The current Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) , Hadiza Bala Usman has justified the confidence reposed in her by President Muhammadu Buhari , which informed her appointment as she continues to implement reforms that have engendered transparency and accountability into the operations of the seaports and enhance their revenue level, writes Shola Fadeyi.
The appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman as the first female Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in less than a year has indeed paved way for the organization and the seaports in the country to witness reforms, which have gone a long way to sanitise their operations and improve efficiency level.
Thus she has been able to prove her competence to actualize her mandate with the way she has utilized her educational background , exploits in public sector reforms coupled with her intelligence and ability to manage men and materials to battle sleaze , boost revenue and repositioned NPA within a very short time of her tenure.
Usman, a co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls group which has fought relentlessly for the release of the abducted Chibok girls holds a Masters of Arts in Developmental Studies from the University of Leeds while she commenced her carrier as a research assistant with the Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training in Kaduna.
She later worked at the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) , then hired by the UNDP for the Federal Capital Transport Authority (FCTA) as a special assistant to the Minister on project implementation after which she was appointed in 2015 as Chief of Staff of the Kaduna State Governor, before she emerged as Managing Director of NPA in July 11, 2016.
Debt Recovery/Fraud Detection
Her findings through meetings with officials of the organization and tours of NPA facilities revealed anomalies in operations and outstanding huge debts owed NPA by concessionaires and other stakeholders of the authority.She had to direct the concessionaires to be paying as at when due while she has since set up a committee that has been recovering the debts, which ran into billions of naira as at 2016.This has boosted the authority’s revenue profile .
She later uncovered a fraud of N11.23 billion committed through a process whereby some commercial banks in collusion with some officials of the authority hid funds collected as revenue in secret accounts instead of remitting same in the NPA’s Treasury Single Account(TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).
A sum of $24.1 million of NPA revenue that should have been deposited in the federation account was likewise found hidden in an account at one bank and another 6 million Euros in separate accounts at two other banks. Another sum of $5.4 million was secretly moved to TSA accounts in the Central Bank of Nigeria, which do not belong to the NPA.
Improvement of Welfare/ Capacity Building
Knowing full well that the workforce constitutes the wheel of progress of the Authority, in the area of capacity building she has already partnered with the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), for effective training of NPA workforce to boost efficiency at the ports while as it concerns staff welfare, the NPA Managing Director has ensured prompt and regular payment of salaries and allowances as well as promotions of personnel as at when due
Compliance with TSA Policy
As a stickler for fiscal discipline she has ensured that her organization adhered strictly to the implementation of the Treasury Single Account(TSA) policy of the federal government , under which NPA has been collecting and paying all proceeds coming to it in the ordinary course of business into a designated account. This has checked corruption in the system as well as blocked opportunity for malfeasance and self- interest.
Open Budget System
To lend credence to her openness, she had since last year signed an MOU with budget tracking and transparency platform, BudgIT , making NPA the first revenue-generating agency in the history of Nigeria’s public service sector to open its budget and accounts to public scrutiny during implementation.While the step has restored government and public confidence in her ,management it has instilled framework for transparent budget provisions for the authority.
Adherence to BPP Provisions /PPA Act
Additionally, having discovered that officials of the NPA have been fraudulently contravening the provisions of Nigeria’s public procurement Act to award multi-billion naira contracts to handpicked contractors, as well as disguise contracts as Joint Venture projects between the authority and companies of their choice , thus fleecing the authority of billions of naira, she has thus taken steps, overhauled the authority’s contract award process to stop these anomalies.
In her realization that funds expended on maintenance dredging projects at the NPA in the past have been too high , to check the huge revenue leakage through such abuse , she has specifically directed that henceforth contracts will be classified into lots and scopes that are efficient and the authority will advertise them in line with BPP provisions so that subsidiary joint venture can also bid with other companies if they so wish .
.Anti- Corruption Office at NPA
To implement the recommendations of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), which reported in 2011 that Nigerian ports were the most expensive and corrupt as an incorruptible person who abhors frivolous charges and as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, she has concluded arrangement to have the Committee set up an office at the NPA Headquarters, Marina, Lagos .
