By Oluwabunmi Ogunjimi
THE Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usnman has said that the non availability of other value chain in the cargo clearing process in the ports led to increased port congestion.
Speaking at the recently concluded 14th edition of the Annual Business Law e-conference hosted by Olasupo Shasore, Hadiza Bala Usman said that besides that other value chains were not functional, the interstate travel restriction also added to the slow cargo clearance from the ports because importers from outside Lagos could not move their to the point of delivery.
At the conference themed “Business unusual: digital acceleration for growth in a new world” Bala Usman explained that When federal government declared the port operations as essential service provider, it did not take cognisance of other aspect that were closed down saying that “So when you bring your cargo into the port where are you taking them to, you are taking them to a warehouse, you are taking them to a manufacturing site, you are taking them to other location that has been close down, workers in your location that need those items that has brought into the country are not at work so invariably you are unable to clear your item.”
Speaking further, the NPA boss said that On the issue around rent waiver ,We at the Nigerian Ports felt the need to provide that recognising that it has an effect on the turnaround time of vessel, one of the things that we sought to do is provide consignees with the cushion noting that the Ports operations is a value chain .
She said: “This is for even consignment that are within the Lagos area . Then you have the state lockdown ,So if I have my cargo coming to Lagos and I need to take them to port Harcourt or Kaduna I can’t transverse those states to get there so invariably I am stuck in the port and that is why Nigerian Port Authority felt the need to grant that to people.”
“We are giving terminal operator a credit note for that portion . So if you now give N10million rent fee for the period NPA is refunding you that amount in form of credit it is the federal government that is losing that amount of money that it could have gotten from your operations for that period.
“You gave a waiver for Ten million Naira and government has reimbursed your Ten million naira , as terminal operator you don’t lose anything what you could lose is the efficiency in the operation of your port, the turnaround time of your vessels and need for enhanced evacuation of cargo.”
On the non availability of Banking operations during the lock down Usman stated “when the lockdown was initially started the first few days the banks were not Operational and I quickly called the Central Bank Governor and within 12 hours ,we had a meeting with the deputy governor of central bank and the Managing Directors of all Banks were all logged on to the meeting it was resolved within 24hours in banks around Apapa and Tin-can Ports became operational and they asked their branches to open to enable consignees pay for services rendered to them by the terminals including custom duties .
“The banks in those areas were given the permission and time to operate and that was something we did to get efficiency and quick turnaround from central bank as within 24 hours we resolved this
She noted that the issues around port operations were not just limited to the vessels coming in, as the economy and Nigerians suffered in one way or the other.
“It is a whole system and when you look at now there is a reduced consumption on a lot of items because we are not buying as much just as we were not earning as much too, we don’t have that much spending power so that automatically affected the people that are producing any cargo that comes .You had anticipated sale of your product but they were not sold.
“So if there is a limited demand for cargos that comes into the country there is an attendance effect on what will be utilized and what was needed during the lockdown if we have items for export those having agricultural produce cannot come because Kaduna is locked down, “Ogun is locked down so all of this things has an effect of inflow and outflow.
“It the same thing with also vessels coming in, they also had that challenge of turn-around time.
Availability of equipment at the terminals
She also blamed the crisis at the port on efficiency of the equipment of the terminal operator was important such that while there was outside portion of the congestion in Apapa area and the need for NPA to ensure that inflow and outflow were streamlined, the need to ensure that the terminal operators had the necessary cranes do container operation could be overemphasized.
She said:”Terminal operators needed to have improved equipment to offload the cargo from the vessel ,they need to have the necessary improved infrastructure within your terminal and we have that incidence with APMT where we did not see commiserate investment in equipment and infrastructure to enable them take on all those volumes of cargos that were needed to be discharged.
Having gone through that with APMT, they have now brought in the necessary cranes and now we have seen an improved operation so we must understand that this issue of operational efficiency is both ways if you don’t have cranes that will move the cargo it is a major issue .