Key stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime industry as well as some foreign investors in the free zones have unanimously thrown their weight behind the measures being implemented by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman to attract the much-needed foreign investments into the country.
In separate interviews in Lagos, the stakeholders lauded the NPA boss for what they described as her bold reforms, which they noted have restored investors’ confidence in the maritime industry and the economy at large.
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They however said they were not surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari re-appointed Hadiza Bala Usman as Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for an additional five-year tenure.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Port Consultative Forum, Mr. Kunle Folarin stated that the federal government is no doubt at ease with the drive by Bala Usman to ensure that the right thing is done at all times.
According to him, with her blueprint, the port is well positioned to serve as alternative to crude oil in terms of revenue generation.
He said, “The first thing is that in the last four years, the port has been recognised as the alternative source of income to the federal government apart from oil.
Hadiza Bala came and identified all the loopholes in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of the various agreements signed by the NPA over the years and she stopped them. It takes courage to do all those things. There are some contracts where the agency was paying about $400 million; she stopped it and somebody in the authority must have allowed all that before she came but she blocked all the loopholes.
“These are people that were thought to be very influential but she stopped it. She almost stopped the INTELS contract that gave Pilotage to a private company, which is the responsibility of NPA under the act. Hadiza is someone who has the courage to stop illegalities, which have been going on for a long time. In Nigeria today, courage is key and imagine if that had continued for another 10 years then several billions of Naira would have been lost.”
He added, “She did what others were scared of doing. Look at the issue of access to the port when she came in which have refused to go away and she introduced badging to solve the problem. So, she has done very well and deserves the support of everyone.”
Some foreign investors operating in one of the free zones, who did not want their name in print, also lauded the NPA for the measures to boost the ease of doing business in the country.
“As foreign investors, we always feel out of place in any new environment in general. We only overcome this feeling by the warm welcome and great business practices in our new environment. In Nigeria, there are many opportunities for business but the transfer of skills and technology is always being hindered by some people who are against the achievement of the very best for this great nation.
“But since Hadiza Bala-Usman came on board, we have seen a lot of positives. We believe that Nigeria needs more people with her characteristic and intellect to help steer Nigeria and its people to greater and better things from now and in the future.
“Her commitment and devotion to help the Nigerian Ports Authority and especially her activities in ease of doing business to help foreign investors take a more pivotal role in the development of this country are applauded by us and many of our counterparts are proudly investing to build a greater Nigeria for all,” one of the investors explained, on behalf of others.
Also, the National Public Relations Officer, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Stanley Ezenga said, “Since Hadiza was appointed, she instituted a lot of reforms in the agency and in the industry. She has stopped a lot of corrupt practices in the sector and I can categorically tell you that she merited her position.”
Speaking on the issue, the National President of the National Association of Licensed Customs Agents (ANALCA), Mr. Tony Iju Nwabunike commended her for her boldness.
“I would like to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising excellence and hard work, which has restored investors’ confidence in the maritime sector. If you look at the amount of work Hadiza has done, given that people never gave her a chance and she came and turned around things, it was a good move by the president to appoint her in the first place. Again, it is to finish the good work she has started in NPA. At ANALCA, we will continue to support her; we are going to give her the platform for her to do more.
“As an association, we want her to look into the concession agreement and check the excesses of terminal operators. We want her to look at the issues of holding bay and get the NPA itself to create one. The NPA should have some area set aside for stacking of containers so that you can take the goods going to dry ports, like the Kaduna Dry Port and other places without stress. The concessionaires do not have the space to do all these alone. We want her to look at the charges at the port and manage the inflow of containers from the anchorage areas into the country and the security of goods and services.”
Also speaking, the Director General of the Nigeria Chamber of Shipping (NCS), Mrs. Obiageli Obi said Hadiza Bala-Usman has achieved what was thought to be impossible in the industry.
While thanking Buhari on behalf of the NCS for supporting her initiatives, she stated that she is confident that the NPA boss will continue to do more.
“I am happy that Bala-Usman is bold and has passion for the maritime sector. Investors are happy with her reforms and the Nigerian economy will greatly benefit from her reforms.”