“THE price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill.
Amongst the attributes of effective and impactful leadership in any field of human endeavour are the unfailing factors of vision, character, compassion, integrity and the courage to do the right thing when it matters most. Others include humility, honesty of purpose, the ability to carry people along and of course, always sustaining the element of Trust between the leader and the led majority.
It is therefore, instructive to note that barely a week after Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman’s appointment as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) by President Muhammadu Buhari, precisely on 18th July, 2016 she had this to say:“Everyone one in NPA has a role (to play) in promoting best practices, in upholding governance standards and in delivering quality services”. Not done, she made the following solemn pledge: “We will work hard, with integrity and zero tolerance for corruption. We will listen to our customers; importers, exporters and other agencies working in the Port to improve on our service delivery to the Nation”.
Some two years after, it is exciting to note with pride that Usman has kept to the tenets of her promise, to focus on “operational efficiency” anchored on capacity building to succession plan, port master plan, staff welfare and revenue generation. But that is not all. She did also make the promise to ensure the blockage of revenue leakages, institute synergy and collaboration with the ports’ business partners. And what could the goal be? That is the million-Naira question. The goal, in her words “is to position NPA as the preferred cargo destination in the sub-region”.
As if to prove her critics wrong, who had opined that she was a young woman known for activism and politics, without any pedigree in the ports industry who could not make the desired difference, she hit the ground running. First came the implementation of open budget system and that of a public data dissemination programme. The salutary aim is to rid the agency of corruption. To strengthen this noble and patriotic policy, the NPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BudgIT, an information technology network firm.
This falls in line with the Freedom of Information (FoI),Act, 2011 and it is meant to provide Nigerians with all the necessary, credible information during its budget preparation as well as its implementation. In a similar vein, the NPA under her launched the harmonised Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as well as the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP). Both are carefully articulated to rein in the rampaging monster of corrupt practices, towards making it a user-friendly port.
While the SOP comes in as a collation of operational procedures of all maritime government agencies, including shipping companies, freight forwarders, terminal operators, related associations and other stakeholders, the PSSP is a management portal for operators to lodge complaints, if any agency fails to follow the SOP. This is anchored by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
What makes both timely and profound is because the former Minister of Transport had complained bitterly about the report on Nigerian seaports released in 2013 by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) labeling NPA then as the most corrupt port in the world! It therefore means that the SOP and the PSSP are a direct response to a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA).
Another giant stride taken is to put an end to the monopoly in the provision of oil and gas logistics. It is noteworthy that this querulous issue delayed multi-billion dollars of investments. Usman has given the assurance that no organisation serving the NPA would be accorded the monopoly in the supply of oil and gas logistics.
Gladdening too is the concerted and sustained effort made by the Usman-led NPA to align it with the best global practices. For instance, prelude to the maiden International Association of Ports and Harbours(IAPH) African Regional Conference in Abuja in September, 2018 she announced the readiness of the Agency to attain the highly regarded but elusive ISO 9001 Certification. The other is the OHSAS 18001 Certification.
According to the Country Director of Renner and Renner Training and Consulting Service, Ibby Iyama, ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system(QMS).Organizations use it to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. This is hinged on the three main pillars of Process approach, Risk-based thinking and Continual improvement. As the MD, NPA rightly noted during the afore mentioned Conference, the ISO Certificate would not only improve the nation’s seaports rating on the world’s maritime map, it would encourage them to be more competitive and efficient in the discharge of their services to the customers.
One good aspect of the ISO Certificate compliance is the sustained training and comprehensive human capacity development the NPA has engaged its staff in, for its facilitation. Members have been made to understand its benefits to the top management as well as other cadres of staff. These include the imperatives of time sensitiveness to discharge its duties to clients such as shippers, consignees, retailers and manufacturers.
Others include elimination of waste, provision of full-fledged vessel communication system, conducive work environment, cost effective service delivery, adoption to international best practices, ensuring the workers’ health and well-being and increase employee motivation.
On its part, the OHSAS 18001 Certificate is an Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series. It is officially known as BS OHSASA 18001 as a British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems. It provides a framework to identify, control and reduce the risks associated with health and safety within the workforce. Apart from preventing work-related incidents such as accidents, ill-health and fatality it improves legislative compliance.
A stickler for rules, Usman has insisted that trucks are not parked wrongly. So, to find lasting solution to the seemingly intractable Apapa/Oshodi Road gridlock she convened a well attended stakeholders meeting. There she presented a more all-encompassing plan to free the road of its choking traffic. This will eventually enhance efficient operation at Apapa ports and improve on revenue generation for the federal government.
The NPA is also working on a port development master plan with the aim to provide competition amongst the on-going Lekki Deep Sea Port, Badagry Deep Sea Ports and existing ports.
It is significant to note that the achievements recorded so far under the MD, all fall in tandem with the NPA’s statutory duties. They are also important as we diversify from the long focus on the oil industry. These include, the need to develop, own and operate ports and harbours, provide safe and navigable channel and offer cargo handling. Others involve storage services. maintenance of port facilities and equipment, ensuring safety and security. It is kudos to the MD of NPA as we urge her to keep up the good work.
Baje writes from Lagos