Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has restated the authority’s commitment to the optimal utilisation of eastern ports in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s ease of doing business policy.
Speaking while hosting members of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on Ports and Habours at the head office of the NPA last week, Bala Usman said the management of NPA was working with all relevant stakeholders towards tackling the challenges that hamper patronage of the Ports.
She enumerated issues that discourage vessel owners from patronising the eastern ports to include: level of insecurity on the waterways, shallow depths, which hinders the movement of big vessels as well as the problems of poor access roads and rail linkages to ports in these areas.
On the issue of draft limitations, Bala Usman, explained that following the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council last year, dredging works have been completed on moving the Warri channel draft to 7.5m while consultants have been engaged to advise on level of investments needed to improve the infrastructural capacity of the port in Port Harcourt.
While noting that the Onne Port currently function at full capacity, the Managing Director informed the committee that NPA has granted all requisite approvals for the construction of the Lekki deep seaport for which development has started.
She said the authority was awaiting response from the promoters of the Badagry deep seaport to enable conclusion on the final outline business case for the project.
She pointed out that the maritime industry is becoming more increasingly disposed to patronising deep seaports, which allows for big vessels and aid economies of scales, adding that Nigeria would only assure its future market share in the industry with the development of deep seaports.
On security, Usman, explained that the NPA is purchasing patrol boats and working with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Port Police Command to combat crimes on the nations waterways and assured that progress is being made on this front.
Concerning the nation’s port access roads, Bala Usman, explained that the NPA has drawn a basket of such roads across the country and written to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing about the need to prioritise the rehabilitation of these roads.
She noted that the ministry has commenced implementation of this process with the recent award of the construction of Ikom Bridge, which is a key road connecting Cross River State to the North Eastern part of the country and expressed optimism that these steps will provide better linkages to the hinterland and attract more business to the Eastern Ports.
Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Buba Yakub, had earlier explained that the committee was on a fact-finding mission on reasons why the Eastern ports are not working as optimally as the western ports and how much that affects national development.
Yakub noted that the assignment will take his committee round all the ports and at the end of the day, generate a blue print that would improve patronage at the Eastern ports and prevent agitations from host communities.