How Mohammed Bello-Koko is overhauling Nigerian ports

Less than two years into the administration of Mohammed Bello-Koko as the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian seaports have been recovering cargo that was previously lost to neighbouring countries due to the efficiency resulting from improved infrastructure, effective truck traffic management, and ease of cargo movement at ports, writes Amaka Anagor-Ewuzie.

Before now, Nigeria’s port was known as one of the most expensive and inefficient in the West and Central African sub-region. This made the port unattractive to importers, who then preferred diverting Nigeria-bound cargo to more efficient ports in the region.

This was due to issues with dilapidated port infrastructure, long cargo dwell time, poor vessel turnaround time, a long clearing process, and port congestion resulting from traffic gridlock within the port corridor.

These challenges led to cargo diversion to neighbouring countries by importers, thereby affecting the nation’s revenue generation and cargo throughput.

However, things have started turning around for the better following the drive of the present NPA management to enforce reforms and restore sanity at the ports.

Bello-Koko was appointed managing director of the agency in an acting capacity on May 6, 2021, and confirmed on February 21, 2022. Since then, the Bello-Koko team has been investing in changing the narrative.

Now, Nigerian ports are becoming a preferred destination in West Africa, especially for landlocked countries like the Niger Republic, which have indicated an interest in transshipping their cargo from Nigeria.

The completion of Lekki deep seaport, championing the rehabilitation of dilapidated port roads, and ending port congestion as well as gridlock on the access roads through the enforcement of the electronic call-up system are some of the ways the authority has been achieving port efficiency.

Beyond this, NPA under this management has scaled up operations in areas such as:

Remittance to the federation account

The NPA under Bello-Koko has been supporting the national economy through unprecedented revenue collection and remittance to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). The authority’s revenue has grown from N317 billion in 2020 to N361 billion in 2022, while remittances have progressed from N80 billion in 2020 to N91 billion in 2022.

BusinessDay findings show that the NPA under the present management has created new businesses that have not only created jobs for Nigerians but have also been serving as sources of revenue.

They include the provision of barge services, which, apart from reducing pressure on the roads, has grown into a N2 billion business and attracted direct investment.

There has been an upward review of estate rent to reflect the current economic realities with a view to improving the authority’s receivables from the management of its fixed assets.

It has also licensed additional truck parks to increase the capacity of trucks servicing the Lagos ports, and licensed 10 Export Processing Terminals (EPT) to facilitate exports at ports. The terminal provides a one-stop shop that enables quality control, cargo assessment by all government agencies, and the issuance of good-to-ship clearance.

Now, there has been a significant improvement in truck turnaround time due to the successful implementation of the e-call-up system.

To ensure compliance with the electronic call-up, the NPA deployed 24 motorcycles to aid in the effective monitoring of trucks at the Apapa/TCIPC/Ijora axis and sustain the free flow of traffic. It also entered into a partnership with the police high command to cut down the illegal checkpoints along the port corridor and stem extortion in order to make traffic management more effective.

Also, the NPA has taken the enforcement of minimum safety standards on trucks to a new level by ensuring that port-bound trucks are inspected, certified, and issued stickers to ensure safety. This new move has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the number of accidents recorded.

Read also: We’re working with Customs to improve port efficiency – NPA

Enhanced navigational aids and port security

The Bello-Koko NPA has provided and installed 86 fairway buoys at Warri and Calabar Pilotage Districts to enable proper channel marking and route mapping. It has also acquired harbour crafts, including tugboats, pilot cutters, and patrol boats, to eliminate delays associated with the berthing and sailing of vessels as well as improve efficiency. It also procured and deployed security patrol boats to all pilotage districts to address the incessant attacks by vessels along the channels and at ports’ waterfronts.

Growing operational capacity and infrastructure

In the last year, the leadership has created the Forcados signal station to enable the NPA to capture the movement of more service boats. It has also completed the bathymetric survey for the dredging of Escravos channels in order to increase container holding capacity at Rivers Port arising from the conversion of unused space within the PTOL terminal in Rivers Port into the stacking area.

Others include the upgrading of infrastructure at Terminal ‘B’, Berths 7 and 8, and the Onne Port Complex through public-private partnership (PPP) investment by Messrs WACT Nigeria Limited worth about $110 million over a period of two years. This has so far achieved 62 percent completion.

The NPA also granted approval to Messrs. Ringadars for the construction of 6,000 metric tons of bitumen tanks in the Rivers Port Complex to improve the company’s bitumen storage capacity, which will ease operations and have an impact on the infrastructural development of the South-south. The construction is now 58 percent complete.

The current management has been championing the rehabilitation of collapsed port infrastructure and has further secured approval for the construction of the quay wall at berth 15 at the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa. It has also approved the completion of the road network for the integration of berths 9, 10, and 11 at the Federal Ocean Terminal in Onne Port.

Bello-Koko also got approval for the rehabilitation of control towers at Lagos and Tin-Can Island Ports and the supply and installation of 180 marine fenders to boost the integrity of the quay walls and serve as a precautionary measure to prevent any form of accident arising from direct vessel impact on the quay wall.

The NPA has completed consulting services for the shore protection and rehabilitation of the Escravos breakwaters and the survey and mapping of the Warri Pilotage District from the fairway buoy in Warri-Sapele up to Koko Port.

With the commissioning of the Lekki Deep Seaport in record time, the NPA has secured the approval of the Federal Executive Council to commence the construction of the Badagry Seaport, and to provide technical support for the establishment of Ondo and Benin Ports.

Engagement with the World Bank, IFC

NPA has engaged the World Bank and the International Financial Corporation to secure alternative funding for the Port Infrastructural Development.

Data integrity and ICT

One of the obstacles to development in the maritime sector is the availability of accurate data for planning. However, since the coming of Bello-Koko, his administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for data digitalisation and exchange for effective integration of port statistics with the National Database.

The NPA boss also got approval for the upgrade of the authority’s website and Daily Shipping Position Portal to be more user-friendly and for automated records management.

The Authority has engaged with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), on the development of the Port Community System to automate port processes.

This was followed by the award of a contract for consulting services for the deployment of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), a maritime safety measure that is equipped with domain awareness capability to enable the NPA to guide and provide safety information to vessels within the channels in line with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) conventions.

Employee welfare

It is on record that Bello-Koko is now the first managing director of the authority to secure approval for a raise in staff salaries that had stagnated for 15 years. He has also increased and ensured prompt payment of pension and retirement benefits to retirees.

Also, he has ensured the prompt promotion of eligible employees and responded to demands from unions in the maritime sector. The present NPA management has rehabilitated the Dockyard Training Institute in Apapa for staff, members of the port community, and interested corporate organisations. It is a cost-saving measure aimed at the prudent management of resources.

Corporate Social Responsibility

In terms of CSR, the NPA helmsman provided a well-equipped and fully functional sports facility used by all primary and secondary schools in Surulere Local Government and environs, and rehabilitated and equipped the general hospital in Apapa Local Government Area and in Bonny.

It also acquired and distributed sewing and grinding machines for the empowerment of port host communities in Rivers, Calabar, and Warri to boost entrepreneurial capacity among small businesses. It has also sustained engagement with host communities through the port managers.

Investigation has shown that the organisation review embarked upon by Bello-Koko has won the NPA a level 5 ‘Platinum Level’ by the Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR) due to the provision of an enabling environment for high-quality work in all areas of responsibility.

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