Hadiza Bala-Usman: We Have Entrenched Transparency  and Accountability at NPA

Hadiza Bala-Usman:

With the federal government looking to generate more revenue from the ports, a key government agency, the Nigerian Ports Authority, was entrusted to Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman who at the time promised to make NPA a model agency. After three years in the saddle, Usman spoke exclusively to Eromosele Abiodun on how she has turned the NPA around and entrenched transparency and accountability, and her crusade against entrenched interests working against NPA

You have been NPA’s managing director for three years. When you were appointed, some critics were not convinced that you possessed the required skills and experience to pilot the parastatal’s affairs. Can you say you have proved the critics wrong?

I think it is not my place to say that. I think I would encourage the stakeholders to speak about what they have seen within the last three years. What it is that has been different about Nigerian port. So I think I should not be the one to speak to that regard. I’ll want other people to comment. But as I have said, I think what is important is for you to take your job seriously. There is nothing to getting an appointment. It is more about being able to deliver on your mandate – that’s what makes the difference.

Being appointed as the managing director is just one of the things, but being able to do the heavy lifting required to reform an institution like this or any institution for that matter is what is important.

What can you say have been your achievements?

My achievements, I think, is for me to entrench transparency and accountability in our procedures. Demystify governance and provide stakeholders with an in-road to understand what it is that we do. Because understanding your operation and activities literally takes away that control that the government likes to impose on stakeholders. Also, you look to ensure full compliance on regulations and third-party contractors that may not have been complying with regulations or contractual obligations. So we have been enforcing that.  For example, the audit; we inherited a full backlog of audited financial statements, and we within the three years, have been able to clear up the entire backlog. We have our current audit for 2018 currently being done, and I would say, this is the first time that the Nigerian Port Authority is catching up on its audit.

In other areas, I would speak to our contributions to the Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF). When we inherited it, we had a contribution of about N18 billion, but we remitted N30 billion in 2017, N30 billion in 2018. These are clear differentials since my joining Nigerian ports. If you look at an N18-billion contribution to CRF, and then a N30-billion contribution, you can see that there is a huge difference.

What has been your toughest moment on the job?

Well, the tough moments I would say were when I was being put on the spot by political actors, demanding or trying to force me to compromise my position regarding compliance. So that has been a challenge, but we have been able to sort of overcome that with the support of the President.

Mr. President has been very supportive of the reforms we have done in the NPA. I always would say, having a leader that does not interfere in getting you to compromise your position is an integral part of the success of any head of government agency.

How were you able to achieve an increase in revenue?

I think it’s being prudent management of resources, blocking revenue leakages, ensuring that Nigerian ports demands for payments from any third-party contractor, or any contractual relationship that requires remittance. So these are some of the things we have put in place. We are also actively observing our debt collections. We have put targets for our port managers to ensure they collect the debts that are owed to Nigerian ports in each of the port locations.

Why does it still take so long to clear goods at the ports?

I will just speak to the NPA’s role and our key performance indicators (KPIs). A lot of instances we are not able to meet our KPI’s because other agencies of government are involved. So for every Nigerian, if your cargo comes to a port, what you believe is that if your cargo doesn’t get to your warehouse the NPA is the first thing that comes to your mind. You do not sit to really think through on who is actually responsible for the delay. The role of the Nigerian ports is to ensure that the vessels coming are able to navigate through the channels and come on the berth, and the cargos are offloaded efficiently from the vessels unto the terminal.

So once your cargo is inside the terminal, Nigerian Ports have no involvement with the movement of your cargo from the terminal to your warehouse. So at that point, the agencies of government that are required to carry out inspection now come into play. That is led by the Nigerian customs. It is the lead agency that does an inspection of cargo with other agencies of government.

