In a bid to address the deteriorating state of Nigeria’s ports, including the critical Apapa and Tincan Island ports, the Federal Government has announced plans to collaborate with terminal operators in a massive infrastructure recovery project estimated to cost approximately $800 million.
The window of collaboration for funding was opened during last week’s visit to Apapa and Tincan Island ports by the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, who was accompanied by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Muhammed Bello-Koko, and the NPA management team.
During the visit to several terminals, including AP Moller Terminal, ENL, Dangote, Greenview Development Nigeria Limited, ABTL, Josephdam, Ports &Terminal Multipurpose Limited, and Port & Terminal Multipurpose Limited, the minister expressed deep concerns about the deteriorating state of the ports, stating that the port is almost collapsing and needs a major rehabilitation.
He further stated that he was looking forward to a situation whereby the terminal managers would be willing to contribute towards the rehabilitation of the ports, adding that by so doing the terminal operators would make more money
The crucial question of project funding is expected to be addressed in the coming discussions between the FG, NPA, and terminal operators. It remains to be seen how the $800 million needed for the renovation will be secured, including potential sources of financing and the level of involvement of terminal operators.
However, reacting to the plans to engage the terminal operators in the repair of the dilapidated port infrastructures, Bolaji Sunmola, President of the National Association of Stevedoring Operators (NASO) highlighted the existing contractual relationship between the Federal Government and the terminal operators, emphasizing that the terms of this contract should be fully adhered to.
Sunmola said: “I think there is an engagement contract between the Federal Government and the terminal operators, it is a relationship that was properly structured, structured in the sense that there is a contract existing and this contract has been signed and sealed and the contract would have delineated what responsibility the two parties have to put on board.
“So this controversy or talk on who should do what and what I really don’t know where to situate it. Because to us, the way our ports are looking are sham, our ports are in sham They need to be cleaned up, they are dirty and I hope it’s not reflecting the way the country is; the port is over congested, you can see the few foreign nationals that run shipping industry, you can see their areas; you go to their areas you see orderliness, but in our own it’s like upside down. I really don’t know why, so for me, maybe the Hon. Minister has seen the contract; that’s why he is saying what he is saying, I don’t know, and I don’t have the privilege of reading the contract”.
On his part, Muda Yusuf, CEO of the Center for Promotion of Private Enterprise emphasized the importance of collaboration between terminal operators and the government to ensure the repair and maintenance of port infrastructure. While also acknowledging his lack of knowledge regarding the specific terms of engagement, he stressed the mutual interest of both parties in maintaining functional ports.
Yusuf stated that, “the terminal operators are key stakeholders at the port, it is also in their enlightened self-interest to ensure that we have good facilities at the port, because if the port infrastructures at the port collapse, it won’t be easy for government to do, and they have a lot to lose as well, so it very important that they collaborate with the government to ensure that they fix those port infrastructures.
“Well I don’t know what the terms of engagements are between the terminal operators and NPA I don’t know whose responsibilities it is, but whatever it is because they have a stake in the continued running of the port, they should also show interest even if they need to contribute to it, I don’t think it will be out of place. In order to ensure that we have functional ports, because that is where they have their investments and make their money from”