LAGOS—The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms. HadizaBala-Usman, has disclosed that the decision of the federal government to end the monopoly of Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (Intels) in respect of importers’ right to choose their preferred terminals or ports for their cargoes was in national interest and to ensure a level playing field for all terminal operators.
Ms. Bala-Usman, who made this known in an interview on Business Nigeria, a Television Continental, TVC, Business Programme yesterday, said there was nothing personal about the government’s decision and urged Nigerians not to read any political meaning to the decision.
She said: “A national issue cannot be reduced to a political issue… cannot be reduced to a personal confrontation, I think INTELS having been operating a monopoly over the years, would have certain competitive edge.
”I don’t think they should shy away from competing with other terminals, they should welcome the fact that having really established that business, they should be able to compete and get all the cargo to themselves, and, indeed, if you have been operating and doing this service alone for years and now someone else is coming, you should have a favorable edge.
“So I refuse to have the narrative around the monopoly to be reduced to a personal thing. Removal of monopoly is in the interest of the country and you also look at who are the beneficiaries of the removal of the monopoly, are they seen to be people you want to politically support. What matters is that Nigeria as a country benefits from the removal of the monopoly, and in so doing, many people will benefit, business entities will fly because of the removal of the monopoly.
”So INTELS should rise to the occasion and compete, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with competition, competition is good, we need to provide a level playing field for all operators to operate in the ports and indeed, from the beginning of the concession, there’s no such cargo as defined as oil & gas cargo.
”So it was the policy flip flop… remember government reverted it and then it was put back in place. And now we have taken the right step in line with the Concession Agreement.”
Two key areas the new management team of the NPA under MsHadizaBala-Usman seems to have made much difference in the contention of industry operators are, one, the comprehensive reform of the industry and two, the modernization initiative of ports operations.
Mrs. Lizzie Ovbude, the Managing Director of Port & Terminal Operators Nigeria Ltd, PTOL, in her assessment of the reforms at the ports particularly the policy that put an end to monopoly, was of the view that in spite of the foreign exchange (FOREX) challenges arising from economic recession, the reforms at the port has started yielding good fruits, stating that the industry will witness boom in the months ahead.
Mrs Ovbude contended that with the reform initiative, the ports management should be able to meet and even surpass its revenue projections in the years ahead provided the reform agenda remains on course.
In a major policy shift, President MuhammaduBuhari, through a letter dated May 5, 2017, titled: “Conveyance of Presidential Approval- Re: Report on Concessioned Terminals in the Ports”, yielded to the calls of terminal ports operators to allow the full implementation of the 2006 ports Concession Agreement which stipulates level playing field for all concessionaires and broke the monopoly of NPA in ports operations.
Said the Presidential directive: “FGN remains guided by the general global practice in the designation of Terminal/Ports operations into three broad categorisation of bulk cargo, container cargo and multipurpose cargo. Accordingly, the FGN rejects the categorisation of oil and gas multi-purpose cargo terminal, as this is alien to the relevant concession agreements and inconsistent with global shipping practices.”
Professor Fidelis Oditah, a keen maritime watcher, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and Queen’s Counsel, QC had in the wake of the Presidential pronouncement, said the new policy which give importers the freedom to use any terminal of their choices for discharge of their cargoes is in line with the current administration’s reform to enhance Foreign Direct Investment, FDI inflow in oil and gas sector.
Mrs.Ovbude said the industry has now been stirred alive and made vibrant as terminal concessionaires are up in aggressive marketing to attract importers to their terminals.
Citing the specific example of PTOL, she noted that with the new policy shift, her company has signed on a major importer, which months ago would have been impossible when the monopoly was foisted on the industry contrary to the letter and spirit of the 2006 Ports Concession Agreement.
With the new policy pronouncement, according to Mrs.Ovbude, the high cost of business at the ports when monopoly held sway will come down, thereby attracting many importers who had hitherto relocated to ports in the neighbouring countries like Benin and Togo to avert the prohibitive costs that prevailed in the country.