And as you are aware, we do not have scanners in our port locations, cargos are examined physically. It is a 100 percent physical examination of all cargos that comes into the country. So you can imagine the time that takes and how efficient that would be, assuming you were required to inspect 5000 containers. How efficient will that process be? There is a need for the deployment of scanners, which is what makes our cargo clearing time-consuming. Two, is also the need to deploy a single window, which has all agencies of government; Nigerian customs, and other stakeholders, all within an IT portal so that you can easily log in and do whatever transaction you want to do, which doesn’t require your physical presence.

Our neighboring ports have this. That makes things easy. Once you scan a container or a cargo, the content are automatically sent to every agency that requires that. So once those agencies see that there is a need for them to pull out a cargo for further inspection, they would do so. If there is a need for them to do any other things as required, they would do that.

The next leg is a connection to the hinterland.  We operate a port where all the cargos are evacuated by road. This year we have had 34 million gross registered tonnages of cargo that have come into Nigeria from January to August that whole volume would go on road. Some, maybe less than five percent of it would go on the rail, so that would immediately translate into congestion because there is no intermodal. Intermodal transportation is the need to clear your cargos using rails, inland waterways, or liquid bulk for such cargo.

So intermodal transportation is key and that is what we are working with the Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Railway; on installing rail lines right inside the port locations, right to the key side.

Hitherto, we have, but they are very marginal, there are no carriages, we do not see the required numbers of wagons to pick up the cargos. So that is what is available. So, one we need to have strengthened intermodal transportation for cargo evacuation, two is having scanners; three is having single windows. These are the three items that we need to drastically improve on to make our ports competitive.

And these activities do not domicile with the NPA.  For example, the scanners are procured by the Nigerian customs. The single windows deployment is led by the Nigerian customs. The deployment of intermodal transportation, for example, rail, involves the ministry of transportation, the Nigerian railway cooperation; road network such as needed in exiting the port is the obligation of the Federal Ministry of Works. And in addition, is also the need to have trailer parks and holding bays for the trucks coming into the ports. This is also something that the Lagos state government; the host state of the ports, is required to provide.

But for us, what we are doing is deploying an electronic call-up. So we need to have a call-up system that we can use to call up the truck from the holding bay. So we are ready with our call up. We are partnering with the Lagos state government and Ogun state government, to have trailer parks from Ogun state, whereby if a truck is coming, it parks first of all in Ogun state, and then it moves from there to Lagos state. Then it would be called upon to Lilly-pond in Ijora; which is our own terminal right at the mouth of the port, and then you can proceed if you are going to the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa. And if you are going to Tincan Island, you would now transit through the Tincan Island trailer park.

This is the vision of what we are working with as related to traffic congestion in Apapa, but we need to partner with these state governments to ensure that they provide the land, and then we have the private sectors construct the parks, and then deploy effectively.

As part of your efforts to increase the government’s revenue, some contracts were terminated. An example is the INTELS Nigeria pilotage contract. How much in dollar terms have you saved for the federal government through this crusade? 

What we had thought to do was to ensure compliance of payment to Treasury Single Account (TSA). So they used to collect, and collect themselves and then declare to us what it is they collect. So now, they pay into the TSA. There hasn’t been full compliance to that agreement by Intels, we are still reconciling some of the numbers because they are still dragging their feet with compliance. We have issued them a notice of termination in the last few months, to show them that we would terminate because of your non-compliance. We are discussing with them on reconciliation they have committed to making the payments, and we have withdrawn our notice of termination to Intels in view of the fact that they are complying with making the payments.

But in totality, some of the issues that we have seen is that the government is been charged 28 percent for collection. And we feel that it is very high. The normal rate that is acceptable is usually within the region of 10 to 15 percent for the collection of pilotage. So this particular service, they used to collect revenues on behalf of the federal government, which they used to collect into their coffers but are now paying into the TSA. But most important, they are charging us 28 percent, which is completely on the high side. Their contract is coming to an end in August 2020, so we are going to initiate a Public Tender Process (PTP) of engaging another service provider that will give the government a very competitive rate, as opposed to what has existed with Intels.

