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Usman’s Efforts at Reducing Corruption, Boosting Revenue At NPA

Usman’s Efforts at Reducing Corruption, Boosting Revenue  At NPABy Shola Fadeyi

 The  current Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) , Hadiza Bala Usman  has justified the confidence reposed in her  by President Muhammadu Buhari , which informed her appointment  as  she continues to implement  reforms that have engendered transparency and accountability into the operations of the seaports and enhance  their revenue  level, says  Shola Fadeyi in this write up.

The appointment of Hadiza Bala Usman as the first female Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA) in less than a  year has indeed paved way for the organization and the seaports in the country to witness reforms, which have gone a long way to sanitise their operations and improve efficiency level.

Thus she has been able to  prove her competence to actualize her mandate with the  way  she has utilized her  educational  background , exploits in  public sector reforms coupled with her intelligence and ability to manage men and materials  to battle sleaze  , boost revenue and  repositioned  NPA  within a very short time of her tenure.

Experience

Usman , a co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls  group  which has fought relentlessly for the release  of the abducted Chibok girls  holds a Masters of Arts in Developmental Studies from the University of Leeds while she  commenced  her carrier   as a research assistant with the Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training in Kaduna.

She later worked at  the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE)  , then   hired by the UNDP for the Federal Capital Transport Authority (FCTA)  as a special assistant to the Minister on project implementation after which she was appointed in  2015 as Chief of Staff of the Kaduna State Governor, before  she emerged as Managing Director of NPA in July 11, 2016.

 

Debt Recovery/Fraud Detection

Her findings through meetings with officials of the organization and tours of NPA facilities   revealed anomalies in operations and outstanding huge debts owed NPA  by concessionaires and other stakeholders of the authority.She had to direct  the concessionaires to be paying as at when due while she has  since set up a committee that has been recovering the debts, which ran into  billions of naira as at 2016.This  has boosted the  authority’s revenue profile .

She later uncovered  a fraud of N11.23 billion committed through a process whereby some commercial banks in collusion with some officials of the authority hid funds collected as revenue in secret accounts instead of remitting same in the NPA’s Treasury Single Account(TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN)

 

A sum of $24.1 million of NPA revenue that should have been deposited  in  the federation account was likewise  found hidden in an account at one bank and another 6 million Euros in separate accounts at two other banks. Another sum of  $5.4 million was secretly moved to TSA accounts in the Central Bank of Nigeria, which  do not belong to the NPA.

 

Improvement of Welfare/ Capacity Building

Knowing full well that the workforce constitutes the wheel of progress of the Authority ,In the area of capacity building she has already partnered  with the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), for effective training  of NPA workforce to boost efficiency at the ports while as it concerns  staff welfare, the NPA Managing Director has ensured prompt and regular payment of salaries and allowances  as well as promotions  of personnel as at when due

 

Compliance with  TSA Policy

As a stickler for fiscal discipline she has ensured that her organization adhered strictly to the implementation of the Treasury Single Account(TSA)  policy of the federal government , under which  NPA has been  collecting  and paying  all proceeds coming to it in the ordinary course of business into a designated account. This has checked corruption in the system  as well as blocked   opportunity for malfeasance and self- interest.

 

Open Budget System

To lend credence to her openness, she had since last year signed an MOU  with budget tracking and transparency platform, BudgIT  , making  NPA the first revenue-generating  agency in the history of Nigeria’s public service sector to open its budget and accounts to public scrutiny during implementation.While the step has restored government and public confidence in her ,management it has instilled framework for transparent budget provisions for the authority.

 

Adherence to BPP Provisions /PPA Act

Additionally, having discovered that officials of the NPA have been fraudulently contravening the provisions of Nigeria’s public procurement Act to award multi-billion naira contracts to handpicked contractors,  as well as disguise contracts as Joint Venture projects between the authority and companies of their choice , thus fleecing  the authority of billions of naira , she has thus taken steps, overhauled the authority’s contract award process  to stop these anomalies.

 

In her realization  that funds expended on maintenance dredging  projects at the NPA   in the past have  been too high , to check the huge revenue leakage  through such abuse , she has specifically directed  that henceforth contracts will be classified into lots and scopes  that are efficient and the authority will advertise them in line with BPP provisions  so that subsidiary joint venture can also bid with other companies if they so wish .

 

.Anti- Corruption Office at NPA

To implement the recommendations of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), which reported in 2011 that Nigerian ports were the most expensive and corrupt  as an incorruptible person who abhors frivolous charges  and as a member of  the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, she has concluded arrangement  to have the Committee set up an office at  the NPA Headquarters, Marina, Lagos .

