“If there is congestion at the port tomorrow, it is the ministry of works that should be blamed and not NPA” ---Comrade Omeiza
Comrade Omeiza Umar Jimoh is the Deputy President of the Senior Staff Association of Communication Transportation and Corporation (SSACTAC). In this interview with Shipping Position Daily correspondent; Dapo Olawuni, he spoke on some salient maritime industry issues. Comrade Omeiza who is also the immediate past President of NPA branch of SSACTAC also laments the irregularities associated with promotion exercises at the NPA. He also talks about what needs to be done by the government to ensure implementation of the executive order issued recently by Acting President; Yemi Osinbajo. "Don't hold Amaechi responsible for his promise to end piracy in six months" We heard that investors are pulling out of Lekki Deep seaport and that the NPA is responsible for this.If anybody tells you that NPA is frustrating them, it shows that these are the business men that want to come and loot this country. I am not trying to hold brief for NPA management but the truth is that if you don't conform with the Act that establishes the Nigerian Ports Authority and the constitution of the country, the management of NPA would not give you the leeway to do what you like because at the end of the day it would amount to short-changing the nation. If you are ready, then NPA is also ever ready to do business with serious and sincere business men in the industry. The problem that Lekki free zone investors are having is the technicality and we cannot allow people to come to a sophisticated and risky environment to do a shoddy business with shoddy infrastructures and at the end of the day, Nigerians would pay with their blood. If we enter into an agreement that is watery, at the end of the day we would start regretting. The NPA and its workers are in tandem with any genuine business man that wants to do business with us.
What is your assessment of the MD of NPA since she was appointed?The lady has caused a healthy environment to reign once again in the maritime industry, I am not praising her, I am simply saying the truth, everything has been streamlined and everyone is given attention and listening ears.
What are the areas that need to be improved upon?This is the area that the reality is trickling in gradually, but it would soon explode, the gate way to the nation's economy is the port and when the businessmen now decide that it is right for them to do business, there would be congestion at the port because our access roads are bad. The tanker drivers are now using the expressway from mile 2 to Tin Can as their parking space, you cannot access that place even with a bicycle, it has been like this for the past three years, this would affect turnaround time of vessels negatively and it would lead to accumulated cargoes at the port. The roads must be fixed and be free to enable delivery of cargoes 24 hours, this is the major challenge that NPA management is facing, even if they have the capacity to fix the road, they cannot do it because their Act does not cover road repairs. If there is congestion at the port tomorrow, it is the ministry of works that should be blamed and not NPA.Recently the presidency said there should be 24hours operation at the port, is it workable?Does it solve the problem of the ports? If you go to Area ‘B’police station in Apapa, you would see the bad state of the roads there, you cannot move containers from the port to Ijora twice in one day, let Government fix the roads first, they should stop talking or tell us they want 24 hours operations, once they fix the roads, things would fall into proper shape.
The Minister of transport recently said that piracy would be tackled in the next six months, do you believe him?He said this few months ago, and if you want to procure these equipment he was talking about, it has to be budgeted for and maybe it is in this year’s budget but it has not been signed, so how does he go ahead? If our budget problems are solved, you would see that all these promises would be implemented. Don't forget also that it is the responsibility of the navy to go to the high seas. Don't forget that it takes more than one to tango, it is not because the minister has said what is in the pipeline, then you are now holding him responsible after a month, you should look at the system, is it working in favour of what he has promised?When the Minister came, he held several meetings with stakeholders and he said at a certain forum with importers and clearing agents operating at the nation's ports should any of them have solution to the port problems they should come forward with it. So far, I don't think he has denied any meaningful solution that would move the industry forward.
Technical jobs belonging to the NPA like towage services is leased out to private companies, do you think this is right?At the eve of signing the concession agreement in Abuja under the former Minister of Finance; Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, what we agreed with all the stakeholders was that the core jobs of the NPA should be left for NPA; meaning that the expertise is there, but when concession was going on under the NPA management which oversaw the concession exercise, in their own wisdom, they crated the pilotage regime which has the East and the West. Also, shortly before this government came in, there were concerted efforts that seem to be on the side of leasing Calabar, Port Harcourt pilotage jobs, but today this management has reversed it. For those that were signed in Lagos to LCM and the rest, the NPA should ensure that the agreement is followed and ensure that efficiency is achieved. And, if management feels we can do it by ourselves, at the end of the agreement, we have to take it back. And if we also see that they have erred or breach the agreement terms, the NPA should act accordingly.
There are reports that employment into NPA is being done through the back door?On the issue of employment, NPA under the present management has not employed, talk-less of employing through back doors, those fire service that were employed recently have been concluded under former MD Habib Abdullahi regime. For those complaining about written exams, it has come to stay in all civil service jobs. The timing of the exams is where we have to focus attention, if the time for the exams is August, NPA management should work towards it and make it a reality so that people would prepare and hold tutorials. After this, there is going to be an interview, all these together lead to promotion. Another is that people still complain about promotion, usually promotion is by third quarter of the year and people start enjoying it at the beginning of the year, this is the norm throughout civil and public service. NPA should please key into this norm, those people that would be promoted next year should at least take their exams by August this year, a situation where this is not done, you are demoralising the workforce. Let me also tell you that this is not the problem of this regime but we want them to solve it. Promotion in NPA has been bastardized during Sarumi regime, he knows, we are not criticising him. It cannot be solved in a day, but this present management is getting nearer to solving it.