A powerful vision defines or redefines specific goals and realigns ideas, people, and other resources accordingly. This creates the momentum and will to make change happen. It inspires individuals, complementary organizations and institutions to synergize and commit to giving their best.
Navigating with this enduring philosophy, the Managing Director (MD)/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, has displayed impeccable professionalism, discipline and perseverance in shaking up the old-fashioned tales of the country’s premier maritime minister. agency. And this is not a picnic. The ongoing transformation, re-engineering and repositioning led by NPA’s Koko is a testament to the fundamental changes brewing within the apex maritime organization. This panoply of changes can lead to unintended confusion in properly contextualizing and appreciating their scope and meaning. The imperative to disambiguate the trajectory of the NPA MD, over its first hundred days in the saddle, then becomes necessary.
The first thing to do when getting in the saddle was to launch new initiatives aimed at maximizing cost and value by infusing greater efficiency into NPA’s various operations, plugging revenue leaks and reducing costs. administrative generals. The rapid impact of this course was felt. There is more. The astonishing improvement in debt collection and recovery mechanisms, which resulted in a remarkable decrease in debt owed to the agency for services rendered to stakeholders such as NNPC, International Oil Companies (IOCs) and d ‘other partners, is linked to the above adroit decision.
In the absence of precedents, the disbursement of N45.08 billion over a four-month period and the fact that N26.83 billion is an operational disbursement for the year 2022 is a huge testament to the effectiveness of these initiatives. and there is no indication that the Koko-led NPA plans to slow down along this trajectory. The agency has in fact its operational objective locked on exceeding the expectations of stakeholders. In line with global transparency standards, the NPA succeeded in establishing an International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)-aligned asset register, a long-standing challenge. The actual sinking fund payout for the Lekki Deep Seaport liftoff also took off during Koko’s first 100-day tenure.
Passing the ISO certification requirement of the Ports Department and some port locations was also a notable achievement. Aware that no institution can go far without properly trained human resources, in particular to ensure efficient port operations, NPA has taken a major step here. It has inaugurated a state-of-the-art training school and entered into partnerships with strategic capacity building institutions such as the World Maritime University and the Hydrographic Department of the Nigerian Navy, among others, to fully equip its personnel with the relevant skills. . Beyond training and upgrading human resources, the agency has also provided the workforce with the necessary tools for excellent service delivery. The port control towers at Tincan Island and Apapa have been fully furnished and equipped, and work has begun on the construction of a control tower at Takwa Bay. New pilot cutters and patrol boats were also acquired and deployed to eastern ports to improve operations.
State-of-the-art radio communication equipment has been purchased and is being deployed to the various NPA signaling stations. Also to boost employee morale, the inadmissible issue of non-payment of promotion arrears to serving employees was addressed. Arrears of gratuity were paid to retirees accordingly. Administrative staff buildings at the ports of Tincan, Warri and Rivers were also rehabilitated, while a fully equipped records center was acquired for the port of Rivers.
Supporting the federal government’s efforts to diversify the national economy from the oil sector to the non-oil sector through export promotion, the agency has certified 10 export processing terminals, which are to serve as a single platform for synchronization from all pre-shipment requirements towards eliminating the delays that until now have made Nigerian exports uncompetitive in the international market.
After weighing its options, the NPA sought to promote multimodalism and reduce the singular reliance on roads as a means of moving goods from the port and to ensure the safety of barge operations, an operating procedure standard (SOP), to govern the movement of containers in inland waters, and a tariff regime is being introduced to increase revenue. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed with the Lagos State Government to prevent the breakdown of law and order along the Port Corridor. This decision resulted in the creation of an itinerant court to ensure that justice is quickly rendered to the perpetrators of traffic offences. Motorcycles were also acquired and deployed for traffic surveillance.
To defuse pressure on ports in the west of the country, the agency decided to reposition ports in the east for increased clientele.
In this regard, work has started for the mapping and surveying of the Warri-Koko-Sapele canal, the dredging of the Escravos bar, the technical studies on the Delta ports breakwater and the rehabilitation of the road. “D” at the Federal Ocean Terminal port of Onne. Indeed, the port of Onne is already recording significant growth in maritime traffic.
The morning clearly foretells the day. After just 100 days in the saddle, the agency’s CEO reported that the old way of running the country’s premier shipping agency was gone for good. The NPA is fundamentally repositioned and equipped with the essential enablers that determine the prospects for ports to gain market share and face the future with confidence. Many may not know that the history, growth and progress of nations are closely linked to the degree of development of the maritime industry. Unsurprisingly, maritime trade has played a key role in Nigeria’s economic development. The maritime sector accounts for about 95% of Nigeria’s international trade by road. The maritime industry is a key sector of the national economy given the country’s status as a major oil exporting country.
Adequate and efficient shipping system plays a vital role in the development of a country’s market, especially the international trade market, by transforming local markets into national, regional and international orientation. This enables large-scale savings in areas that have promising comparative advantage with the concomitant creation of huge employment opportunities. The maritime sector is capital intensive and therefore requires huge amounts of financing.
Several challenges also come into play. Security is one of them. Risks have always been a challenge for the shipping industry, but today they pose more problems to overcome. For example, pirates pose a greater threat to shipping, especially as the number of maritime piracy and armed robberies on ships in West Africa, Southeast Asia and other other maritime jurisdictions increased. But these threats can only stop the timid and Koko is certainly not one of them. Moreover, even as Koko accelerates changes to the NPA, modern technologies could make ships and the industry as a whole more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
In a recent Reuters article, a NATO-accredited think tank said: “Increasingly, the maritime domain and the energy sector have turned to technology to improve production, costs and reduce the delivery time. These technological changes have opened the door to emerging threats and vulnerabilities as equipment has become more accessible to outside entities.
But then, the basic meaning of leadership is to tackle all of that and overcome it. In just 100 days in the ship’s captain’s roost, Koko has proven himself to be a winner. Clearly, bolstering the effective operations of the nation’s maritime agency is certainly no walk in the park. As it stands, the project is guided by a patriot who believes in Nigeria; who has an unwavering faith in the ingenuity of Nigerians and holds the promise of the nation’s common future to heart.
Okoro, a lawyer and marine surveyor, wrote from Lagos.