Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has expressed his passion and uncommon commitment to leaving a fully automated port system as his legacy after he bows out of office.
Bello- Koko, whose ascension to the NPA’s highest office was as dramatic as it was eventful, said port automation, which is the latest trend in the world, especially, the Port system, is central to his administration in the NPA.
Koko, who spoke Saturday 14th, May 2022 during his maiden press conference, expressed his belief that a fully automated port system will translate to efficiency, low costs, and improved revenue.
In a no hold- barred interactive session with journalists, the NPA helmsman shared his vision of robust port processes hinged on automation devoid of human interaction.
“We have so much automation done in isolation and we need to integrate them.
“We need to put up something that everybody will love to log into. We need to copy a system that is being used in other developed countries, something that will add value, something that everyone agrees with and that is the port community system and harbour automation.
“I am looking forward to a legacy of rehabilitated port infrastructures with the right marine equipment and that is something we have started working on already.
“Discussions have started in terms of designs, we have gotten the full design of the Tin Can port, how it is going to be reconstructed, what is the likely cost of reconstructing Tin CAN, what are we going to do with some parts of Apapa port.
“We have approached BUA to start reconstruction. The same process is on in the Rivers ports where some of the infrastructures have collapsed.
“If we are able to do this, then we have achieved quite a lot.
Apart from port automation, Koko beloved that he needs efficient and committed staff who are well motivated to drive the reformation agenda.
So he declared that improved staff welfare is another area he wants to work on while in office.
“Staff welfare is very important to me which I want to pay special attention to. All these things are the legacies I want to leave behind when I exit as the Managing Director of NPA” he declared.
The NPA MD, who gave a blow-by-blow account of the challenges and prospects of bequeathing a reformed port process, believed that the core function of the NPA was trade facilitation.
However, he lamented that since the agency has been turned into a revenue-generating agency, it has lost focus on this vital core function of trade facilitation while pursuing revenue generation
“NPA is about trade facilitation.
“The core responsibility of every port in the world is to facilitate trade.
“While the NPA has been turned into a major revenue earner for the federal government of Nigeria, gradually, some of our responsibilities are impossible to carry out because there is more focus on the contribution to the CRF, which is fine.
“What it does for us is it makes us reduce costs and generate more.
He then extensively dwelt on the efforts of his management to reinvent the wheel of making NPA more of a trade facilitator than a revenue earner.
“For you to ensure that this trade facilitation succeeds, you need to meet with your stakeholders.
“The port environment is a conglomerate of so many players.
“That was the first thing we did and we set a goal for ourselves, which is what are those things we need to do in order to improve trade facilitation.
“It is only when you do that that you start to have a better flow of traffic, shorter dwell time of cargo, and quick turn around time of ships.
“And we reached out to as far as the Nigerian Navy with whom we are able to resolve some issues that we were not able to resolve for over 20 years.
“We just humbled ourselves and decided that we would reach out to everybody.
“We also realised that the modern ports are all moving toward automation, and automation cannot be in batches but there has to be full automation.
“Once there is manual interference in some of the things you do, then you haven’t fully been automated and because of that, we wrote to the IMO to help us consult. We are about to deploy the port community system.
“The port community system is an avenue which ensures that all stakeholders, all the players in the port processes, log into the system of exchange of data and processes.
“The good thing is that it doesn’t disturb the automation processes of individual agencies or stakeholders, such as e-customs and that was why we got the stakeholders to buy into it.
“We are upgrading our RIMS, you all know the problems of downloading manifest and we are going to deploy harbour automation.
“The IMO has mandated all ports to deploy such IT and soft wares by 2025, our target is 2023, maximum early 2024.
“We reached out to NLG. We have been trying to deploy VTS for about 10 years now but since we came, it was one of the major challenges.
“You can’t get qualified people to deploy VTS, they are very few.
“We wrote to IMO, they gave us some companies which could not meet our requirements while some of them were not interested in working with NPA.
“However, NLG has a VTR in Bonny, even though it is not robust.
“We do not have a problem in collaborating and in the last few months, we have been meeting with the NLG so that they do the survey and put the moles and the sensors around the country.
“It is one of the most important things in the maritime industry now, worldwide.
“We should be able to have visibility without seeing the ship and it would be a tremendous achievement and I believe we can achieve it within the year.
“Our RIM is also being updated and we ensure that people keep using those applications that we have which have reduced manual processes.
“As a result, things are improving, speed is improving. We have been able to block revenue leakages.
“However, we have old ports, we can all attest to that. The problem with the Eastern ports is decaying infrastructures while Tin Can island port is practically collapsing.
“We have decided to focus our budget on the rehabilitation of those decaying infrastructures.
Having reeled out his vision for a new port system, he then dared whoever cared to listen that he should be held responsible and accountable over his vision for the Nigerian ports.
“You can hold me responsible for any of these things ” he declared in a measured tone that betrayed his confidence and determination to succeed.
He promised to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and lending agencies to achieve his set objectives
“I will work with the relevant agencies, investors, and lending agencies who are interested in lending, either directly or indirectly.
Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling
“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”
He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.
The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.
The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.
He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.
He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.
On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”
According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.
He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.
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