Orders reversal of unacceptable practices
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
After what looked like an interim blackout or cloudy visibility, the acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko has stepped out from the maze of confusion that temporarily enveloped the industry, over the gusty atmosphere that greeted the suspension of Ms. Hadiza Usman.
Putting out the right foot first, Bello-Koko began by calling for immediate reversal of some of the traditional practices known to have bogged down ports growth, optimal productivity and threads of unacceptable financial frameworks woven around service delivery system by operators and players.
An insider with cognate technical expertise, the acting NPA boss has also opened his office for productive technical engagement in the area of critical synergy and technological cooperation, required to align the port industry with modern day economic tools and operational dynamics.
On his maiden visit to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Bello-Koko expressed concerns about the ports poor access roads, exemplified in the traffic knot between Mile 2 and Tin Can Port, exacerbated by the endless ongoing road expansion and truck parking bay construction.
In particular, he harped on the need to strengthen enforcement of traffic laws along the Apapa and Tin Can Ports roads, and informed the governor that he has been with complaints of extortions from truckers by security operatives, demanding money from drivers before accessing the Ports.
He described the ugly practice as a major disincentive to the smooth implementation of the electronic truck call-up system (ETO). Based on intelligence, Bello-Koko lamented that no less than thirty “toll-points” have sprung up around the Apapa and Tin Can Port, where bribes are demanded and collected fro hapless truckers.
He said “One of the complaints of the truckers has to do with extortion by security operatives, the Army, the Police, the Nigerian Navy and even NPA Security staff. This is one of the areas we require the intervention of Government, in this case the Lagos State Government.
“We at the NPA have resolved to take the right punitive measures against any of our staff involved in this, we have moved some of them out of Port locations, and we will do further reviews, whoever is found involved, would be appropriately sanctioned.”
He had earlier visited the area for an on-the-spot assessment of the gridlock, and had appealed to the construction company and other relevant stakeholders for early completion of the road project, and trucks parking. He told Governor Sanwo-Olu:
“The situation now is that trucks going to Tin Can are now following the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it would be seen as if you are doing nothing.”
“NPA has reached out to the Federal Ministry of Works, we have been speaking with the Director of Works in the State, and we have asked that they should provide some palliatives around Sunrise Bus-stop.”
“We were made to understand that the contract for that section of the road has just been awarded, but because of the rains, work has been delayed. There is need for that part of the road to be graded so that the Tin-Can Port corridor would begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic”, he had said.
After his closed meeting with the Lagos State Governor at the Lagos House Marina, the acting NPA boss talked about some of things they discussed, which centred largely on the ports poor access roads and its concomitant traffic gridlock.
He said, “The situation now is that trucks going to Tin Can are now following the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it would be seen as if you are doing nothing.
“NPA has reached out to the Federal Ministry of Works, we have been speaking with the Director of Works in the State, and we have asked that they should provide some palliatives around Sunrise Bus-stop. We were made to understand that the contract for that section of the road has just been awarded, but because of the rains, work has been delayed. There is need for that part of the road to be graded so that the Tin-Can Port corridor would begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic”, he said.
On menace of branded articulated trucks, he said, “We have stakeholders like Dangote and others who have factories within the Port and each of them may need to bring in about 300 trucks daily, but it has to be done in such a way that their operations does not affect the need of other Port users to send in their trucks or exporters to send in and bring their trucks out freely.”
Bello said he his optimistic that the renewed collaboration with the Lagos State Government would bring an end to the perennial gridlock within and around the Apapa port and tank farms district.
“Mr. Governor has given his commitments to further engage the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, he has also directed the CEO of LASTMA and his Special Assistants, who all have given their commitments, that further action would be taken to keep the Port roads free of congestion.”
“ It will be a 24 hour operations, we rely on the Lagos State Government on enforcement as it affects traffic along the Port access roads, His Excellency has given us his commitment to that effect and for immediate actions to be taken”, he said.
Bello-Koko also recently took a swipe at Port and Terminal Operators (Nig) Limited (PTOL), for arbitrarily raising its handling charges without recourse to dialogue of notification. Represented by NPA’s General Manager (Monitoring and Regulatory Service), Mrs. Ugo Madubuike, at a joint meeting of the NPA and Nigerian Shippers’ Council and PTOL, Bello-Koko in a joint statement said the increase in charges was in contradiction of the Contractual Agreement.
“The lessee shall not make any increase in the operation rate unless agreed to in writing by the parties and any required persons or governmental authority has been obtained”, NPA and NSC said.
Also recently, the NPA boss endorsed a technical and financial assistance dialogue for the re-engineering and modernization of the country’s ports weak and aged infrastructure, assuring of his readiness to raise the bar on overall efficiency and productivity, through enhanced ports infrastructural development.
Giving the pledge during the visit of Agence Française de Development (AFD) and the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Bello-Koko reportedly told his guests that the Authority under his watch is willing to support the retooling and upgrade of our ports infrastructure to world class status. AFD is a public sector funding agency promoted by the French Government.
Instructively, the acting NPA boss situated his position to collaborate with development partners like AFD, given the fact that the development partners credit support does not require sovereign guarantee, and are believed to come with flexible moratorium and repayment plans.
He commended the high powered delegation led by David Margonsztern for AFD, and Abimbola Akinajo for LAMATA, assuring them that the Authority would continue to embrace partnerships that would position the nation’s port system on the path of sustainable growth.
He has since settling down, identified fault lines in the ports traffic management system, expressed reservations about its rent seeking nature, compromises and double standards detrimental to the objective of surmounting the traffic perennial logjam.
He was also unequivocal in condemning ports operators’ role in the whole saga, and threatened to take decisive action over identified future shoddy actions inimical to smooth ports operations and shipping activities.
Bello-Koko has also warned operators of the NPA Electronic Truck Call-up System codenamed ETO, to shape up or ship out; even as the continued retainership of Messrs Truck Transit Park Limited (TTPL), since the NPA’s boss apparent thunder clap warning over the operators electronic call-up system epileptic performances, was given.
Owing to his commitment to walk his talk, the management of TTPL assured Bello-Koko of improvement as it informed the NPA boss of the recent sack of staff members of TTPL, supposedly adjudged guilty of counterproductive efforts in meeting the Authority objective of bringing sanity to bear along the ports access roads, necessitating their appointment.
It will be recalled that Bello-Koko had during his on-the-spots assessment tour of operational areas, ongoing road construction and traffic managers at the traffic gridlock epicenter, given those concerned June 2021 ending ultimatum, to show considerable improvement in the deployment of the essential assets and human resources.