“Capital goes to where it is welcomed and there is no sentiments about that,” billionaire businessman, Tony Elumelu said recently while admonishing government agencies to create the friendly environment needed to attract and retain investment in the country, to accelerate growth and development.
It however doesn’t appear that agencies like the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which under its present management has become highly antagonistic of port operators and investors, understand the wisdom in this counsel.
The hostile atmosphere created by the present NPA management under the inexperienced Hadiza Bala Usman has resulted in investor apathy and suspension of projects including some deep seaport projects across the country.
In May, Manila-based container terminal operator, International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) terminated an agreement to develop and operate a container terminal within Lekki Port, Lagos largely due to the hostile environment pervading the port system since Usman’s appointment.
ICTSI’s subsidiary, Lekki International Container Terminal Services LFTZ Enterprise (LICTSE), and Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise (LPLE) agreed to terminate the sub-concession agreement signed in 2012, citing delays in the execution of the project as the main reason.
However, less than two months after terminating its port concession deal in Nigeria, ICTSI has found a welcoming environment in Congo and has earmarked a princely $39.7 million (N12.1 billion) for investment in dredging of the Congo River to enable direct calls of vessels at the ports of Matadi and Boma.
ICTSI yesterday said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Belgian firm Dredging International to deepen the Congo River.
The project will involve the deepening of the Congo River in phases to an eventual depth of at least 12.1m, allowing mainline vessels to make direct calls at the ports of Matadi and Boma.
ICTSI currently operates the new Matadi Gateway Terminal in Congo.
The Matadi Gateway Terminal is a joint venture company between ICTSI, the Ledya Group and SCTP SA.
Several Nigerians have expressed concern over NPA’s unfriendly disposition, which is attracting not only investor apathy but litigations.
The latest of the criticism is coming from Nigeria’s top columnist, Dele Sobowale.
According to Sobowale, “Seldom does any appointment by the President bring about a deep feeling that a grave mistake has been made as in the case of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, under Buhari. To call the appointment a shock to those very close to maritime sector is to understate the pervasive feeling of sadness felt by most people.
“Few of the former MDs of the nation’s second largest foreign exchange earner have come into the job with less than adequate qualification for the complex parastatal. None has been less qualified than the current MD for the task. This is not a case of square peg in round hole. There is no peg at all.”
Usman has also been accused of castigating port investors and operators on the pages of newspapers, a development considered strange to the port environment and which has contributed to loss of confidence and lack of progress in the industry.