CONTRARY to the weighty allegations of sinking over N1.trn in dredging projects and non existent navigable seaports in Nigeria brought against the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) by a Lagos based newspaper the Port management has dismissed the reports as false, frivolous and cheap blackmail, clarifying that Nigerian ports are navigable but receive very large vessels with ease.
The publication alleged in its report that imports destined to Nigeria now transit through Lome Port, Togo, before they get to the Nigeria seaports due to very low draught of Nigeria’s seaports.
The report stated thus: “Our ports cannot be accessed… the channels so shallow that we cannot berth large vessels … because ships are looking for cost reduction which can only be achieved through the economy of scale which only the mega vessels can bring”, the newspaper alleged.
The publication also alleged that the successive NPA managements had misspent a whooping sum of N1.123 trillion in ports’ dredging in the past 12 years.
It also accused the NPA of conniving with the Lagos Channel Management (LCM) Limited; Bonny Channel Company (BCC) Limited and Calabar Channel Management Company (CCMC) Limited of defrauding the country, alleging that over N1.08trillion was wasted on capital and maintenance dredging of the Lagos, Bonny and Calabar channels in 12 years.
Reacting to the negative reports, the Assistant General Manager Public Affairs, Ibrahim Nasir, told National Light that the publication was not only false but a sponsored report to blackmail NPA and distract the obvious rising profile of its present management.
NPA management was furious that a maritime reporter could choose to occupy the public space with allegations of malfeasance without seeking to hear their own view.
Nasir told our National Light in a telephone interview that the publication was to blackmail the NPA management but vowed not to be distracted by the skirmishes of the press.
“How can a Maritime journalist rely on an importer’s view to report that Nigerian ports are not navigable and therefore, can’t receive larger vessels? Some of our sea ports have above 13 metres draught. Egina FPSO, which is the largest vessel ever has just called on our seaport; the vessel carries 290,000 tonnes with a hull of 230,000 metres. Egina has 61 metres width and 33.5 metres depth. Egina carries 240 personnel at a go, as well as carries 2.3 million barrels of oil. What else can one say of Waf Series, MS Shaula with 13.62 metres and other various big vessels that access our ports and MRS Jetties? MRS has just unveiled the largest African vessel.
If these large vessels call on our ports daily, how can any rational thinker if not for the purpose of blackmail level such weighty allegation that NPA sank well over N1trn into channels’ dredging”? Nasir retorted.
The NPA spokesman maintained that an importer is not in a position to know the draught of the sea as to use his view to publish falsehood on NPA without giving the agency an opportunity of fair response to make for balanced reporting. He noted that while the reporter has achieved his selfish interest by embarrassing the focused management of NPA, it is condemnable for a journalist to embellish reports with distorted facts, rNasir recalled that Bala-Usman has made notable efforts to drastically reduce corruption in the operations of the NPA for which she has been subjected to series of attacks, including planting of negative stories against her in the media, saying that it was in a bid to check such excesses and protect her anti-corruption stance that at a time she had to slam a N1 billion suit in an Abuja High court against an online platform over a false and defamatory report on her person bothering on bribery.
Asserting her anti corruption stance, the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala-Usman had made concerted efforts to rid the agency of corruption and restore sanity.
According to her, “For every corrupt practice that we identify, we forward to the EFCC to investigate and determine what prosecution process to embark upon. When we identify a legal concern whereby there is a lack of clarity on the role of government or there is a seeming disadvantage that has been provided to the Nigerian people, we have always forwarded to the Attorney General to provide legal guidance on how we can exit some of these relationships.
“A lot of the corrupt practices that we have identified within the port operation are attributable to certain contractual obligations the NPA has entered into with entities whereby the federal government is short-changed. We are working at reviewing such agreements and we are working on terminating some of the agreements. We have reached out to the relevant agencies and communicated our position on this.”
On Port development, Usman said NPA is highly committed to the development of Lekki Deep Sea Port, which will be one of the most modern ports in West Africa, offering enormous support to the burgeoning commercial operation across Nigeria and the entire West African region. She said NPA hads paid 20% of its equity share, representing $23million of its $110.9million investment in the on-going Lekki Deep seaport project.
To confirm this, during a monitoring visit to the Lekki port recently, Director General of the Infrastructural Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, Engr. Chidi Izuwah commended the NPA for its commitment to the development of Lekki deep seaport. “I want to especially thank the NPA for the efforts made so far and its commitment towards the success of this project.”
Also, Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, commended the NPA, Tolaram Group and China Harbour for the development of the landmark project. Amaechi said: “This will be the first deep seaport in Nigeria. This will help to improve the capacity of Nigerian ports with modern procedure.
He said the ports concession agreement covered 45 years on a build, own, operate and transfer basis.
It was for these astounding accomplishments of the NPA management that various stakeholders have continued to extol her instrumentality for the various reforms she introduced to boost port operations.
The Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium Limited who is also the Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Vicky Haastrup had commended Usman for taking NPA to enviable pedestal. The founder of NAGAFF,
Dr. Boniface Aniebonam and a host of other genuine shipping practitioners have all extolled the instrumentality of Usman’s reforms at the NPA, thereby compelling other heads of sister agencies to be deeply committed to the development of the port industry as has been clearly demonstrated by Bala Usman.
Aniebonam, who addressed maritime journalists as ‘resident reporters’ for being readily available in the ports advised them to always write objective reports.
He insists that applying the principles of developmental journalism in reporting shipping will help shipping sector administrators be more focused rather than distracting them with false and unobjective reports, saying that the sector is so crucial to Nigeria economy, and therefore should be reported objectively to help its administrators to achieve the full potentials in that all important sector.
Another frontline freight forwarder, Ezennia Gilbert Obi (Commodore) observed that the plethora of strategic reforms Bala-Usman has brought to port administration has engraved her name in Gold, as well as elevated her to a pinnacle of pride for all women.