When you came in you met the Calabar dredging scandal and resolved to get to the root of the matter. Where are we on that matter now? Has anyone been prosecuted?

We are in court with them, no one has been prosecuted, and we are pursuing it. We have made a report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to the recently dissolved panel by Mr. President, on the need to recover that amount of money. We are in the process of recovering it; we have done our part by giving all the necessary information. So we look forward to the agencies of government doing what is required.

Early this month, Calabar witnessed a vessel that has come in for the first time in 13 years. This shows that the volumes of dredging work that is being claimed to be done, we need not invest that amount, we can still attract vessels that do not have those levels of the draft and bring them in.

We have that container vessel, and we also had a flat bottom vessel that had come early 2018, that had come in with bulk cargo. So, we believe that the Calabar channel as it is, is long, it’s also a huge cost; we are having N50 billion cost of dredging it. And we think it’s not cost-effective to invest that kind of money when you do the cost-benefit analysis and look at the revenue that needs to come in. In totality, what we need to do as a country is to work towards having deep seaports. The deep seaports are the future. They are ports that are 17, 18 meters draft. And that is where you need to be. So, why would you invest to dredge a channel to 10 meters, when the world channels are been built to 17 meters draft. So we should focus on getting deep-sea ports in the country, and those other ports could be used for other activities; probably for fishing or smaller vessels that come in. So, that investment cannot be justified when the future is 17 meters. As I said, we are making concessions, we made a concession in the reduction of tariffs for Calabar port, for Warri port, and Port Harcourt, to encourage vessel owners to come. We are going to do another review to see how many vessels that we have attracted, we are looking at, maybe doing another additional reduction in dues in the eastern ports, just to stimulate activities and attract cargo to that location.

Why is it so difficult for Nigeria to get its acts together, unlike neighboring countries that are far ahead of us with modern ports with 17 or 18 meters draft?

I think it has to do with the commitment to drive some of these initiatives and also, the understanding that we are one government, and agencies of government need to work together with a common vision and a common goal. For example, the single window has been long drawn out. We started this discussion when I was appointed in 2016, and this is 2019, we are still not able to gain much traction. Because, other agencies of government believe that there is no need for that, and there is a whole back and forth on it. So we need strengthened collaboration and political will to drive some of these reforms.

For example, customs believe that they have a single window. They believe that the IT platforms that they have currently suffice for a single window. But, for trade facilitation; and we have clear stipulations, that single windows where everyone is incorporated is the trade facilitation tool required. So it’s for customs to agree and accept that the platform they have, is a platform that is useful for solely their operations. They need to build on it. A single window is ahead of what they have, and then we can all work together.

Then as related to deep seaports where we have better infrastructure, some of the investments required private sector investment, and in certain instances, you have companies that come, and they get the licences or approval of building a deep seaport, but they don’t have the money.

So, they go round trying to sell the approval as it were. For example, Dubai Port World had come into Nigeria and we’re keen to have a port within the western areas. But what they say is that they don’t want to buy from anybody, they want to be given directly.

So you know, there are some of these third party contractors that get approval but were not able to build. So as a result, they have spent years using that approval in trying to get financing. And in certain instances, people would say, ‘I am DP World, I qualify to do this, and have this bid directly by myself.’ So in terms of infrastructure, these are some of the things that prevent us from reaching some of those new grounds, for example, the Green Field Project. As it relates to rehabilitation, over the years, I think we have not invested in the tune that is supposed to strengthen the infrastructure in the port.

Lekki and Badagry deep seaports projects have been in the works for some time. What’s the update?

Lekki deep seaport is to sign up for financial closure on October 21, 2019, so that they could have a debt financing structure, to enable the project to move forward. They have commenced building the breakwater, and we believe that upon concluding in the financial closure, the first phase of the port would be concluded in two years. So this is something that has been on the table for a very long time. Finally, I want us to look forward to October 21, where we would see that financial closure being closed and completed.

