Excerpts of an interview with the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms. Hadiza Usman.
DDH: After your inspections of activities of the Calabar Channel Management so far, what is the way forward for that joint venture and the future of Calabar Port?
Hajia Hadiza: The channel is being dredged through Joint Venture Company, Calabar Channel Management Company and the Channel Management Company has Nigeria Ports Authority and the private entity as shareholders. We own 60%, Niger Global owns 40%. And the company was established in 2014. They have embarked on dredging works. There are conflicts as to indeed, did they do the dredging as they claimed to have done? There are positions and assertions to the extent that this dredging work might not have been done. The NPA has conducted a decent investigation which keeps questioning the dredging works claimed by the company. We have now engaged on a forensic audit company that will come and do an investigation to determine if indeed this dredging work that CCM is claiming, did they do it? And NPA’s position and our internal investigation have shown that this dredging work as claimed was not done. As I have mentioned in several foras, the dredging of Calabar’s channel is not tied to indeed being with that particular company. We have made a budgetary provision for 2017 to dredge Calabar channel as we determine what will happen with Calabar Channel Managing Company as it is. We would embark on starting a process whereby we will engage a company that will dredge the Calabar channels. This process will be done in a very transparent manner. We will have transparency in the engagement of any company that will embark on dredging works for Calabar channel, for Escravos, for these channels that we consider to be challenging in channel management as today. That is the story for Calabar Channel Management. But we have our Lagos Channel Management company which is providing dredging works in the Lagos pilotage district. We also have Bonny Channel Management Company, they also provide similar services. The depth of the draft as required, to a certain extent, has been met but in some areas these depths are not as required. We’ve expanded on our dredging plans for 2017 to take those areas into consideration. We are also embarking on wreck removals across these respective channels within the 2017 budgetary provision. So, we are working to ensure that all the channels as specified are dredged to the depths required. We have noted concerns in some areas in the Lagos channel whereby sometimes firms are located outside of our channel management and designs. We’ve expanded that design in 2017. We hope to expand the channel management to cover all those locations within the Lagos channel that hitherto were not part of the design of the channel management for those locations.
DDH: Some interests have been pushing for the Ports and Harbours Bill which might facilitate NPA’s role as landlord to the ports. In what areas would that help make your role seamless?
Hajia Hadiza: Ports and Harbours Bill will further strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian Ports Authority. We’ve made our submission to the National Assembly in that regard. So, we are very excited and hopeful that with the passage of that bill, there will be more clarity in our operations, we will be more efficient in our regulation, with this new bill providing us with the legal and regulatory environment enable us to deliver our mandate. As has been mentioned, one of the things that we need to do is to strengthen our role as technical regulators, to strengthen our role in providing the services that we provide and in ensuring that the channels are managed efficiently, ensuring that all complements of common-user areas within the ports are provided in efficient manner. One of the things that are contained within the executive order is the need to prevent touting in the ports which the Nigerian Ports security are leading. We have called on other security agencies that are operating the port to provide us with seamless support as we take lead in preventing touting and preventing illegal parking within the port locations. These are one of the areas that have been seeming challenge where we have the Nigerian Police Force, we have the Nigerian Navy, we have various tiers of security agencies, all operating without understanding on our definition of who is leading in what role. That creates a level of confusion that we have observed. As we proceed to implement this executive order on preventing touting, we think that the Nigerian Police Force and the DSS and the Nigerian Navy that are part of our operations in terms of security to work with us to achieve those objectives.
DDH: The differences between the concessionaires and the NPA, for instance, these are matters that you could sit down on a roundtable to resolve and once you agree you can move forward. Who would be the arbiter? What, in the first instance, are the observed differences between the concessionaires and the NPA on the one hand. And secondly, with regards to the channels, you were talking about the 2017 budgetary allocations, would that also imply that you are revoking the contract for the dredging of the Calabar Channel?
Hajia Hadiza: We have not concluded on revoking the contract for the Calabar channel. I am providing you the brief on the status because there have been submissions of outstanding bills from the company which have been presented to us to enable us to determine if NPA is obliged to pay. We need to investigate to verify if they have done that dredging work, to the extent that the historic dredging work that has been claimed by Calabar Channel is yet to be verified. We are looking at options to ensure that we dredge the channels while the forensic investigation of the historic commitment or historic work claimed by the company is being verified because we don’t want to tie the dredging works for Calabar pilotage district to the investigation that is on-going regarding the claims of the company on historic dredging works that they have done. That is with regards to the Calabar channel. You mentioned the roundtable, we are engaging the services of the transaction adviser that will work with the Nigerian Ports Authority in putting together what is required in the reviewing of the concession. We have also reached out to the respective MDAs that play the role in the concession review. We have constituted a ministerial inter-agency committee that would work with the Nigerian Ports Authority and the concessionaires to look at these critical areas that I raised. We noted, as I mentioned, the obligations of the NPA which will be depth of the draft providing critical infrastructure around the quay aprons. And regarding the concessionaires that also have development plans that they have not adhered to within the period of the concession, the level of the equipment they require to procure which they might or might not have done within the period of concession. There is also the contentious issue on the payment of fees in US dollars. We have looked at that position. We believe that we would consider a mixed-currency regime as we go towards the review of the concession and agreements. These are some of the flash points and critical areas that we will look at as we embark on this review. We have also been concerned about the Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage which is the GMT that the terminal operators have committed to. We believe that the GMTs should be reviewed. And indeed within the concession agreements, the GMTS are supposed to be looked at every two years but we have not been able to have that review. So, we think ten years, eleven years later is a good time to review the GMT to consider mixed-currency regimes, look at the development plans and obligations the deployment of equipment and infrastructure both by the authority and the concessionaires.