By Godwin Oritse
Since July 2016, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has been going through positive transformations, reforms and repositioning.
On her appointment, the current Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, set out the new trajectory of the NPA, stating: “Our ports are a critical artery of the economy, and it is our duty to ensure that the operators deliver port services at the standards that our businesses deserve in the 21st century in supporting President Buhari’s administration agenda of economic diversity.
”We will strive for enhanced operating efficiencies to facilitate improved revenue generation and inflows into the national treasury. We will listen to our customers, importers, exporters and other agencies working in the Ports to improve on our service delivery to the nation, anything less than world-class services is simply not acceptable; attaining such heights is a mission to which I am certain we can all subscribe.
“To function as effective regulators, all of us at NPA must commit to the highest standards of performance and cohesion. Let us all uphold the most diligent work ethic, in our individual beats as well as in the collective undertakings required to achieve results.
“Everyone at the NPA has a role in promoting best practice, in upholding governance standards and in delivering quality services. We will work hard, with integrity and with zero-tolerance for corruption.
“As the new management settles down, we will be listening to your concerns and suggestions as we navigate the best options for effectively discharging the NPA’s mandate.
”But we will not shirk our responsibility to provide the leadership to improve the NPA. I hope that we will do it together.”
Armed with the above mission and vision, NPA is now deeply entrenched in transparency and accountability in all procedures of the agency; demystification of corporate governance and providing provision of in-roads to stakeholders towards understanding the agency’s role and responsibilities.
NPA under the leadership of Hadiza Bala Usman showed its strongest commitment by instituting the difficult process of implementing ISO 9001:2015 and 14001 Certifications, starting with the ‘Core’ departments to re-affirm and align the team to the new vision of the agency. Unimaginable gaps that were identified have all been almost resolved.
Prior to 2016, NPA had a full backlog of unaudited financial statements, but within three years, the entire backlog was cleared up. The agency’s audit is up-to-date, credence to prudent management of resources, blocking revenue leakages, debt collection, ensuring demand for payments from third-party contractors, and all contractual relationships that require remittance to improve the revenue generation.
Also prior to the current leadership, the Procurement Department had backlogs of ‘Bid’ and other documents in various manners of undignified storage (“Ghana must go Bags”) which presented an obvious ‘eyesore’, as they littered the entire spaces in the Head Office and the Ports, causing impediment to free movement for both workers and visitors, thereby posing serious occupational hazards. However, today, that is now history.
The Eastern Ports which had been redundant over the years have recently seen increased vessel activities as a result of concessions made in the reduction of tariffs to encourage vessel owners use the Ports, and also, marked improvements in NPA’s equipment and infrastructure in those zones.
The NPA is strengthened with clear guidelines and policies, and standard operating procedures that cannot be violated. It is instructive to note that the current management has taken several strategic steps to achieve port efficiency and effectiveness to make Nigerian Ports globally competitive; create a friendly-business environment for Port operators; and improve revenue generated directly into government coffers.
There’s a new spirit of “leading by example”, “performance” and “efficiency” at the Nigerian Ports Authority that propels high level of success the organization has recorded in the last four years.
The improved work environment, team spirit, transparency and ‘top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top’ governance that Management have introduced at the NPA since inauguration has enabled the agency break new grounds.
Some of the new innovations include, entrenched transparency and accountability in the operations of NPA by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BudgIT Open Budget System Platform for the purpose of implementing a programme for dissemination of data from NPA for public consumption. It was the first time an agency of government would go into such an arrangement.
Also, the re-design of the organizational structure of NPA to allow it to run in the most cost-effective manner, while at the same time guaranteeing efficiency;
Introduction of a new Management System that runs on a robust reward method to improve employee relations and increased productivity;
Implementation of ISO 9001 and 14001 for Harbours Department (the core of NPA); Human Capital Development through Training and re-Training to improve knowledge, skills and capacity.
Introduce of a new licensing regime that guarantees transparency and strict adherence to due process through review of all concession agreements to ensure collaboration of all stakeholders for development of the maritime industry;
Establishment of a dedicated Port Terminal to handle exports that are aimed at diversifying the nation’s economy.
Establishment of dedicated terminals such as the Ikorodu Light Terminal for Lagos; Shoreline Logistics Terminal for the Calabar Port: BUA Ports and Terminal, as well as Port and Terminal Operators Limited for the Port Harcourt Port.
Other milestone achievements include, signing MoU with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for construction of access roads at the ports. The project is costing N4.34 billion, with NPA contributing N1. 829 billion; collaboration with the Nigerian Customs Service to introduce the Single Window Platform for the purpose of simplifying and harmonizing formalities, procedures and exchange of information and documents among stakeholders in the industry; Restoring investors’ confidence in Nigerian ports such that investors like the China Harbour Engineering Company took up the balance of NPA’s equity in the Lekki Deep Seaport; Josepdam, with whom NPA signed a partnership agreement, as well as Tanger Med of Morocco, which has indicated willingness to develop a greenfield terminal logistics base in the country;
Demystified governance and making it possible for stakeholders to understand what the agency does. This has placed the organization in a position to ensure full compliance on regulations and third party contractors who were hitherto not doing so or meeting contractual obligations.
The new management also inaugurated the Command and Control Communication and Intelligence Centre (CCCIC) for NPA. The platform serves as information centre for all security agencies operating at the ports, and also conducts surveillance of activities that take place there.
The NPA has also been able to launch the provisional, final billing and customer module of revenue invoice management system that seeks to improve service offering and partner relationship, and also create an efficient payment method. This also allows for revenue maximization while eliminating losses that are related to revenue leakages.
The new management acquired four new tug boats – MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya – for enhancement of operational efficiency, also establishing and put in place a level playing field for all those operating at the nation’s ports. This, the agency has been able to do, by removing bottlenecks that do not allow for healthy competition in the industry.
In the area of revenue generation, one of the areas where the current management team has made significant difference is contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
The NPA management team is working to reposition the nation’s ports through improvement in infrastructure to bring them in line with what obtains in other parts of the world. Part of the re-positioning is the effort to partner the Nigerian Railway Corporation for re-introduction of rail traffic to ease movement of goods out of the ports.
Fight against corruption by relentlessly waging a war against practices that tend to shortchange the federal government in any way.
Put structures in place to boost Nigeria’s foreign earnings through the NPA by setting up fast track desks for exportation of agricultural commodities and solid mineral resources in the nation’s seaports. This move will drastically reduce the time, and number of steps, it takes for farmers and miners to export their products through the ports.
Commit of the Management to blocking all revenue leakages and making operations at Nigerian ports seamless and efficient, will ensure NPA becomes a key economic driver for a Nigeria desperate to see a truly diversified economy in an efficiently run system. The Ports are central to this vision and while NPA management has clearly shown it is up to the task, there is still quite a long way to the vision desired by Nigerians for their ports.
Before then, there is need to deal with the now firmly established counter-attack of the corrupt system, often referred to as ‘corruption fighting back’. As a reputable international quality trained expert, we have no doubt that NPA’s current Management is definitely more than capable of holding their own.