As it relates to Badagry, we have written to them, inviting them for meetings and discussions. Some of the contents of the outlined business case have a government role in it, which we have said, you can’t take on the responsibilities of the government and put it as yours. We have made that clear to them. We are also discussing with the ministry to give them a deadline with which we can team up all of these things, and start-up the complete outline business case, so that the project can move on.

Recently, the NPA decommissioned the BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, operator of terminal B, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Why?

BUA had a concession that it signed on with the NPA. It is part of the concession in 2006. Part of the agreement was that they were required to build and rehabilitate berth within the terminal, and they were required to do that within 90 days. BUA did not embark on that reconstruction for 10 years. This is an issue from 90 days to 10 years. In February 2016, Nigerian ports issued BUA with a notice of default. Meaning that they have defaulted on the rehabilitation of the berth. In February again, they wrote them two letters. Why I am referencing that is because then, I wasn’t the managing director of the NPA, I started work in July. So in July, I inherited those notices of default that had been issued to BUA, we now further issued them another notice of default in July. And we gave them four months with which they should refer back to us so that they can start the reconstruction. By November 2016, BUA was not forthcoming, then we issued them a notice of termination. Terminating them for default on not doing the reconstruction. And they then took us to court and got an injunction which prevented us from taking over. And they continued to utilize and operate the terminal for that period.

Between November 2016, and May 2018, they were operating the terminal and then they wrote to us that the berths were at a very deplorable state and that they were notifying us about the situation. And we felt that you cannot operate a berth that is collapsing in such deplorable state as they themselves described, so we now issued them a decommission notice. Because health and safety are key, you can’t operate a terminal that you yourself have said is at the point of collapse.

And with that, BUA now served us with a notice of contempt of court, which I found interesting. So within the period of 18 months when you were using that terminal, nobody ever interfered with your work, nobody said stop, you were the one that wrote to us to say you were in a deplorable state and that of a safety hazard. And as a responsible regulator, we had to take action and de-commission it.

Nigerians should know also that BUA is not the only operator at the Port Harcourt Port, there is PTOL, etc. So we knew that the keys were weakening, so we asked that a conditional survey be done and I will share the report with you. BUA is twisting the facts that our action is something deliberately targeted at them or trying to frustrate their business. So if you have been a responsible business entity that was required to reconstruct a berth in 90 days and you didn’t do it in 10 years, where does the issue of being targeted come in? Some of the claims that BUA has been making is that the NPA did not meet its own obligations, for example, we did not dredge. Within the period of not dredging, BUA, even the period of their court injunction, brought in 117 vessels within the period of the low draft, and poor infrastructure.

They also referenced that there were insecurity at the berth, which resulted in certain activities; And that some of the wires and steel for construction were stolen, even that was done in 2014. They took over in 2006, and you did nothing until 2014, that’s eight years. So at the point when you took over, you were required to do it in 90 days, eight years later that was when there was the first incident of stealing of goods.

Indeed, if they had done that rehabilitation, those steels would not be exposed in the way that would allow anybody to even steal them. So, the so-called insecurity that they claim resulted in the inactivity is a function of they not doing what they were supposed to have done in 90 days. From the year 2006 to eight years later, imagine the state it would be. In the year 2006, it was in a bad state, eight years later of cause it would worsen, and the steel would be exposed in such a way that would allow that.

Even the referencing of the fact that there was vandalisation in the berth is because you didn’t do what you are supposed to do in 90 days, that’s why, eight years later, the steel were exposed and it resulted in these items to being stolen.

I find it curious as to where BUA is going with this idea that it is being targeted. Nobody is targeting anyone. And when they reference the fact that, you have certain projects that are ongoing, we are keen to have responsible entities that adhere to contractual obligations. There are clear contractual obligations violations that you have done; do we look away from it, just because you feel that you are above the law? No business person is above the law, you must comply.