 

Commendations

It was not a surprise that various stakeholders  such as  the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium Limited who is also the  Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Vicky Haastrup ,the President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA) Prince Olayiwola Shittu and  the Founder of the National Association of Government  Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) ,Chief Boniface Aniebonam  Have lauded her on her reforms at the NPA

 

Breaking of monopoly in Oil& Gas Cargo

Usman management has also put an end to the crisis of monopoly that has characterized the provisions of oil and gas logistics services in the port sector  by a single company by ensuring a level playing field for all operators for purpose of competition , deployment of investments and for the promotion of efficient performance by the seaports.

 

Anti – Corruption Crusade

As part of her anti – corruption crusade she has decided that the management will conduct a thorough investigation into a recent allegation against some former top officials of the NPA   indicted in Switzerland for alleged corruption in a $20 million bribery scandal for which a Swiss company and its officials have been convicted in Geneva.The issue is to top the agenda when the Board of the organization meets.

 

Review of Joint Venture Agreements

Also not satisfied with the process of remittance of funds from a boat service  joint venture between NPA and Intels Logistics, it has resolved that proceeds from such projects should first be lodged in the TSA account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so that  the amount that will accrue to the authority is properly determined .

 

Purchase of New Tug Boats /Wreck and Derelicts Removal

The management has also procured vital equipment and facilities necessary for the NPA to adequately perform her marine  function .She recently  took delivery of four new ultra – modern tugboats for this purpose, thus  improving on pilotage service.Prompt removal of  wrecks and derelicts have also made the waters navigable and impact on the authority.

 

Launch of CCCIS, SOP, PSSP/ Automation

Her commissioning of the command, control communication and intelligence system (CCCIS), a technology which tracks  ships movements within the country’s ports domain and the  launch of the harmonized Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)  and Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) ,a portal meant to  stem corrupt practices coupled with  the increase  in the level of investments in automation have  assisted to boost the authority’s revenue profile

 

Study of Tariffs of Foreign Ports

She  has  also approved  an independent study of respective tariffs across ports in West and Central Africa for a comparison  with what obtains in Nigeria while  her management has pledged to recommend to the Federal Government to reduce  the charges in Nigerian ports accordingly  to  enable more cargoes come into the country  and to increase NPA ‘s revenue, if the findings deem  it necessary.

 

Provision of Infrastructure/ Apapa Port Access Road

To boost patronage of the seaports , she had embarked on rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Currently, in her bid to ensure that the Lagos Ports  Access road is in a permanently good state   she has ensured that the NPA collaborated with the Dangote Group of Companies  to reconstruct the Apapa Port Access Road for about N4. 3 billion.Work is to commence soon.

 

24 Hours Operations at Ports

As the landlord of the seaports , her management has begun the implementation of provisions of  the  Federal Government Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business ,which entails 24 hours operations at the ports.NPA has already affirmed the list of the eight security agencies to operate permanently at the seaports as well as undertaken other measure to enhance the success of policy .

 

25 Years Ports Master Plan

In a bid to ensure a healthy competition among existing ports and the on-going Lekki Deep Sea Port and Badagry Deep Sea Ports, the Usman led management is working on a 25 years port development master plan to be unveiled before the end of this year.This will be an improvement on the individual port master plan she met on ground and pave way for the the authority to earn additional income through handling of bigger vessels.

 

Revival of Eastern Ports Operations

Also having realized that the Eastern Ports have for a long time depended on the Lagos Seaports for survival, because of their very shallow depth, the current management has concluded plans for the massive capital and maintenance dredging of the Ports in Calabar , Warri and Port Harcourt,  while it has  made provisions for their massive infrastructural development in this year’s budget to also make them to yield more revenue.

 

Measures to Boost Income

She has also advocated the introduction of  acall up system for trucks doing business at the ports, set standards for them  , called for the  enforcement  of tonnage limits for trucks and the use of railways for cargo movement .  She promised to work with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to ensure  that the tracks are in place and provision made for rolling stock all in a bid to boost goods delivery , ports efficiency and NPA’s income.

 

Court Action over Bribery Allegation

But due to her efforts to drastically reduce corruption in the operations of the NPA  she has been subjected to series of attacks , including planting of negative stories against her in the media  and it was in a bid to check such excesses and protect her anti-corruption stance  that she  had to slam  a N1 billion suit in an High Court  in Abuja recently   against  an  online platform  over a false and damaging report on her person  bothering on bribery .

 

Conclusion

Despite the distractions, she has however been focused    in order to carry to  a very logical conclusion her bid to ensure that the Nigerian seaports   operations are thoroughly   cleansed , become more competitive , revenue yielding  as well as ensure the nation becomes an hub for other countries in the West and Central Africa sub region.

Shola Fadeyi , a Lagos based journalist is the Publisher of Marine&Economy , a Print & online Publication as well as MD , Simofad Communications Limited.

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