LAGOS, OCTOBER 27, 2016 – In line with best global practice, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has directed all its stakeholders and port concessionaires to henceforth pay their fees in dollars.The NPA Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Usman, gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting on Wednesday night in Port Harcourt.
She spoke against the backdrop of complaints of scarcity and high cost of foreign exchange.
According to her, the surcharge in U.S. dollars is beyond NPA.
“On our side, we have obligations in dollars. Payment should be made in dollars according to the concession agreement,” Usman said.
She said that the Federal Ministry of Transportation, NPA and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would hold a meeting on Thursday (today) on the issue of payments in foreign exchange.
Usman said it was the desire of the management to ensure that all sorts of indebtedness were paid, adding that the management would be vigorous in the recovery of all debts.
“We need to review the port concession agreements, and after reconciliation, some monies would be paid, while the operators should embark on development plans,’’ she said.
Usman assured stakeholders that procurement of pilot cutters and tug boats would be accommodated in the 2017 budget.
“We need to provide more patrol boats. We need to jointly work together to address issues.
“There are areas where you as stakeholders can partner with the regulators on how to improve on your operations.
“We are looking at our dredging programmes to ensure that the right drafts are provided.
“We will see what can be done on the 24-hour pilotage in Eastern Ports as in other ports,’’ the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes Usman as saying.
She said that NPA had been discussing with the Federal Ministry of Transportation to include the completion of the Rivers Port rail project in the 2017 budget.
The NPA chief said that the management was also working toward a billing process to avoid payment for any service not rendered.
“We are looking at all our dredging programmes in order to ensure that the right draft is provided,” Usman said.
Also, the Executive Director, Finance, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, said that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, was worried about the huge debts not collected by NPA, because of the inability to source for dollars.
“There is a five per cent penalty for late payment and we would start applying it,’’ NAN quotes Bello-Koko as saying.
In his remarks, the Executive Director, Engineering, Technical Services, Prof. Idris Abubakar, said that the management was trying to carry out holistic survey of all channels as well as optimisation of the dredging activities.
“There is need for capital dredging, and at any point in time, NPA can look at the report to know which channel to be dredged, based on revenue generated,’’ Abubakar said.
Contributing, the Customs Zonal Coordinator, Zone `C’, Assistant Comptroller-General Azarema Abdulkadir, suggested the dredging of Rivers Port to allow bigger ships to sail in.
Abdulkadir said, ”Ships with tonnage above 45,000 tonnes cannot not berth in Port Harcourt Port.
“Smaller ships will go and shed some volumes so many times, before the bigger ship is exhausted.
“If the port is dredged, big ships will come in direct,’’ the Customs chief said.
He said the service would partner with other government agencies in implementing the National Single Window, adding that preparations on this had reached advanced stages.
Representatives of Intels Nigeria Ltd., at the meeting, said that government and the private sector should improve the lot of the maritime sector in dredging and other areas.
They said that Intels had contributed N1 billion to the rehabilitation of Onne-Port Harcourt Road.
According to the officials, the state government is still asking for more and Intels is working toward making another contribution.
Also a shipping agent, Mr Babalola James, said that he looked forward to seeing an improvement in the services of NPA.
“We are looking forward to a stoppage in diversion of goods.
“Services not rendered by NPA and revenue collected by NPA should be refunded.
Another shipping agent, Mr Abdullahi Lasisi, pleaded with NPA to bring up the 24-hour pilotage; the way it is in Lagos.