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Port stakeholders’ again, remind NPA of reviewing concession agreements

Since 2006, the federal government concessioned key port terminals in Nigeria with a clear mandate to improve on port infrastructure, revenue generation and general industry development.
The concessionaires were handed down varying time frames for their concessions. Some have 25, 15, 10 and others less.
However, as the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) concludes the handover of Warri Port Terminal 2 to the new concessionaire, industry pundits have expressed disappointment on why in the last few years, some of the terminal concession deals which had expired are yet to be reviewed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The source of anger, according to experts that spoke to Business Hilights remains the unpredictable body language of the NPA in terms of the political will to effect the needed review on time.
Whereas some sector analysts say the NPA has been under serious pressure to delay or even forget the reviews, others say the Authority management as it is now may be lacking the prerequisite courage to do the needful in the face of political considerations that are unknown to law and standard operating procedure in the administration of port activities.
Some observers say since the managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman made mention of reviewing the concession agreements in September last year, she has been under political pressure to dump the plan which seems to have happened as according to her position in September last year, the reviews would have taken only three months to end by December 2018.
However, this is the second month of 2019, and nothing has been heard from the NPA on whether there is still going to be review of concession agreements or not.
A stakeholder and Managing Director of Kamay Marine Services Limited, Mr. Charles Okorefe who barred his mind on the matter regretted that “The issue remains the ways we do things in Nigeria. You know, as top public official, you don’t just make pronouncement for the sake of making pronouncement. The MD of NPA is not just an ordinary person. She’s a high ranking officer of maritime industry and whatever she says hold international implications.
“In other words, it does not begin and end with our environment because the maritime industry is a universal industry. He said now, that there are flaws in the concession agreement, which need to be reviewed, that agitation has been on for a long while. When the MD NPA gave the deadline of when it would be completed, stakeholders should have reason to believe her but almost two months down, nothing is being heard about it.
According to him, “It does not speak well of the industry and the position she currently occupied because they are lot of flaws in the concession agreement. For instance, there are lots of things that concessionaires promised to do in the course of running their terminals are not being done. You discovered that many of them are still deficient and even the number of years allocated to some of the concessionaires as some has 10, 15 years and so on, they have to be reviewed so that everything can be align but that is not being done.”
Observers are aware that some of the concession agreements were structured for review every two years. But after over 12 years, it has not taken place. Instead, some concessionaires have been apparently granted more years of concession in addition to what they had in anticipation of expiration of their lease holding.
There have been records of breaches on the parts NPA and the terminal operators, too. But the most precarious situation in the ports reform disorder including the nebulous usurpation of the power of the port economic regulator as stated in the agreement, according to maritime experts.
There have been complaints that the concessionaires as the operators, they regulate themselves, as they have assumed the position of a self regulator. Nobody checks their compliance level or audit their accounts because they are holding the terminals in trust for government. Nobody rates their performances or monitor them.
However, there are some terminal operators that have done well within the period under review to the extent they have raised the standard of infrastructures they inherited and gone far in digitization process.
The major worry of port stakeholders now include the growing challenge of multiple regulations, when and how the NPA will review the concession agreements without running to regulatory collusion with other sister agencies considering the rush to tax every business in the port upon failures on the side of the government in delivering critical infrastructure which fall within her purview.