The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, has stated that the authority will continue to work with the federal government to improve facilities at the nation’s seaports in order to attract more goods and services to the country.
Nigerian ports, she stated, are a major gateway into the country with over 85% of all the goods and services coming into the country exploiting facilities at the nation’s seaports with aggregate value exceeding the $15billion mark annually.
She stated this at the presentation of the book, ‘Footprints of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Maritime Sector,’ written by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN).
Represented by the Executive Director, Marine and Services, Mr. Seconte Davis, the NPA boss said the maritime sector was a major contributor to the Nigerian economy.
She said: “This is more so when we consider that the oil and gas sector, which is the country’s economic mainstay is itself almost completely dependent on the maritime sector. Because the maritime industry is an intensely competitive one wherein stakeholders have the liberty of choice and the discretion to review those choices as often as they will, ports desiring any level of market share must be open in their practices and engender confidence, retain old patronage and gain more trust with the intent of increasing market share.
“This is more so for us in Nigeria where, as we said earlier the maritime sector is a significant contributor to national growth with yet untapped potentials to do more. For most countries, developed and developing ones alike, incomes from maritime operations represent an enormous revenue line, the sort of which funds significant capital projects and social security systems.
“Singapore’s maritime industry, as an example, contributes about seven per cent to the country’s $300 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This administration understood that Nigerian must aspire for as much and even greater and a lot of this has to do with how much of integrity we are able to bring into our practices.”
She added that one of the greatest things the Buhari administration has achieved is in the area of transparency.
“From the NPA where we decided to open our budget to the public with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with BUDGIT Open Budget System Platform, to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which launched a massive rebranding strategy to rebuild confidence and the Nigerian Customs Service that has posted unprecedented revenue returns in the course of the past three and a half years.
“This administration has been deliberate about entrenching a culture of transparency and giving all stakeholders a sense of trust in the system which did not exist before 2015. A lot has also been done in the area of maritime security, NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy work round the clock to reduce the incidence of piracy.
“They have even gone ahead to form partnerships with other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to ensure the safety of ships and crews on Nigerian waters. A fall out of this was the President’s visit to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2017 for the signing of an agreement on Integrated National Security Strategy to stem the tide of insecurity on the region’s territorial waterways,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the board of SCAN, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, has noted that Buhari must be given credit for bringing decorum and instilling discipline in the sector as well as plugging revenue loopholes.
“It is on record that the NPA, NIMASA, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and some other agencies in the sector now record little or no leakages in their systems unlike the norms of the past. It is also on record that the huge infrastructural deficit facing the sector is being committedly and honestly addressed by the present government.
“The lack of scanners in our ports, severely dilapidated port access roads, lack of rail evacuation of cargo from the port as well as dysfunctional inland container depots, from our perspectives as reporters, are issues the present government has decided to tackle headlong,” he said