By Ray Ugochukwu
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) says it has secured the approval to dredge the Warri Port in Delta State at a whopping cost of N50 billion.
Disclosing this Monday in Lagos, was the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, who said the huge amount was being sourced for the funding of the project.
She said the effort was part of the Authority’s effort to upgrade the facility for better usage in attempt to decongest the Lagos ports that were presently overstretched.
The NPA boss, who spoke at the 68th birthday celebration of the immediate past National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, remarked that the execution of the project was part of the Change Agenda of the Buhari administration.
She regretted the high cost of clearing goods at the ports, which according to her was due to extraneous factors like insecurity in the waterways, especially around the Niger Delta region.
She noted, for instance, the increase in insurance premium by shipping firms, which she said was adversely affecting cost of business but expressed optimism that with the efforts being put in place by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the problem would soon be sorted out.
Usman blamed the traffic congestion in the port city of Apapa on the absence of transport intermodalism in cargo delivery system, lamenting that 90 per cent of goods arriving the nation’s ports was delivered by road with minimal evacuation through the rail system.
She however, said the NPA was devising a call-up system for trucks in order to reduce congestion, even as she urged tank farm operators to begin to utilize rail services to evacuate their petroleum products.
The right activist made it clear that only an intermodal transport mix could solve the problem of the Apapa gridlock, even as she charged shipping firms to urgently adhere to the directive of establishing holding bays from where trucks could be called up into the ports for goods evacuation.
The Managing Director informed the Golden Tulip Hotel, Amuwo-Odofin, Festac, Lagos audience that her administration had succeeded in deregulating the port of destination for oil and gas cargo by creating a level-playing field for operators. As a result, she said, people could discharge their cargoes at any port of destination without impediments.
It was for this reason, she noted, that the Egina Project belonging to Total, was sited in Lagos.
As a way of ensuring total decongestion of the port city of Apapa, she urged investors to come into trailer park establishment as requested by the NPA but regretted however that only two firms had shown interest in that regard.
On the workings of the port concession thus far, she said it would have fared better if there had been sanctions for contravention of its provisions but said such a clause was now being injected into the regulation to make it more effective.
Speaking also at the event, the Chairman of the occasion, a former Managing Director of NPA, Chief Adebayo Sarumi, regretted that freight forwarding business had continued to be in disarray due to squabbles among the various associations.
He said because of the disunity, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Act had failed to work to the detriment of the profession.
Consequently, the former boss of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) lamented that practitioners had not been able to tap the benefits of the sector as project cargo lifting had remained 100 per cent the exclusive preserve of foreigners.
Chief Sarumi therefore advised freight forwarders to “let that Act (CRFFN) work” and concluded that “for the sake of prosperity, let your leaders drop their egocentrism for the Act to work”.
Hadiza Bala Usman, MD of NPA
Adebayo Sarumi, former MD of NPA