Nigeria’s economy, like a ship facing turbulent waters, grapples with mounting challenges as public and private sectors strain to stay afloat. In a strategic move to harness the country’s maritime potential, President Bola Tinubu inaugurated the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
Several African nations have already harnessed their maritime assets, attracting Nigerian-bound cargoes and investments, and bolstering their economies. Consequently, to reclaim lost revenues and draw investments back home, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), steered by Mohammed Bello-Koko, initiated moves in 2021. They deployed a strategic combination of human resources, technology, infrastructure, and equipment, aiming to reverse the sector’s dwindling fortunes.
Apart from maritime woes, Nigeria confronts rising public debt, inflation, and decreasing revenue generation. Experts have emphasized the importance of bolstering revenue, curbing inflation, and stabilizing the Naira through streamlined export facilitation and port development.
• Trade Facilitation and Export Promotion
Recognizing the significance of a trade balance, the NPA licensed 10 Export Processing Terminals (EPTs) in Lagos and Ogun. These terminals were envisioned to eradicate procedural obstacles, making Nigerian exports more globally competitive.
Furthermore, strict enforcement of stevedoring regulations has improved professionalism, bolstered job creation, and recouped significant revenues from International Oil Companies (IOCs).
• Enhancing Human Capital
To address stagnated salaries that had lasted over 15 years, the authority secured approvals for pay hikes. This, combined with optimized port operations, enhanced revenue collection mechanisms, and debt recovery, led to impressive revenue growth. From N317 billion in 2020, revenue surged to N361 billion in 2022.
• Diversification of Revenue Sources
Determined to diversify, NPA’s leadership seeks to generate revenue beyond core port operations, exploring public-private partnerships, bunkering stations, logistics, and tourism, among others.
• Technology Advancement
In the digital age, port efficiency hinges on technological prowess. NPA has focused on updating ports’ system automation, collaborating with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to craft the Port Community System (PCS) – a foundation for the National Single Window, the global port efficiency benchmark.
• Upgrading Infrastructure and Equipment
Quality infrastructure and equipment are paramount for port sustainability. While awaiting approvals for various reconstructions, the management procured marine crafts, operationalized control towers, and enhanced channel security.
• New Ports Development
Highlighting Nigeria’s maritime assets, the Authority expedited the launch of the country’s first fully automated port at Lekki Deep Sea Port. This paved the way for other ports, including Badagry Deep Sea Port and Snake Island.
Despite these significant strides, challenges persist. Outdated port infrastructure, lack of automation, and other concerns deter importers and investors, making Nigeria lose substantial revenues. Addressing these issues remains paramount to ensure the sector’s sustainability.