Wednesday 22nd February, 2017
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Nigeria's sea ports as a fulcrum for economic recovery

Nigeria's sea ports as a fulcrum for economic recovery

The maritime trade winds have helped chart Nige­ria’s economic course for decades and it needs the gov­ernment support to continue to be a lifeline to our econom­ic growth and development through import and export. This has become very crucial with the current economic predicament which will lead to economic recovery. It’s ob­vious that the shipping world is going through a remarkable transformation and the Nige­ria Port Authority (NPA) must not lag behind in utilizing this unique opportunity to advance its leadership into the top na­tions when it comes to supply chain efficiency.
Since the coming of this ad­ministration to power in 2015, expanded trade agreements between Nigeria and inter­national partners are being signed in other to make our world smaller and closer. The economic and trade agreement with the countries in Europe, Asia and Middle-east promises to open up preferred access to Africa’s largest economy. The recent trade agreements with some foreign countries have created an historic, once in a lifetime opportunity that we must seize. However, we will only be able to capitalize on this expanded market and increase our competitiveness through strengthened port fa­cilities and improved supply chain efficiencies. With the expansion of trade comes the necessity for the expansion of port infrastructure.
Traditional trade patterns are changing, competition to carry and receive cargo is intensify­ing. Navigating this new envi­ronment effectively is crucial to Nigeria’s economy which will lead to our economic growth, revenue generation and employment opportunity. With larger percentage of most things we buy transported by ship, these are the goods we de­pend on every day: cars, tools, electronics, resources, food, and medicines – to name just a few. Maritime trade underpins the global economy and the Nigerian Port Authority under the leadership of Hajiya Hadi­za Bala Usman must rise up to this challenge and be given the necessary support by the gov­ernment in repositioning the Nigeria’s Port to help boast our economy. Our ports contribute to job creation and economic growth, creating direct and indirect jobs that pay higher-than-average wages. Every one million tonnes of new cargo at Nigeria’s Port has the potential to generate 300 new jobs. The expansion of Nigeria’s trade by making Port activities faster, effective and transparent will present a remarkable opportu­nity for our shipping industry, a passion and determination the incumbent Managing Di­rector of Nigerian Port Au­thority (NPA) has already set on track.
A 2016 report by the World Bank on logistics ranked Ni­geria 90th out of 160 coun­tries when it comes to the ef­ficiency of logistic and port clearance process, the quality of trade- and transport-related infrastructure, the ease of ar­ranging competitively-priced shipments and other key fac­tors. This measure is impor­tant because it is an alternate measure for the efficiency of a nation’s economy, and is indicative of a nation’s com­petitiveness. The report notes: “Countries with better logistics can grow faster, become more competitive, and increase their investment.” In a general perspective, 90th position is not good enough for Nigeria which is a leading trade na­tion in Africa. The Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) we ex­pect under the leadership of Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman is to reposition the agency to en­able it compete globally at least among the top 50 in terms of supply chain efficiency in near future. With this, our ports in­frastructure can accommodate increasing trade demands and that our supply chains operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. The efficiency of our supply chains in the marine shipping industry will be a val­ue-addition to the trade agree­ments that support our exports and imports.
Indeed, creating opportuni­ties by addressing challenges hampering the effective and ef­ficient functioning of our Ports to both importers and export­ers will help Nigeria maximize its advantage and truly seize the moment. Doing so will al­low Nigeria to fully leverage the benefits of the ongoing trade agreements it is negotiat­ing, bring additional economic benefits to its citizens, and po­sition us as the world leader in transportation logistics and supply chain efficiency. The time is now to pair Nigeria’s 21st century trade agenda with 21st century transportation ef­ficiency, a pledge and commit­ment the Managing Director of NPA, Hajiya Hadiza Bala Us­man has promised to achieve with the support and com­mitment of all stakeholders. Since her assumption of office, the Managing Director has emphasised that the Nigeria’s ports urgently need thorough organisational restructuring with a view to transforming them into viable business enti­ties. The major ports have not been able to function as vi­brant commercial enterprises to meet the global competi­tion. The government should support the boards of ports to operate efficiently in taking timely decisions and making investments in infrastructure. This will give the Nigerian Port Authority opportunity to de­velop into major infrastructure entities to promote interna­tional trade.
The Nigerian Port Author­ity (NPA) should be given the mandate to evolve into good organisational outfits and make them commercially pro­ductive and operationally ef­ficient. It should also be given greater financial autonomy as this will help them access private capital, give them flex­ibility in managing affairs, take them out of the control of the tariff authority for major port trusts and allow them to com­pete effectively. So far, the MD of NPA has taken up the chal­lenge of improving the welfare and paying of some benefits owes the personnel with the promise of upgrading equip­ment, facilities and friendly working environment for the staff of the organization. This measure would further con­tribute towards huge produc­tivity gains, allowing ports to handle more ships in shorter spaces of time and therefore have positive knock-on ben­efits across supply chains for business.
Another key area is stream­lining the variability in dwell­ing time. Dwell time, which refers to the time from cargo unloading to when cargoes physically exit the port, needs to be reduced. In addition to that is harmonizing prior­ity levels among government agencies on shipping cargoes and focusing on set targets to bring down delays, imposing penalties on delays could pro­vide the incentive structure to discourage storing cargoes at ports. Driven by globaliza­tion and the Nigeria’s export and Import-oriented economy, ports in Nigeria must position itself to experience exponen­tial growth in the near future. We want to see Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) under the leadership of Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman go through sev­eral stages of reform, from a central-control system with in­adequate investment and poor efficiency to a large-scale and highly competitive system with various types of public-private partnerships. This will lead to rapid growth, large-scale foreign investment, and liber­alization of port policy. Glob­ally today, corporatization and joint venture have become the hallmark of port development. These mechanisms will lead to milestones in policy change and port development. Port re­forms will become an enabler of Nigeria’s economic develop­ment and international trade as it will provide an effective tool for macro-control at the national level and private-sector investment in cargo-handling systems and manage­ment expertise.
In other to achieve all these feats by the NPA, the federal government, the supervisory Ministry of Transport, the Board, management and Staff of NPA and stakeholders in the sector must join to support Ha­jiya Hadiza Bala Usman’s zeal, passion, innovation and deter­mination in taking the Nige­rian Port Authority (NPA) to 21st century trade agenda with 21st century Port’s transporta­tion efficiency level which will lead to the economic growth, revenue generation, employ­ment creation and industrial development of Nigeria.
Mr. Yahaya wrote this piece from Muye, Niger State via: Danmuye@yahho.com

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