The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has insisted that it will continue collecting tariffs for its services in United States Dollars, as it has obligations that are also made in US dollars.
Responding to a call by shipping and maritime stakeholders on the NPA to stop charging in dollars, the managing director,Hadiza Bala Usman said since the Authority has obligations that are also in US dollars, it would be very difficult for to accept payments in naira.
Shipping and maritime industry stakeholders, including terminal operators who converged at an industry forum organized by the NPA on Friday in Lagos called on the organisation to stop charging tariffs in dollars and begin accepting naira, which is the country’s legal tender, as this was making them pay so much and putting pressure on their dwindling earnings, in view of the current economic condition of the country.
They also insisted that NPA review its contractual agreements with the port terminal operators, stressing that the review ought to be done every two years.
“We have obligations that are also in US dollars, so it is very difficult for us to accept payments in naira. We noted the concern of foreign exchange right now. We know the country, but we are also mindful of our own obligations,” said Usman.
She maintained that in its drive to recover debts from operators, the NPA would continue discussing with them and ensure that indebtedness in dollars to NPA are paid within the shortest period.
The NPA boss also reiterated the Authority’s readiness to review port concession agreements after 10 years of seaport terminal concession.
Ship agents also urged the NPA to embark on a downward review of existing tariff regime. The forum was also an avenue to assess the activities to be embarked upon by the NPA, where the stakeholders also noted the decaying port infrastructure.
Usman however said the NPA would ensure that the tariff regime remains competitive, while prioritizing some of the issues raised by the stakeholders. She noted that with responsibilities to discharge in dollars, it was only natural that the Authority got paid for its services in dollars as well.
She said, “We believe that we need to prioritise some of issues raised by the operators and these include the need for us to review the concession agreement. They have noted that there is need for the agreement to be reviewed within two years of commencement and we have agreements of 10 years and these agreements have not been reviewed. So, we shall commence this review jointly with the ICRC and the BPE as the case may be.
“We wanted an expanded stakeholders consultation today, I am surprised the shippers were not invited but we will have additional engagement with all relevant stakeholders as we take decisions around tariff, but as I mentioned, our tariff regime should be very competitive looking at the role of Nigeria within West Africa and indeed the whole continent to ensure that we are competitive and indeed, that we priortise driving traffic into our ports.”
The new NPA boss also disclosed that the Authority was diversifying on the various modes of traffic to Nigerian ports, with focus in agro and solid minerals export.
“We are looking at prioritising the export of agricultural produce in our respective terminals and we would also work on the solid minerals prioritizing that in our terminals. We believe that there’s a need for NPA to look towards attracting more customers and clientele to the port,” she noted.
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