Since 2016, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala-Usman has enhanced regional trade integration and boosted the agency’s revenue by more than 84 per cent, making it the highest generated revenue by an authority in Nigeria in the past five years.
The core of Bala-Usman’s tenure is anchored on NPA’s effort to secure its position as the continent’s first port of call. In a recent interview with Forbes Africa in view of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, she stated that the essence of NPA is to make Nigerian seaports the preferred destination in the West and Central Africa sub-region, as well as all of Africa.
According to the managing director, “It is common knowledge that one of the key infrastructure gaps we have is the absence of a deep-sea port which is over 60 meters in depth. The Lekki deep-sea port, which is currently under construction, is being financed by the private sector, with NPA having a minority 5% shareholding. These are the types of investment we seek in terms of shareholding in order to make sure projects are actualised.”
On the significance of developing strong economic ties with other countries and institutions across the globe, Bala Usman noted that the NPA was putting systems and institutions in place to promote cross-border integration. “We are working on ISO certifications and developing international standard operating procedures that can work in a global village”, she added.
In the area of providing a safe maritime space for both local and international businesses, Bala-Usman highlighted the NPA’s engagement with the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to provide security around the ports.
“We seek to partner and interface with these organisations by providing linkages with our infrastructure. We have a command control centre that is deployed within our channels which gives us the ability to see all vessels in our maritime domain while providing the necessary security monitoring. We share that platform with the Navy because they have an existing structure which covers beyond the exclusive economic zone”, she confirmed.
On the NPA’s contributions to Nigeria’s socio-economic growth, Bala-Usman stressed the agency’s efforts to prioritise exportation of solid minerals and agriculture.
She said: “We have put systems in place to facilitate seamless exportation of our local products, such as dedicated export terminals and priority desks for those exports. In areas where we have congestion, we always prioritise cargo export in order to support the export industry. And because the volume of cargo transiting our ports is linked to our revenue and social economic growth, it is an integral to promoting the growth of our economy.”
Nigerian port users can look into the future with some optimism as Bala-Usman’s projections and future plans for the port industry include the development of two to three deep sea ports.
In her words, “That is what would enable us to become competitive within the sub-region. We also want an electronic automation and would like to secure the Gulf of Guinea.