Ports concession has been a tremendous success, says NPA MD

Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman

The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has lauded the Federal Government’s ports concession programme, describing it as a tremendous success.

Usman stated this when she received executive members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) led by their President, Uche Increase, who paid her a courtesy visit in her office at the NPA headquarters in Lagos on Monday.

She said the port concession programme has not only brought about efficiency at the port, but has also helped increase revenue generation of the agency.

She said, “I think it is important to cast our minds back to the status of the ports before they were concessioned. While we note that there are concerns right now, but the concession of the Nigerian ports have been a tremendous success. We have seen improvement in turnaround time for vessels and we have seen huge improvement on our operational capacities. So let us not forget where we were in 2004/2005 before the concession.

“There could be improvement as it relates to deployment of operational efficiencies across our ports, but the history of where the ports were before the concession are clear. Nigerian port concessioning is a model that is being used globally to indicate a clear improvement in efficiencies. Even with our revenues as government agency quadrupled after the concession. Clearly, the concession is a success story.  

“But never the less, there are areas that require huge improvements. While noting the concerns, we should realize that our concession indeed have been a success.”

Usman said that the ongoing review of the concession agreement will bridge observed loopholes in the existing agreement, while putting in place measures that would mitigate against non-compliance by both the NPA and some concessionaires, as it provides for sanctions for any party that defaults in the agreement.

“We are looking at obligations by the respective parties, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the concessionaires. Some of the key takeaways from the review would be that there would be sanctioning on both sides, meaning sanctioning for non-compliance by the concessionaires and also by government. 

“If government, for example, is required to maintain a particular depth of draft, and government does not do that, there will be a clear penalty that government has to take for not meeting its obligations. This is the new consideration we are looking at reflecting in the concession agreement. These were recommended to us by a consultant engaged by the World Bank to support us and we are working with the terminal operators on what needs to be done to conclude on this review,” she said. 

Usman, who declined to give a specific timeline for the completion of the concession agreement review, however, assured that it would be concluded within the shortest possible time.

She said, “I will not mention deadline because some of these things are beyond our control, but we think it is urgent for us to conclude on it. Issues around Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage (GMT) that we feel, our minimum tonnage as a country, we do not need to put such clauses, but of course, we are in discussion with the concessionaires to see what needs to be done because there are parts of the agreement that cannot be changed to a certain extent. We are working and hopefully, we will complete this within the shortest period.”

The NPA Managing Director also used the occasion to dismissed report in a section of the media that the Badagry deep seaport project has been cancelled, stating that the agency is committed to the development of deep seaport to enable Nigeria compete favourably with other developing maritime nations.

Speaking earlier, the President of NAGAFF, Increase Uche, said, “We want all hindrances, the barriers that keep impeding the growth and productivity of the port and the high cost of doing business to be looked into because we are the ones bearing the brunt. Trade must be facilitated and the port must be seen to be efficient. Transport efficiency too must be combined especially as Nigeria has just signed the Africa Continental Free trade Agreement (AfCFTA).”