From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
With an aggregate value exceeding $15 billion mark annually, the Nigerian ports are a major gateway to the over 85 per cent of all goods and services into the country which exploit facilities at the seaports, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, has disclosed.
Against this background, she stated that any port desiring some level of market share in the intensely competitive maritime industry must engender confidence through transparency and availability of infrastructure to be able to retain old patronage and gain more trust.
Usman, who was guest speaker at the public presentation of the book, “Footprints of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Maritime Sector” in Lagos, said this was imperative as “stakeholders have the liberty of choice and the discretion to review them as often as they will.”
Represented by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Dr. Sokonte Davies, she noted that for most countries, “incomes from maritime operations represent an enormous revenue line that funds significant capital projects and social security systems,” making integrity and transparency in the operations imperative.
Therefore, the NPA opened its budget to the public by entering an agreement with BudgIT Open Budget System Platform, in line with the goals of the Buhari-led administration.
Similarly, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy have continued to improve security for the safety of ships and crews on the Nigerian waters, while partnering countries of the Gulf of Guinea region to reduce piracy.
Noting that cargo evacuation, which is an important factor in the competitiveness of the maritime sector, has suffered, she listed the Buhari administration’s steps in tackling the problems to include “the recently commissioned Wharf Road, which reconstruction the NPA spearheaded with the contribution of N1.8 billion.”
Others are the ongoing efforts to deploy multi-modal transportation, including the dredging of major inland river channels, expansion of existing rail infrastructure and moves to complement every port with rail system, as well as level playfield for all stakeholders.
According to her, it was therefore gratifying that a neutral organisation like SCAN was setting the records of the modest achievements of the various agencies in the sector within the period, because from the outset, the Buhari administration had no illusions about the importance of the maritime sector.
Earlier, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of SCAN, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said the occasion was “about the recognition of the sincere efforts of the present administration to develop and reposition the sector for more meaningful contribution to the Nigerian economy.”
He noted that developmental and management challenges in the sector dated back to the nation’s independence in 1960, but “as patriotic Nigerians with a front-row view of events in the sector, we make bold to say that the present administration has shown the political will to tackle these challenges head-long.”
According to him, the book aimed to bridge the deficit of credit to the administration over its achievements in the sector, and the association was “neither prodded nor sponsored by any external force to undertake this project. We believe that as journalists, while we criticise and condemn, we must also have the courage to commend when the occasion so demands.”
Akinola listed the recorded milestones to include railway development, shipping sector regulation, plugging of revenue leakages in the federal agencies, and sincere commitment to addressing the sector’s huge manpower and infrastructure deficits, such as the lack of scanners in the ports, among others.