Hadiza Bala-Usman’s Memoir Raises Fresh Concern About Unending Rot In Port Administration

• N4.3b spent on deplorable Wharf roads, ex-NPA MD reveals
•‘How border closure, terminals inefficiency contribute to port congestion’

Despite a whooping N4.3 billion spent in rehabilitating Lagos port access roads, there is still no improvement in the state facility, making the evacuation of cargoes extremely difficult.

A former managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing facilitated a tripartite agreement with the authority, Messrs. AG Dangote and Flour Mills of Nigeria for the rehabilitation of the Wharf Road, a major link to Apapa, which cost N4.3 billion.

Bala-Usman, who disclosed this in her 200-page memoir, ‘Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority’, said the authority provided N1.8 billion of the total amount spent, to ensure the port access roads, which has been a major problem to ports operations, were fixed.

She said in addition to the mentioned amount, NPA funded several palliative works on the Creek Road axis. She said getting the funds was difficult after several disagreements with the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, in 2018, as to how much the state of the roads contributed to the horrendous traffic situation that regularly cripples port activities.

According to her, Fashola argued that the volume of cargo received and evacuated from the Apapa Port was responsible for the traffic situation, rather than the state of the roads.

Bala-Usman also revealed that the port congestion worsened owing to closure of borders with neighbouring countries such as Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger in August 2019. She said by the end of 2019, the situation degenerated to the level that some vessels were left stranded at anchorage, unable to berth for 25 days or more.

She said the authority also found that the poor state of handling equipment and infrastructure at terminals also contributed to congestion at the ports and as part of efforts to decongest the ports’ access roads and make them last longer, NPA made a case for multimodal means of moving cargoes in and out of the ports.

She added that while about 90 per cent of cargo in and out of the ports are evacuated by road, it is not ideal for the country, as there is an urgent need to explore the use of other means of evacuation, such as rails, inland waterways and the pipelines for liquid bulk.

Bala-Usman said the NPA encouraged consignees to consider the use of barges and it went on to issue licenses to operators in 2018, making Ikorodu a lighter terminal, available for their operations.

Meanwhile, barge operators have lamented a lull in business activities in the first quarter of this year, saying with the outlook, their business may go into extinction very soon.

Chairman of the Membership Committee, Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Haruna Omolajomo, who disclosed this, said inconsistent government policies, lack of patronage due to dependency on roads for evacuation of cargoes, stifling policies of some terminal operators and decline in the volume of cargo imported into the country, among other factors, are threatening the $3 billion business investment.

He said the industry is operating at less than 20 per cent, as operators who rented barges have since returned them, even as some of the barges are parked at jetties owing to a lack of activities.

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