BY KAYODE OLUWATOYIN
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Thursday reappointment of Hadiza Bala Usman as managing director of the
Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) indorses the administration’s appreciation of hard
work and commitment to father. land,
If not for any other thing, Bala Usman has in the past four years, shownuncommon passion for the entrenchment of transparency and the prioritisation of
national rather than class interests. If only for the hitherto untouchable forces that this lady has confronted and fought to a standstill, her re-appointment is not just worthy but an example of a
nation’s appreciation of service.
It is in fact , an interesting coincidence that the announcement of the renewal of her tenure came on the same day that a newspaper report indicated that Buhari
may have finally decided to cancel the curious Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) operat- ed by the Ocean Marine So- lutions Limited (OMSL).Bala Usman’s NPA, with the support of minister of
Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi spent most of the last one year showing why
this SAA was illegal, scandalous and against the ease of doing business policy of the government.
In different interviews where she spoke about it, the NPA MD explained that
with a charge of $2,000 for the first day and a $1,500 for subsequent days paid by every ship calling in the Nigerian waters to use the SAA, the cost of shipping in the country would escalate. What is worse, according to her is
that these monies, put at “over $70 million in the last 18 months” is neither remitted to government, nor ac- counted for!
She argued further that the provision of security on the waterways as well as for vessels calling at the Ports
remain the duty of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigeri- an Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). These agencies of government were increasing- ly getting the attention of government as it relates to the requirements to get their jobs done effectively and so there was no need to engage a private entity that would
impose new charges on stakeholders, who will ultimately pass it onto the end
Bala Usman went as far as the national assembly to defend the decision to scrap the SAA. Reports indicated that
she was physically harassed at the end of the session at the senate and most painfully, members of the national
assembly would eventually stay on the side of the SAA to the chagrin of many in- dustry players.
Recent event, according to a newspaper report ( not LEADERSHIP) suggested may have influenced President Buhari’s decision to cancel the contract
have however revealed what
may have swung the legislators’ opinion in favour of OMSL and its patrons.
Bala Usman has also been dogged in her position on the activities of Intels, an- other major player in the industry. Intels provides multiple services first as terminal operators and then as service
boat operators to the NPA.
The current leadership of the NPA has employed hitherto unseen courage in deal- ing with this maritime su- perpower since it assumed office.First was the de-classification of ports terminals which
removed the categorisation of some ports as strictly oil and gas. Until the de-classification oil and gas cargo
could only berth in specific locations in Nigeria and this already caused a disaffection for which some terminal operators, namely Berger and LADOL already protested and were ready to go to court! By that decision, the NPA ensured a level playing field for all operators in the port industry by removing all bottlenecks that hinder
healthy competition in the industry.
There is also the dispute on the alleged failure of Intels to remit monies accruing from service boat operations to the TSA as directed by the federal government. For this, the NPA has been
at odds with Intels for the better part of the last four years and even though the
latter has tried all sorts of blackmail, alleging that NPA action was motivated
by politics. Bala Usman always insisted that there was nothing political about obeying the laws of the country and that no entity would be allowed to impose its will on Nigeria.
In several of her interviews that I have read or watched on television, Hajia
Bala Usman says one thing that makes me pray that we have more people like her in public office is the commitment to ensuring that all third-party contracts with terms skewed against Nigeria’s interest are corrected.
And even then, she shows that she isn’t interested in a government agency that
cheats investors. She states in her interviews that reviewing these agreements must put measurable responsibility and sanctions
on both parties, that is government and investors alike. What a way to assure investors of the safety of their
I have also heard her speak about her determination to leave behind a legacy of efficiency and transparency
in the Ports. If she achieves that in addition to the no- ticeable efforts being made to increase traffic to the eastern ports, improve in- frastructure in all port locations, ease traffic access into
all the ports and ultimately develop deep seaports in the country, one can be sure
that the port operations will not remain the same in Nigeria.I commend President Buhari for rewarding hard work and excellence in this case as
an incentive that will encourage more people to give their all in the service country. I wish Hajia Bala Usman an
even more focused and successful new tenure.
–Oluwatoyin is a Lagos based
public affairs analyst