• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

NPA facilitating port business, revenue collection amid Covid-19 challenge, #ENDSARS attack

I have not been indicted for any offense, says Bala-Usman

Global economy in 2020 has experienced serious challenges following the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which infected over 71.9 million people and claimed the lives of about 1.61 million people.

When the port was trying to come out of the challenges of Covid-19, a wing of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headquarters building in Marina, Lagos was burnt down by hoodlums during #ENDSARS protest. But despite these challenges in the economy throughout the year 2020, Nigerian ports’ revenue and cargo traffic remained stable compared to that of last year, writes AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE.

Wriggling out of Covid-19

To contain the spread, several countries including Nigeria resorted to lockdown for several months, and this action not only crippled businesses, but also led to sharp decline in the international prices of crude oil, Nigeria’s economy mainstay.

Then, countries were forced to shut down businesses to keep citizens at home in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus. In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari gave directive on March 29, 2020 that Nigerian major seaports in Lagos should remain open for business during the lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State.

This was to sustain port operation in order to ensure that essential commodities were made available to the populace, and Hadiza Bala-Usman-led management of the NPA came up with plans to ensure that ports remained open for import and export businesses.

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Firstly, the authority started discussions with state governments through the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 led by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG), to ensure smooth movement of goods across states without interruption during the lockdown.

In addition, the authority also rallied round all other government agencies responsible for cargo clearance at the ports by encouraging them to be at their duty posts to discharge their duties in line with the presidential directive.

Also, to reduce the cost-related difficulties experienced by port users due to lockdown, NPA also directed terminal operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective from Monday March 23, 2020.

However, sustaining port business during that difficult moment came with its own challenges as banks were not open during that time and NPA had to intervene to get banks to open to port services.

“We continued port operation but the challenge during the critical part of the lockdown was the whole value chain, because port was opened on one hand, but warehouses that the goods would go to were not open. At that point, the NPA granted rent-free period to cargo owners,” said Hadiza Bala-Usman, managing director of the NPA.

There was also the challenge of crew change for vessels that were coming in with crew that have been onboard vessel for a long time. The NPA, through the Presidential Task Force, was able to grant all the necessary approval for ships to change their crew without exposure to infection.

#ENDSARS attack on NPA building

After Covid-19 lockdown and all of its impact, a wing of NPA’s headquarters’ building at Marina, Lagos was set on fire by unknown hoodlums during the #ENDSARS protest.

Giving insight into the attack, Jatto Adams, general manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, said that on Tuesday 20th October 2020, hoodlums took advantage of the nationwide #ENDSARS protest against police brutality, to forcefully gain access into the Tin-Can Island Port, attacked the administrative building and set ablaze a truck which was evacuating cargo.

“It took the combined efforts of officers of the port authority police, the mobile police force and the Nigerian Customs Service to repel the attack. On Wednesday 21st October, 2020, attackers at the NPA headquarters’ building numbering over 300 persons, gained access into the premises at 8:42am from the outer Broad Street wing brandishing daggers, sticks and cutlasses,” he said.

After attacking and chasing the security personnel on duty out of the headquarters premises, they proceeded to burn and vandalise several vehicles belonging to the Authority and some members of staff. They thereafter set a wing of the office building on fire.

Upon knowledge of the attack, officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces were invited and deployed and they successfully dispersed the hoodlums and reclaimed possession of the premises following which NPA’s firemen were able to gain access into the building and put out the fire.

“After an assessment of the extent of damage, it was discovered that apart from the annex wing that was burnt, many offices were vandalised, while computers, printers, water dispensers and other electronic devices were looted. A total of 27 vehicles, including cars, utility vehicles, pick up vans and staff buses were set on fire, while 33 other vehicles, 22 of which belong to members of staff were vandalised. A Toyota Prado SUV, a Bajaj Motorcycle and one Hilux patrol van were also stolen from the premises,” Adams said.