I find the idea of taking your non-compliance to the media domain, to distract people from the fact that you’re not complying, and to attribute personal issues to your noncompliance sad and pathetic. And it’s a desperate attempt by BUA to cover up their non-compliance to contractual obligations. I always want to state here that, I would not be intimidated or bullied by anybody that thinks he can go and buy 10 pages of an advertorial in every newspaper. And I say, if BUA wants to sustain that, they can keep doing it until the end of the year or forever, because the NPA would not be intimidated or bullied by anyone because he feels he has the capacity to mobilize media and create a sense of victimization, trying to make it look like you are the victim when we all know you are not a victim. So if you had done what you were responsibly required to do within 90 days, now in 2019, which is 12 years later, we would not be having this discussion; 90 days and 12 years are not the same.  So I take exception to such blackmail or intimidation on the pages of the newspapers.

Where are you now with BUA?

Well, we are in court.

We have seen astonishing revenue generation and contribution to the federation account in the region of N300 billion in two months and wondered where all that came from. Can you speak to this?

I was wondering where that figure came from actually. What we have from January to August is a N177-billion that we have been the revenues that we generated. And just to say that we have an increase in the volumes of traffic that has come to the port from this quarter when you compare it to the last quarter. We have a 10 percent increase in volumes that have been coming to the ports. We believe that, in spite of the economic situation in the country, the ports are still very active.  Meaning that there is still the utilization of items that are been imported into the country. 2019 would be quite a good year for us. We would have a marginal increase in our revenues, which would also translate into an increase in the contribution we add to the CRF. I would also like us to look at the numbers at the end of the year. I would like to share those data with you because, in several instances, I always referenced that the items that are taken to neighboring countries are items that are banned in Nigeria or have a high cost of the tariff. So that is why they take it outside.

So, that diversion of cargo is a function of the fact that you can’t smuggle through the seaports. With the level of outcry as relates to the ban on land borders, we should see a huge increase in the volumes of the cargos that comes to the seaports, but we have not seen the huge increase.

Because those items, are actually items that are banned in Nigeria. So you cannot see them coming into the seaports, you cannot see that increase. So it’s a function of those items that have high tariffs, for example, the automobiles; people would rather go buy them in neighbouring countries and smuggle them into Nigeria.

So either way, Nigeria doesn’t make the revenue from them. Both in terms of customs duty and in terms of port charges. So at the end of this year, if all cut out where there is no importation through the land borders, then we should do a proper assessment to determine if these so-called revenues that are said to be so diverted. Are they revenues that can legally come into Nigeria? The items are mainly rice and automobile and other items that have high tariffs. When they come into our country that way, we have not benefitted from duty, not benefitted from Port charges, and our own local industries also have been destroyed by those lower-cost items that have been smuggled in. So, it is like a double whammy for the country. You didn’t make any benefits and also your own local homegrown has not benefitted. So at the end of the year, I would share those data with you so you can have a better understanding of the whole cargo diversion thing; where is it, considering no item is been brought through the land borders.

The port’s concession review has been on for some time, when can we see the final report?

Seven of our terminal operators have agreed to the supplemental agreement, which we would take to the Federal Ministry of Transport, for onward review by the Ministry of Justice. Seven of them have concluded on the supplemental. But one of the important things that we really have put in is sanctioning and the penalty for both sides. For example, for NPA, if we do not meet up with our obligation on dredging, or on certain deployments, there are measures that we would automatically be sanctioned, so it takes away subjectivity. Hitherto there wasn’t any measure of sanctioning on both sides. Before now there was no clarity as to what it is that would be done to both sides. We had certain instances, maybe a random extension of tenures, for certain terminals without it being the same thing across the board. So if we don’t for example dredge, or don’t provide marine services, or other of our obligations, there would be clear sanctions.

