Managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman said that the Nigerian seaports handled export and import (EXIM) cargoes worth over $15 billion annually.
This was disclosed over the weekend at the presentation of the book Footprints of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Maritime Sector written by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN) held in Lagos.
The book which chronicles the activities of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA), the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) and the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRIFFIN) was reviewed by Barrister Hassan Bello and the Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
Usman who was represented by the executive director, Marine and Operation, Dr Sekonte Davies said because the nation’s maritime sector was a major contributor to economy, President Muhammadu Buhari has major interest in turning it around in the last three years.
She said, “Nigerian ports are a major gateway into the country with over 85 per cent of all the goods and services coming into the country exploiting facilities at the nation’s seaports with aggregate value exceeding the $15 billion mark annually.
“An undeniable corollary of the foregoing is that the maritime sector is a major contributor to the economy. This is more so when we consider that the oil and gas sector, which is the country’s economic mainstay is itself almost completely dependent on the maritime sector” she added.
According to her, the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has taken major steps to improve the maritime industry in the last three and half years. “The truth is that it would be impossible to speak about all the steps that have been taken to improve the maritime sector within the past three years.
“But even the few things that we have spoken about here would show that the administration is determined to change the maritime story forever. This is what guides the 25-reform plan that we are currently working with. And one is particularly happy at the level of synergy and cooperation between the agencies in the sector.”
Chronicling the achievement of the administration, the NPA MD said visible achievements were recorded among all the agencies of government in the maritime industry especially in the area of transparency.
“From the Nigerian Ports Authority where we decided to open our budget to the public with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with BudgIT Open Budget System Platform, to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which launched a massive rebranding strategy to rebuild confidence and the Nigerian Customs Service that has posted unprecedented revenue returns in the course of the past three and a half years.
“This administration has been deliberate about entrenching a culture of transparency and giving all stakeholders a sense of trust in the system which did not exist before 2015.” On maritime security, she said, “NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy work round the clock to reduce the incidence of piracy.
“They have even gone ahead to form partnerships with other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to ensure the safety of ships and crews on Nigerian waters. A fallout of this was the President’s visit to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2017 for the signing of an agreement on Integrated National Security Strategy to stem the tide of insecurity on the region’s territorial waterways” she said.
Bala-Usman noted that NIMASA has invested heavily in a satellite Monitoring and Surveillance System while the navy has not only increased the frequency of patrols on the waters, it has also deployed 39 newly produced gunboats and the second indigenous Seaward Defence Boat for surveillance purposes. “Discussions are also constantly ongoing with host communities and other stakeholders about the inimical effect of insecurity on our waters. All of these are yielding positive effects” she added.
She also disclosed what the administration is doing to ensure smooth evacuation of cargoes out of the seaports. “After the issues of adequate security and transparency, the one other important factor deciding the competitiveness of the maritime sector is the efficiency with which cargoes are evacuated to and from the ports.
“This, without doubt is an area in which the maritime sector in Nigeria has suffered but this administration has taken giant steps some of which are ongoing to tackle the problem. There was the recently commissioned Wharf Road, which reconstruction the NPA spearheaded with the contribution of N1.8 billion. Just before the end of last year, the Federal Government awarded the contract for the reconstruction of the Apapa-Creek Road up to the Toll gate at the cost of N72b.
The NPA boss further stated that “An additional 25 major highways and 44 roads are under construction across the six geo political zones of the country just so to enhance connectivity. The administration realizes that the maritime sector cannot attain its potential without the deployment of multimodal transportation so it has initiated stimulation activities on our inland waterways championed by the Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency.”
Major inland river channels are being dredged with adequate channel markings for ease of navigation all the way through the Eastern and Northern parts of the country even as we continue to encourage the movement of cargo by barges.”
“Then, the Buhari administration’s revolution in the railway sector is evident to all. There hasn’t just been an expansion of the infrastructure that existed before the administration, there have also been a modernisation and a standing instruction from the President that every port must have the complement of rail infrastructure with projections that by the end of 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.”
Speaking earlier, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of SCAN, Bolaji Akinola said the book was put together by the association to acknowledge the commitment of government to the betterment of the Maritime Industry and to serve as a source/reference document for future generations.
According to him, since independence in 1960, the Nigerian Maritime Sector has been beset with several developmental and management challenges but as patriotic Nigerians with a front-row view of events in the sector, SCAN make bold to say that the present Administration has shown the political will to tackle these challenges headlong.
His words, “Unfortunately, the Administration has not been given enough credit for its achievements in the sector. This is the yawning gap we intend to fill by writing this book. We wrote and published the book at our own cost. We were neither prodded nor sponsored by any external force to undertake this project. We believe that as journalists, while we criticize and condemn, we must also have the courage to commend when the occasion so demands.”
“The present Administration has recorded enviable milestones in the general transportation sector, especially in railway development and in issues relating to the shipping sector. This is glaring enough for genuine assessors to see.
“For one, the Administration must be given credit for bringing decorum and instilling discipline in the sector, as well as plugging revenue loopholes. It is on record that the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and some other agencies in the sector now record little or no leakages in their systems, unlike the norms of the past.
“It is also on record that the huge infrastructural deficit facing the sector is being committedly and honestly addressed by the present government. The lack of scanners in our ports, severely dilapidated port access roads, lack of rail evacuation of cargo from the port as well as dysfunctional inland container depots, from our perspectives as reporters, are issues the present government has decided to tackle headlong” he added.