Revenue collection

Meanwhile, Usman said that NPA paid more attention in protecting the port locations which is the gateway to the nation’s economy with huge investment without seeing its corporate headquarters as a vulnerable place that needed to be beefed up with security.

BusinessDay checks show that in year 2020, Nigerian ports’ revenue and operations in Eastern Ports remained stable compared to that of last year.

During a live conversation on the Morning Show on Arise TV, the NPA announced that it generated a total of N291 billion as revenue in the first 10 months of 2020, between January and October.

Usman, who disclosed this, noted that N291 billion was in contrast with the N298 billion collected in the 12 months of 2019 though another two months is left for the authority to surpass the 2019 record.

“In November to December, we may be able to meet up to what we made in 2019. There was reduction in revenue this year but it was not huge in terms of revenue,” Usman added.

In addition, the Authority had earlier announced that it generated N1.02 trillion in the space of three years under the current management.

A breakdown of the revenue showed that in 2016, NPA recorded N182.42 billion against the N173.447 billion generated in 2015. In 2017, it generated a total of N259.99 billion, amounting to about 42 percent increase compared to 2016.

In 2018, the revenue generation hit N282.42 billion while 2019 reached N298 billion, making it the highest annual revenue. These were monies collected from royalties, cargo throughput, harbour dues, administrative and other statutory sources.

Expansion of Eastern Ports

Apart from the success recorded in the area of revenue, in August 2020, the NPA successfully berthed the biggest container vessel to ever call at any Nigerian port in line with the authority’s determination to decentralise port operation from being concentrated in Lagos Ports.

The vessel Maerskline Stardelhorn with Length overall of 300 metres, width of 48 metres was received at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT), Onne on Saturday, August 15, 2020 and it had capacity to carry 9,971 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs).

This was an indication of the fact that the Eastern Ports are equipped to receive vessels, which expands the options of consignees in the Eastern and northern parts of the country, said Adams.

Earlier, the NPA also approved 10 percent discount on harbour dues for ships calling all concession terminals in the Eastern Ports, including Calabar, Delta and Rivers.

To NPA, the discount applies to vessels with at least 250 Twenty-foot Equivalent units (TEUs); general cargo vessels with at least 16,000 metric tons and RORO vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles.

Future plan

To restore sanity within the Apapa Port metropolis, the NPA recently said it has perfected plans to introduce the electronic call-up system in the management of trucks going into the ports, come January 2021.

To NPA, trucks presently queue on the access roads without having business to do at the port, but with the call-up system, truck traffic into the port would be properly managed. Here, the NPA would be using its Lilypond Terminal and Tin-Can Island Transit Park as entry points, where trucks would be given final clearance into the port.

“We must have an electronic call-up where the trucks can only have access into the port through a designated point, which is the truck transit parks that are linked to the port locations and trucks can only start going to the port, if called upon,” Usman disclosed during an interview on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.

The NPA, according to her, will be partnering Lagos State Government that would be providing larger trailer park, which will be the hub where trucks would stay and wait for clearance to go into the port.

“They are going to use the Ahmed Bola Tinubu Trailer Park in Orile Iganmu that would accommodate about 1,000 trucks to enable larger mop-up and from Orile Park, trucks would be called up to Lilypond or Tin-Can Island Trailer Parks to get the final clearance into the ports,” she said.

In addition to addressing congestion, the electronic call-up is also expected to put an end to issue of rent-seeking and extortion of truckers by security operatives managing truck movement on the port roads.

Presently, there are lots of rent-seeking around traffic management in Apapa, where all manners of payments are made to security officials for trucks to access the port.

This is because the port presently has manual call-up system that has NPA security officials, Presidential Task Team, Nigerian Police Force, and LASTMA officials physically involved in deciding trucks that would have access to the ports.

The NPA is keen to deploying an electronic call-up system as well as a designated truck parks to link them, and it would be unveiled in January.