It was not a surprise that various stakeholders such as the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium Limited who is also the Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Vicky Haastrup ,the President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) Prince Olayiwola Shittu and the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) ,Chief Boniface Aniebonam Have lauded her on her reforms at the NPA
Breaking of monopoly in Oil& Gas Cargo
Usman management has also put an end to the crisis of monopoly that has characterized the provisions of oil and gas logistics services in the port sector by a single company by ensuring a level playing field for all operators for purpose of competition , deployment of investments and for the promotion of efficient performance by the seaports.
Anti – Corruption Crusade
As part of her anti – corruption crusade she has decided that the management will conduct a thorough investigation into a recent allegation against some former top officials of the NPA indicted in Switzerland for alleged corruption in a $20 million bribery scandal for which a Swiss company and its officials have been convicted in Geneva.The issue is to top the agenda when the Board of the organization meets.
Review of Joint Venture Agreements
Also not satisfied with the process of remittance of funds from a boat service joint venture between NPA and Intels Logistics, it has resolved that proceeds from such projects should first be lodged in the TSA account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so that the amount that will accrue to the authority is properly determined .
Purchase of New Tug Boats /Wreck and Derelicts Removal
The management has also procured vital equipment and facilities necessary for the NPA to adequately perform her marine function .She recently took delivery of four new ultra – modern tugboats for this purpose, thus improving on pilotage service.Prompt removal of wrecks and derelicts have also made the waters navigable and impact on the authority.
Launch of CCCIS, SOP, PSSP/ Automation
Her commissioning of the command, control communication and intelligence system (CCCIS), a technology which tracks ships movements within the country’s ports domain and the launch of the harmonized Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) ,a portal meant to stem corrupt practices coupled with the increase in the level of investments in automation have assisted to boost the authority’s revenue profile
Study of Tariffs of Foreign Ports
She has also approved an independent study of respective tariffs across ports in West and Central Africa for a comparison with what obtains in Nigeria while her management has pledged to recommend to the Federal Government to reduce the charges in Nigerian ports accordingly to enable more cargoes come into the country and to increase NPA ‘s revenue, if the findings deem it necessary.
Provision of Infrastructure/ Apapa Port Access Road
To boost patronage of the seaports , she had embarked on rehabilitation of infrastructure.
Currently, in her bid to ensure that the Lagos Ports Access road is in a permanently good state she has ensured that the NPA collaborated with the Dangote Group of Companies to reconstruct the Apapa Port Access Road for about N4. 3 billion.Work is to commence soon.
24 Hours Operations at Ports
As the landlord of the seaports , her management has begun the implementation of provisions of the Federal Government Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business ,which entails 24 hours operations at the ports.NPA has already affirmed the list of the eight security agencies to operate permanently at the seaports as well as undertaken other measure to enhance the success of policy .
25 Years Ports Master Plan
In a bid to ensure a healthy competition among existing ports and the on-going Lekki Deep Sea Port and Badagry Deep Sea Ports, the Usman led management is working on a 25 years port development master plan to be unveiled before the end of this year.This will be an improvement on the individual port master plan she met on ground and pave way for the the authority to earn additional income through handling of bigger vessels.
Revival of Eastern Ports Operations
Also having realized that the Eastern Ports have for a long time depended on the Lagos Seaports for survival, because of their very shallow depth, the current management has concluded plans for the massive capital and maintenance dredging of the Ports in Calabar , Warri and Port Harcourt, while it has made provisions for their massive infrastructural development in this year’s budget to also make them to yield more revenue.
Measures to Boost Income
She has also advocated the introduction of acall up system for trucks doing business at the ports, set standards for them , called for the enforcement of tonnage limits for trucks and the use of railways for cargo movement . She promised to work with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to ensure that the tracks are in place and provision made for rolling stock all in a bid to boost goods delivery , ports efficiency and NPA’s income.
Court Action over Bribery Allegation
But due to her efforts to drastically reduce corruption in the operations of the NPA she has been subjected to series of attacks , including planting of negative stories against her in the media and it was in a bid to check such excesses and protect her anti-corruption stance that she had to slam a N1 billion suit in an High Court in Abuja recently against an online platform over a false and damaging report on her person bothering on bribery.
Despite the distractions, she has however been focused in order to carry to a very logical conclusion her bid to ensure that the Nigerian seaports operations are thoroughly cleansed , become more competitive , revenue yielding as well as ensure the nation becomes an hub for other countries in the West and Central Africa sub region.
Shola Fadeyi, a Lagos based journalist is the Publisher of Marine&Economy, a Print & online Publication as well as MD, Simofad Communications Limited.