Going by the record of its achievement in 2020, one can safely say NPA, the premiere port regulatory agency is a model government agency to exist during a pandemic.
The covid-19 pandemic had from the first quarter of 2020 wrecked havoc on economies worldwide and caused the deaths of millions.
In Nigeria, a country already weakened by its over reliance on crude oil as a source of revenue, the impact of covid-19 hit hard.
Oil prices literally went from zero to nothing and the country’s foreign reserves and earnings from oil took a dive.
Dozens of companies shut down, some sacked workers and others slashed salaries.
In all these however, the NPA under the able leadership of Hadiza Bala-Usman emerged as a model of strength, resilience and excellence.
In keeping to her promise to move the port environment to international standard, Bala-Usman girded her loins and went to work, inside a ravaging pandemic.
She supervised the berthing of one of the largest gearless Maerskline vessels in Onne port, NPA under her generated a revenue of N1.02tn.
She has negotiated with a private firm to deploy N7bn electronic call up system in Apapa as one of the steps to ending the perpetual gridlock around the area.
When fully operational, the electronic callup system will save Nigeria N140bn weekly economic loss and another $10bn annual loss of agro products.
“The company presented a business case for regulated truck traffic regime, which shows that the system will save the country N140 billion weekly economic loss, 40 per cent of businesses that have left Apapa, will return, there will be an end to 7-14 days cargo reception delay; consequent damage to perishable export products and reverse the $10 billion annual loss of agro products, a source at the agency reportedly said.
“That is not all, this effort will also save our bridges around Lagos mainland, which are old and fragile and can no longer support abuse by trucks. This will also put an end to unavailability of public funding for shared common infrastructure.”
The Managing Director of Trucks Transit Parks Limited, Jama Onwubuariri said that the effort would transform Apapa and make the port city thriving again.
He said: “Our Company, Trucks Transit Parks Limited (TTP) has partnered with NPA to provide solutions to the truck traffic challenges in Nigeria. TTP aims to decongest Apapa, improve traffic flow and ultimately facilitate the efficiency and productivity of the ports. TTP will do this through the use of technology.
“Our operation is based on an electronic call up system called Ètò , through which trucks movements will be scheduled from the originating points of the trucks to a park, then to a holding bay/pre-gate and then programmed in batches (on a first-comefirst-served basis) to access the ports. Thus, all trucks are expected to remain within approved parks until they are scheduled to access the ports or are moving from one park to another. The idea is to prohibit illegal or indiscriminate parking of trucks along the roads.
“Therefore, law enforcement agents have been set up to enforce compliance and tow or fine offending trucks/truckers. Hence, an electronic call-up system that will drive the check in and checkout of trucks from each location has been put in place to achieve this. In addition to batching and scheduling of trucks movement, TTP would also offer add-on or ancillary services such as truck wash, tyre change, truck service, accommodation etc at designated parks.”
He added that the main objectives of the company’s operations is to improve ports efficiency, decongesting traffic gridlock, improving traffic flow within Apapa logistics ring, improve accountability and eliminate extortion and improve ease of doing business.
On how it intends to achieve it, he said: “We will deploy electronic truck scheduling, park, truck and traffic management platform called Ètò, provide modern truck parks and holding bay facilities with hub amenities, use of ICT hardware such as access control, law enforcement/traffic agents to enforce compliance and registration of all ports bound trucks and drivers on Ètò.”
Earlier during the 21 days lockdown imposed by the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Bala-Usman directed shipping firms to suspend all demurrage charges that were incurred during the three weeks of lock down.
She had reasoned that it would be additional burden for importers who were not at fault but were forced by the circumstances dictated by the covid-19 to leave their cargoes uncleared.
Though faced with the outcome of the pandemic, one of which is reduced revenue and allocation from the government, the organization has held its head high and remained steadfastly strong and excellent.
In November, the agency had a taste of the violence that comes with youth restiveness when hoodlums hijacked the #endsars protests against police brutality.
The agency’s premises in Marina and Tin Can Island were torched and several property were destroyed.
Speaking while defending the agency’s 2021 budget before the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Bala-Usman put the loss to the agency at over N1bn.
She said N807m had been earmarked for rehabilitation of the burnt portion of the NPA building.
This, she explained, is different from monies to be spent on replacement of 27 vehicles set ablaze by the vandals and three that were stolen.
All these have however not dampened the desire to continue working to create a global standard for the nation’s port.
According to Bala-Usman, the attack has not dampened the spirit and work ethics in staff but has rather strengthened those qualities.
“These operational vehicles need to be replaced as soon as the insurance companies come up with the aspect of the loss to be shouldered.
“Aside burnt building and vehicles, other working tools, like 317 computers as well as photocopiers, were looted. The cost of replacement will be above a billion naira when added to the N807m already estimated for rehabilitation of the burnt building”, she said.