHIPS AND PORTS DAILY revealed that these towage services contractors remit a pantry $920 per vessel towed as against $3,600 paid by the vessels to the contractors, which is a little less than the global charge of $3,620.

Checks by SHIPS AND PORTS DAILY on the NPA shipping data, revealed that an average of 60 vessels call at the Lagos district ports monthly since the beginning of this year. Before the current downturn in importation, the average vessels calling at Lagos ports stood around 110 per month.

As every vessel calling at the ports would need to be towed by a local pilot to berth, the towing services contractors are currently servicing not less than 60 vessels per month, charging $3,600, but remitting only $920 to NPA. This leaves NPA with a loss of $2,680 per vessel.

The excess collections by the contractors from 60 vessels for a month accumulates to about $160,000 (about N50,652,000 at N315 per dollar).

Efforts to get the authority’s comment on the issue proved abortive, as the NPA’s spokesman, Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu did not pick calls put through to his phone or reply a text message sent to him on the issue.

Our correspondent gathered that the NPA has continued to concession out the vessel towage service to third parties in spite of the fact that the agency has capacity to do the job. The tug boats and the emergency towage vessels (ETVs) deployed by the contractors are owned and maintained by the NPA, while also maintaining pilot quarters howbeit, largely uncared for.

It was alleged that some staff of the authority benefit from the towage contracts, hence the concessioning of the service.

Towage services are part of the technical function of the NPA, which are supposed to be resident with the authority as the landlord of the ports in the port concession regime. Only the commercial operations of the port are billed to be concessioned.

Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Communication Transportation and Corporation (SSACTAC), Comrade Benson Adegbeyeni  had at the takeover of the leadership of NPA by Hadiza Bala Usman raised the alarm that the port authority was losing a huge part of what was supposed to be its earnings to towage contractors, offering to assist the new managing director to end the loss by ending the vessel towage contracts.

He said so much of the revenue of NPA is currently going into wrong hands through towage services outsourced to a third party.

He lamented that towage services which is a core function of NPA, was outsourced to a private company in the Lagos area and in Rivers Port and Port Harcourt Port area, leaving NPA with only Warri and Calabar ports.

Adegbeyeni said, “We have so many things wrong with the port; the port concession exercise that was hurriedly carried out; the revenue of NPA is currently going into wrong hands through towage services that have been outsourced to third parties.

“We have been on it for the past one year; they want to outsource it to some people so that by the time they leave NPA, they would still be feeding from NPA through the contracts.”

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