The scrapping of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Zonal offices has raised several questions. Some stakeholders have commended the new development as one to enhance the efficiency of the ports as port managers report directly to the NPA management, while others have seen it as another move by the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman to curb the ravishing corruption and embezzlement of public funds at the zonal offices.
The management noted that this review became important because NPA’s structure remained the same in spite of the 2006 concession which changed the Authority status from owner/operator to landlord. However, some pertinent questions have arisen. How much is NPA saving with the collapse of these zonal offices? What were the tens of millions collected monthly by the zones spent on? How does this new structure make or mar the efficiency of NPA operations?
Although the Authority said it was convinced that this new structure will enhance its capacity to; meet its new mandate and strategic direction; improve allocation and optimization of resources; eliminate the duplication of resource and work duplication and reduce cost to income ratio to the advantage of all stakeholders and Nigerians has a whole; the covert reasons for the restructuring is to curb the waste of funds perpetuated by zonal offices.
Prior to the collapse of the zones, at the Western Ports zone, workers had lamented bitterly that the last General Manager at the Zone, Arc. Gbadamosi Rafiu Abiodun was a “stingy boss”. Gbadamosi was loathed by his workers at the zone for what they described as foolishness as he was said to have been returning funds monthly which were not spent on any activity at the zone back to the government’s purse.
Gbadamosi was said to have lost the support of NPA members of staff at the zone over his judicious use of funds and remittances to the appropriate quarters when there was surplus.
One of the senior staff at the zonal offices had told MMS Plus, “I don’t understand this new ‘oga’ we have here (at the Western zone). He returns money back when we have several issues here. Look at the state of our toilets. It is so bad that we can’t use it anymore. This man (Gbadamosi) doesn’t care. He only embezzles for himself and returns millions back to the government under the claim that there was nothing to do with money at the zonal office.”
According to the source, the NPA zonal offices received N40million monthly allocation for operations and to carry out special duties at the zone. The idea was to eliminate the bureaucratic challenges and long procedures that it would take to get the attention of the NPA management at the head office in Marina.
Speaking to MMS Plus on this issue, Gbadamosi said, “The problem of most people in civil service is that they believe government money must be misused and embezzled. People always think that because this is government money it must be spent. I left the zone better than I met it. I wasn’t ready to embark on any project that I couldn’t defend. The accounts are there for everyone to see. Look at what happened at the zone prior to my appointment as General Manager and what we achieved during my time. The Western zone used to receive N40million monthly but during my tenure the budget was streamlined to N16million”
“I met N100million liability when I came in but I was able to clear the debt before the zones were scrapped. The General Managers before me had left the debt for their successors to clear but I am happy I was able to clear it because the zone has been scrapped and I have no successor. Recall that I intervened with palliatives for the Apapa port access roads before Dangote came in to support.
On the issue of the state of the dilapidated toilets, Gbadamosi argued that the situation had been exaggerated as members of staff at the zone as well as their guests have been using the rest rooms. “We have several visitors that use the toilets so I think the situation was blown out of context. You should have visited the place to see for yourself” he said.
Meanwhile, the Eastern ports under the management of the erstwhile General Manager Abdullahi Goje who is now the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, was said to have utilized most of the N40million monthly allocation to host the Minister of Transportation and his aides whenever they visited the Eastern region.
Although all efforts to reach Mr. Abdullahi Goje on this issue were abortive, our sources say that the Eastern ports usually exhausted their budgets returning nothing to the government coffers as the Western zone did under Badamosi.
Goje, whose daughter Hauwa wedding over the weekend, had promised to speak with our correspondent as soon as he settles from the ceremony, this week.
Despite the initiative highlighted to forestall: the duplication of responsibilities across divisions; the unnecessary bottleneck currently created by the zonal office structure; redundancies created by the transfer for certain core function of the Authority to third party contractors and the multiple reporting relationships and attendant red tape.
Some stakeholders have stressed that the elimination of zonal offices was one of the Managing Director’s moves to enhance operations in line with her vision for progressive change and efficiency at the Authority.
A source at NPA who pleaded anonymity said, “This new development is part of Hadiza’s plans to take the workforce closer to the action which are the ports. Most officers would be sent to the ports where the real operations take place rather than stay in zones. Nothing happens in the zones. They just get allocation which is upto N40million and do nothing with the money. It has been a conduit pipe to siphon monies.”
“I am happy that Hadiza has corrected this anomaly and you can be sure that more senior officers would be sent to the ports to speed up the processes there and solve real problems. This is part of the efficiency that we are talking about under the ‘ease of doing business at the ports’. It is a welcome development.” He said.
Meanwhile, NPA management maintains that the re-engineering process is the next phase of the re-organization and it will detail work procedures that will enable the Authority take full advantage of the technology that has already been deployed and terminate the low capacity utilization engendered by manual processes.
“NPA is mindful of the welfare of its employees and has assures that no job will be affected by this process. Staff of departments that have been scrapped or merged will be deployed to newly created departments fitting their competences.
“The Authority assures that the ultimate goal of this initiative is to institute a transparent and efficient system which will deliver the best dividend to Nigeria and its citizens. We solicit the support of all Nigerians to the achievement of these goals” the statement which announced the restructuring had said.
If the eradication of zonal offices save the Authority N56million monthly which amounts to N672million annually, Hadiza Bala-Usman may just have pulled a masterstroke that ensures that the revenue base of the Authority and the nation’s economy at large remains healthy.
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