Where is the Port Master Plan?

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That is the one million naira question on the lips of stakeholders in the maritime industry. It is also the big question in the shipping sector of the economy. It is vital question that requires an appropriate answer that will unravel most of the knotty issues that have truncated the sustainable development of the maritime industry over the years. It is the one million naira question for the Minister of Transportation, Right. Hon Rotimi Amaechi. Amaechi is not alone. It is also the one million naira question for the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman. In fact the buck stops at Usman’s table. This is not unconnected with the fact that the port master plan was prepared by the NPA. It was meant to serve as a guide in the execution of policies, programmes, projects and infrastructural facilities that make Nigerian ports a hub in the West and Central Africa Sub Regions nay the entire African continent. The idea was to have a holistic road map on the sustainable development of the nation’s seaport.

If it was not indicated in the handover note given to Usman, she should demand for it. She should not stop asking questions until she gets the desired answer on the whereabouts of the port master plan. Finding the port master plan does not mean an end to all the challenges facing Nigerian ports. No! It will only help in ending the present blindness in Nigeria’s developmental efforts in the maritime industry. For long, the maritime industry have been characterized by the dearth of adequate planning on the way forward. Even where there is an existing plan as the case with the port master plan, they are hardly implemented by those having the responsibility of doing so. It remains mere plans. This is one of the reasons why the key actors, especially the helmsmen of the parasatals in the Ministry of Transportation often use a greater part of their tenure to inundate the public with what they intend to achieve instead of hitting the ground running on the execution of the content of the port master plan. These helmsmen who are political appointees of any government in power at the centre never fail to use every avenue to tell stakeholders of their fresh intentions as if prior to their appointment nothing was done by their predecessors. Most often, they make it look as if they are reinventing the wheel. This is why there are many abandoned projects, policies and programmes across the country. No one cares to continue from where his or her predecessor stops no matter how laudable the initiative is. They are not interested in the Nigerian project. Whether the Nigeria project succeeds or fails is of no interest to them. What is paramount to them is how they make money for themselves, families and cronies. In public places, they say the right words but deep down inside them, it is a different ball game entirely. Except for a very few instances, that has been the lot of Nigeria, nay Nigerians over the years. Their personal interest and ego will not allow them to do the needful. It should not be so if actually Nigeria, Nigerians want to make a headway in the harnessing of the vast potentials in the maritime industry which have remained largely untapped over the years.

In order to make a success of the port executive order issued recently by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the NPA Managing Director must not only find the port master plan but also make it public. Against the backdrop that she is still learning on the job, she must make it public so that stakeholders can make inputs on its strict implementation. Going ahead with newspapers advertisements on calls for expression of interests (EOI) on certain projects envisaged by the Federal Government and the NPA in particular without the port master plan is certainly not the way to go. As at press time, no one was ready to speak publicly on the matter at NPA House, the corporate headquarters of the authority at Marina, Lagos. No one knows what informed NPA decision to publish the calls for the EOI on these projects. The EOI for Koko Port, Delta State in particular raises a lot of questions. The EOI for the provision of Transaction Advisory Services for the Concession of Koko Port Delta State makes it look as if it is a priority project vis-a-vis other ports and facilities begging and waiting for NPA attention over the years. What happens to the other EOIs submitted to the management of NPA before and after Usman’s appointment? What makes Koko Port a priority that is not applicable to the other EOIs, projects and initiatives that are gathering layers of dust in the shelves of key officials of NPA? What stage has the other EOIs reached? Is the authority longer interested in them and if yes, why? We cannot make steady progress as a nation when we are not transparent in policy initiatives and implementation. After all, the President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration promised “change” and this change must be seen reflecting in the way and manner it carries out its set goals and objectives. This is the crux of the matter.