The recent shakeup in the maritime sector threw up mixed reactions in different quarters. While some personalities smiled with obvious relief, others saw the development as bitter pills to swallow.
For Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the renewal of her tenure in office came as a welcome idea that would allow her further impetus to prove her stuff for Nigerians with visible achievements in the maritime sector.
Dakuku Peterside, former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA) must have seen it coming. He strategized and muscled enough courage to lobby the powers that be in the sector and in the government cycle, but it was rather too late. He was denied the second term.
Bala Usman, a political stalwart, is known for her agility in the political terrain. She pursued a relentless commitment to the reforms in NPA, which earned her accolades from staff and other industry operators.
The 44-year old Bala Usman was appointed to lead the affairs of NPA in July 2016 amid criticism. She came in as the first female MD of the Authority. Four years after, she has been able to prove her mettle by introducing changes through her landmark achievements in the sector.
In her first year in office, she succeeded in increasing NPA’s revenue by 84.65 per cent. NPA generated N299.5billion revenue in 2017. The figure exceeded the N162.2billion generated in 2016 by 84.65 percent, making it the highest generated revenue by the Authority in the past five years.
Next to that feat, she pursued vigorously the collection of the Federal Government’s outstanding revenues with the terminal operators.
She reiterated her commitment to ensuring that outstanding payments and dues meant for the NPA coffers by stakeholders are remitted as quickly as possible. According to her, this would provide an enabling environment for efficient Port services in view of the vital role the Maritime sub-sector plays.
The reforms initiated by Bala Usman, since her assumption of office, have left no one in doubt about her resolve to right the wrongs of the past, block all leakages and save money for the government.
It was in the process that she engaged with INTELS over a controversial $145.84million fund; LADOL over $45million (N16.2billion) land lease saga. She moved against the $133.28million Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) deal and currently with APMT over an alleged inefficiency that created congestion at the ports.
With these and many more engagements, Bala Usman has burnt down their ‘untouchable’ aura, restored investors’ confidence in the system and force them to adhere to the rule of law.
She is currently reviewing the ports concession agreement for the terminal operators in order to further encourage investors and guarantee efficiency in the ports.
The NPA, under her, kicked off with the launching of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and the Port Services Support Portal for operations at the six ports in Nigeria.
The idea behind the launch of the SOP and PSSP was to implement the Corruption Risk Assessment project in the six ports in Nigeria, which is an anti-corruption project that is focusing on the strategies to reduce corruption in the Nigerian ports, in order to guarantee the security and safety of people and cargo within the ports and waterways.
As part of efforts to boost marine operations and service delivery in the Lagos Pilotage District, the NPA MD also bought four new ultramodern tugboats acquired at the cost of $30million (N9.15 billion).
The boats named MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi, and MT Majiya, with 60 tonnes of bollard pull capacity, can each be used to tow the new class of ultra-large containerships.
The NPA also commissioned a signal station at the Dockyard in Calabar Port, to track vessel movement and ensure safe navigation into the port.
For easy documentation, the Authority embarked on the preservation and digital archiving of its important and epochal achievements. Also, Bala Usman ensured capacity building for the employees to make them very relevant now and in many years to come.
The Kaduna born lady has also been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure the total success of the Presidential Order on the Ease of Doing Business Directive in the Ports.
Not relenting on the feats, Bala-Usman flagged off the first export consignment of manganese, a solid mineral resource from the Ikorodu lighter terminal.
She had also commissioned fitness centre at Onne Port; launched a new clinic at Apapa port to boost 24-hour operation; purchased operation, security vehicles for port operations; and oversee the removal of over 100 wrecks from Lagos Channels, alongside maintenance dredging of the channels.
Notwithstanding her achievement, the Bala Usman still has several challenges to contend with in her second coming. This includes the dredging of the Calabar Ports channel.
Dredging of Calar channel would reduce excessive pressure from the ever-busy Lagos ports while saving huge revenue losses.
Dredging the channel has remained a challenge and an uphill task for successive administrations for decades.
Although, past management of NPA had made many promises coupled with several contracts award for the project, operators, importers, and other stakeholders appear to wait almost endlessly for this reality.
Also crucial to the second term of Bala Usman is the review of the ports concession agreement, which the terminal operators are currently looking up to.
Poor access to Lagos seaports is another clog in the wheels of ports development that must be tackled headlong. She had promised to be working with the Ministry of Works on the ports access roads, but the reality is that the roads are still not motorable.
For Dakuku Peterside, it was a glorious end to his four-year tenure in NIMASA. Peterside, who was born on 31st December 1970, in Rivers State, resumed at NIMASA in March 2016.
Under his management, Peterside accomplished several landmark achievements such that Nigeria became the first country in West/Central Africa to have a distinct anti-piracy law.
Also, Nigeria was adjudged the Number one in West & Central Africa in Port State Control and placed the highest ever number of Seafarers (7000) onboard Cabotage vessels between 2018 to 2019.
In 2019, Peterside raked in a total sum of N16 billion and remitted it into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Peterside said N110.84 billion was the targeted revenue for 2019, out of which N83.49 billion, representing 74%, was realised while N20 billion had been spent out of the N28 billion allocated for the mandatory Maritime Fund.
Peterside also sees the establishment of an Integrated National Surveillance and Waterways Protection Solution with Command and Control Infrastructure otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project.
While handing over to the new helmsman in NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, Peterside felt accomplished and reeled out the gains of the agency under him in four years.
In his words, “We came with a broad agenda in 2016. We consistently focused on staff training both local and foreign and improved working conditions and the welfare of our staff. What we boast of today are staff who are more knowledgeable and that can compete with their peers at any level both locally and internationally.
“We championed the greatest reform in maritime Administration in the history of this agency. we changed the narrative and reinvigorated the industry and put NIMASA back on the international map.
“Today, our workers’ workaround with pride because they know the nation value their contribution and we received the support of the international community like the IMO.
“Today, the IMO has confirmed that we are the second-largest tonnage in Africa after Liberia. We are the first in Africa to put 7000 seafarers on Cabotage in one day. We are the first to publish the first maritime forecast and we have been doing that from 2019 till date and the next edition is ready to be made public,” he said.
Some of the hitches that marred Peterside’s tenure were the nondisbursement of the $200 million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), although he was able to secure presidential approval for the disbursement. The fund is yet to be disbursed before he left office.
Also, he purchased a $50 billion modular floating dock acquired since June 11, 2018, and the vessel is currently lying idle in Lagos, with an estimated cost of maintenance running to over $11.5 billion. The vessel attracts accumulated $10.44 million demurrage yearly.
The floating dock was acquired to serve as a maintenance base for vessels that visit and domiciled in the country, with an aspiration to save about N36 billion yearly in capital flight, but the story turned sour, at it appears the managing agency was ill-prepared for the challenges ahead.
Besides, the spate of pirate attacks on Nigerian waters within his period in office was a source of concern, as it scares away vessels, making them pay heavily for security and insurance fees.
It was a shock to many that Nigeria twice failed to clinch the coveted Category ‘C’ seat on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council during Peterside’s tenure in office.
This development, which apparently dampened the morale of stakeholders in the industry, denied Nigeria the pivotal role of contributing to taking key decisions in the global maritime space.
Besides, the House of Representatives recently chided Peterside for failing to appear before the committee after being accused of non-submission of the audited accounts of the agency to the Auditor General of the Federation from 2014 to date.