And for the terminal operators, if they also did not provide the level of equipment we require, if they don’t do their development plans as stipulated, there would be clear sanctions. And that takes away any ambiguity and subjectivity by the head of the NPA. As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the things I want to entrench is accountability and transparency, when you remove subjectivity. As the CEO now, you cannot decide to extend a terminal for two years, because we didn’t dredge. No, that thing is applicable to every terminal that is in that location that we didn’t provide the dredging service to. So you as the CEO do not now have the flexibility to make subjective decisions on compliance and non-compliance. And you can’t single out anyone and give him any favoured treatment. It must be the same thing, across the board for everybody. So this is what we have integrated.

We have got support from the World Bank, they engaged technical adviser to provide us with best practices on what needs to be done in terms of review of concession agreements and clarity on obligations on both sides. And also have a clear sanction mechanism that addresses non-compliance for both government and investors.

In certain instances, you are given a terminal, and the government still has some part of it not handed over to you. So clearly, your lease fee cannot cover that whole side because you are not making commercial use of it. So in those instances, we have directed that any incumbent era, we remove it from your lease, until when the government makes it available for your commercial use before it can be added for completion of your lease fee.

These are some of the things that created a lot of challenges during the historic concession agreement, which we are addressing. So hopefully, by first quarter 2020, we would have all the concession agreements completely reviewed and the supplemental agreed between both parties to enable us to sign on the supplemental agreement. And all these are parts of the reforms to make the port effective.

When you compare the revenue coming from the port and the state of port access roads, it beats one’s imagination as to why the roads are still the way they are. What exactly are you going to do about it?

Access roads remain under the Federal Ministry of Works. We have discussed with the ministry of works several times, on prioritising these roads, because they are revenue earners.

As you are aware, they awarded the Tincan Island, Apapa-Oworosoki road, I think we need to look at it and determine where we are in that reconstruction. I think that is a huge lifesaver for us, but we want to know how far they have gone, what they have been able to achieve within the period when we flagged off to date so that we can see how far we have gone.

For example, Onne Port, the road linking Onne Port is under the Ministry of Niger Delta. In fact, I signed up a letter today to the minister of Niger Delta (ministry), drawing his attention on the need to rehabilitate that road. I think it’s either the government needs to decide based on port development levy. We can just direct those resources for the port access road. Because that amount of money is a levy that is called seven percent port development levy.

But now, the federal government is giving it up. Shippers’ council has a portion, all other agencies of government are being given that amount. And one of the things I question is, any agency of government that does not have direct involvement in ports infrastructure development should not benefit from that seven percent port development levy, because it is meant to build and develop the port.

So such a levy could be used for port assess road. These are some of the ideas that we have. If the federal government for example says, I have a shortage in revenue for road, then that seven percent port development levy should now be used specifically for the reconstruction of roads leading to the port, because, every decision on not being able to assess your port, then your port becomes a challenge. It is quiet and embarrassment and continues to be if we do not take decisive action on ensuring that we address them.

As of today, we still have cases of stealing at the ports and that is worrying. Whose responsibility it is to check this?

We have not heard of stealing inside the ports for some time now. Some of the things we have heard are on the berth, we have persons coming in when the vessels have berthed and trying to get on board the vessels and follow it and stow away. So we have incidents of stowaways, where we actively working with the Nigeria Police Force. Recently, I approved the establishment of additional patrol platforms within the Lagos area, so that the marine police could be there to prevent that.

So we have those vandals that come when a vessel has when berthed to try to vandalize certain things or try to get on board and stow away, to be taken with the vessel when they leave the country. So, that is an incident we have, and we are working with the marine police to see how we can reduce that to a minimum.

How do you manage pressure from external interference, especially politicians looking for contracts?

I think people have got used to the fact that I don’t budge, so they have left me alone I don’t have that pressure to deal with anymore. I dealt with it in my first year here, and what I used to do anytime people come to me is; I’ll say, ‘we have advertised our tender papers, please comply, go to that and bid’.

