Bala-Usman Vows to Recover N192bn Debts from Terminal Operators

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Eromosele Abiodun
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, has promised to recover all debts owed it by terminal operators.
She also vowed to recover the N400 million NPA staff money trapped in Aso Savings and Loans Limited.

Usman, who has made fighting corruption and blocking of leakages in the agency her mantra, put the total debt owed the NPA at N191.80 billion.
She disclosed this yesterday in Lagos in a chat with journalists to mark her first 100 day in office.

The NPA boss said most of the debts owed by terminal operators had existed for 10 years, adding that the debts came from the lease agreements that were badly structured.

According to her, “We will do everything possible to recover all our monies including the N400 million trapped in Aso Savings or Aso Homes as the case may be. We are pursuing it aggressively and we will make sure the monies are returned to us.”
She said some of the terminal operators’ debts were classified as bad debt, adding that the NPA could only see them as such if due legal process had been followed.

“We also have debts from lease agreements, tenancy payments that have accrued over the years. The NPA has a process of continued billing the leasing of lands that those it leased them to have no access to the properties. When an agency leases a property to you and you have no access to the property how do you pay them.  The NPA continued to bill the entities and considered it as debt.

“We are looking at reverting some of the lease allocations because the fundamental to leasing is that the leasee has to be able to take occupation. You cannot lease a land that is encumbered. When you lease a land that is encumbered by encroachment, topographical challenge, and bill for the lease, it is not a responsible thing to do. We have identified the leases that are encumbered by encroachment and other factors, we will remove that aspect of the debt from what is being owed the NPA,” she said.

On the agency’s poor showing in the latest World Bank ranking, she said she was working to ensure that the NPA moves up in the next ranking, adding that it was important to appreciate that some of the components that made up the ranking were not just the NPA.

“There were other government agencies that operate within the ports that challenged our efficiency. We have challenged the agencies to seat. We have also discoursed the matter at the Ease of Doing Business committee set up by the president to see how these agencies can improve. We have given them timelines to ensure that they improve on their efficiency.

The ranking is a global one and Nigeria cannot be an exception. We must do everything to ensure that we move up in the ranking. We need to work together for national interest and ensure that the success of other agencies becomes the success of Nigeria, “said.

Usman also disclosed that the NPA has notified all operators in the industry that no entity has the right to collect government revenue and keep same in their coffers on behalf of government.

She said: “We have put in place the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which we have communicated to leading players like Interls Limited. We have given them timelines and we expect them to revert to us so that we can commence implementation. We have told them to begin to pay directly to the government, any invoice of payment that is required to be treated should be sent to us and we will pay the company at a stipulated time.”