By Eromosele Abiodun
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, has stated that the authority is commitment to the optimal utilisation of the eastern ports in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s Ease of Doing Business policy.
She made this known when members of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee on Ports and Habours paid her a working visit in Lagos.
The NPA boss added that the management of the NPA was working with all relevant stakeholders towards tackling the challenges that hamper patronage of the ports.
She enumerated issues that discourage vessel owners from patronising the eastern ports to include: the level of insecurity on the waterways, shallow depths which hinder the movement of big vessels as well as the problems of poor access roads and rail linkages to ports in these areas.
On the issues of draught limitations, Bala-Usman, explained that following the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council last year, dredging works have been completed on moving the Warri channel draft to 7.5m while consultants have been engaged to advise on level of investments needed to improve the infrastructural capacity of the port in Port Harcourt.
While noting that the Onne Ports currently function at full capacity, the MD informed the meeting that the NPA has granted all requisite approvals for the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port for which development has started. She said further that the authority was awaiting response from the promoters of the Badagry Deep Sea Port to enable conclusion on the final outline business case for the project.
She pointed out that the maritime industry was becoming more increasingly disposed to patronising deep sea ports which allows for big vessels and aid economies of scales. She clarified that Nigeria would only assure its future market share in the industry with the development of deep sea ports.
On security, she explained that the NPA is purchasing patrol boats and working with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Port Police Command to combat crimes on the nation’s waterways and assured that progress was being made on this front.
Concerning Port access roads nationwide, Bala-Usman explained that the NPA has drawn a basket of such roads across the country and written to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing about the need to prioritise the rehabilitation of these roads.
She noted that the ministry has commenced implementation of this process with the recent award of the construction of Ikom Bridge, which is a key road connecting Cross River State to the North Eastern part of the country and expressed optimism that these steps would provide better linkages to the hinterland and attract more business to the Eastern Ports.
Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. BubaYakub had earlier explained that the committee was on a fact finding mission on reasons why the eastern ports were not working as optimally as the western ports and how much that affects national development.
Yakub noted that this assignment would take his committee round all the ports and at the end of the day, generate a blueprint that would improve patronage at the eastern ports and prevent agitations from host communities.