And they say, oh I am difficult, I am not accessible, I am being stubborn. And after a while, they got used to it. I think once you stand your ground on certain things, people come to just accept it for what it is.

Pressure was huge in my first year, because the NPA was seen as a place where there were slush funds, available to all political machinery, and I refused to do that, I was under a lot of pressure by various arms of government, and after a while, they got used to it, and just stopped. But I have developed a reputation of being too stubborn, too difficult, by refusing to bend. After a while they let me be.  I think people that are getting into political appointments, should stand their ground and maintain that things must be done the right way.

 It is going to be tough for the first year, but they would get used to that and leave you alone and move on to other areas.

Let me quickly speak to this safe anchorage area matter. In the last week, we wrote a letter to the Nigerian Navy, dismantling a safe anchorage area. A safe anchorage area is an area outside the Lagos Port that the Nigerian Navy, with a private company, has defined as an area where they call safe anchorage. Vessels come and berth there. And in that anchored area, there is an amount attributable to it. For every one day a vessel stays there, they charge you $2,500 for day one and $1,500 for subsequent days.

These revenues don’t come to the NPA, we are not aware where the revenues go, and there is an MoU between the private company and the Nigerian Navy. We know legally, the anchorage is under the NPA authority, security on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and elsewhere lies with the Nigerian Navy, and they are required to provide security and for the anchorage at no charge. And as you may know, the NPA procured vessels for the Nigerian Navy to patrol the anchorage. And these three vessels are being used to patrol the same anchorage that is being manned together with a private company. That, we felt translate into a high cost of doing business, because some of the things that increase the cost of doing business in Nigeria are things like this. So when you have a charge for coming to anchor your vessel in a place called safe anchorage, we believe our anchorage should be secured. If there is any necessary support that the Nigerian navy needs to enhance the support, we are willing to provide that, and indeed we have bought vessels for them. But if there is any other thing required we want to work with them and enhance the security of the anchorage. Having a sole designated place, safe anchorage area where monies are being paid, increasing the cost of doing business in Nigeria is something that the NPA has no hand in.

In other words, this is an illegal collection…

Well, the charges are legal because the Nigerian Navy has an MoU with a private company, but the NPA has no involvement in it. And indeed, those vessels are coming to berth in Nigerian ports anchorage. What we know is that the money the navy collects from them doesn’t come to the NPA. We don’t know whether the Nigerian Navy has an arrangement with the private companies. We are not privy to those details.

We just believe that we should do everything we can to reduce the cost of coming to Nigerian ports. And they levy every vessel coming into the Nigerian ports that amount. We feel it is not necessary these vessels coming into our port be charged that kind of additional charges. Already, our ports seem to be more expensive from unofficial charges.

What will you say would be your legacy as NPA MD?

My legacy would be to have strengthened the institution. I believe in strengthening institutions. Leaving behind structures that cannot be abused by a subsequent administration. For example, the review of the concession agreement, taking away subjectivity of subsequent CEOs where everything has been institutionalized. There are clear guidelines and policies, and standard operations position that you cannot violate. So, you can’t come and try to tamper with certain things, where there is clarity on the obligations of both sides.

Does INTELS still collect pilotage fees for NPA?

We have withdrawn the termination notice we issued them. When we issued them the notice, we were in court, and the judge asked us to consider reconciliation out of court. So they gave us up to September 23, to reconcile out of court. During the period of reconciliation, we realized that the cost of arbitration was too high, bearing in mind that the contract was expiring in August 2020, it makes more sense for us to withdraw the notice of termination, and spend this time to reconcile how much is being owed, who is owing what.

And ensure that they remit, and then we advertise for another company to apply for the tender process, as opposed to wasting that much energy, resources and time in court, with no clarity as to the outcome of the court case. So if in the next 10 months we are coming to the end of the contract, it is better for us to see it through, and exit in an easier way, so the government can now work together with EFCC to reclaim any money not remitted at the end of the 10 months.