By Oluyinka Onigbinde
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have said public private partnership is the key to reformation and development of port infrastructure.
Speaking during the second edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual maritime Conference (TAAM) held recently at the University of Lagos, on the theme “Nigeria Port reformation and developing Critical Port Infrastructure through Public-Private Partnership”
Stakeholders noted lack or non involvement of private partnership has stalled the development of critical infrastructure in the country.
Speaking during the event, the Managing Director Nigerian Port Authority, (NPA) Mz Hadiza Bala Usman who was represented by the General Manager Business Development of the agency affirm that the Nigerian port reformation and critical port infrastructure through public private partnership are in consonance with, and in fact a clarion call to the objectives and sentiment as the government agency charged with the provision of the requisite infrastructure and service of the gateway to the nation’s economy.
According to her “for any maritime country the seaport is indeed a gateway to the nation’s economy serving as a gauge for the pulse of the economy, facilitating trade when it operates efficiently and inhibiting business and growth when it is deficient.
“It is in recognition of this pivotal role of the port that successive efforts have been made by administrations in the past to reform or restructure the industry invariably with the ultimate aim of infusing efficiency for overall good of the national economy”.
The NPA boss informed that since the concession of Nigerian port terminals to private operators in 2006, the port industry has witnessed very significant development in ports infrastructure and revenue generation.
She however noted that much still needs to be done in the sector by partnering private sector towards goal of excellence.
“We are not saying we have arrived at where we are headed to but our story today is much better than that of yesterday and we look forward to a very bright tomorrow even as we work together with our private sector partners and inspire each other towards our goal of excellence”.
Usman in her speech urged private sector to partner the government for the development of port infrastructure.
In her words “ports infrastructure is capital intensive with long term payback periods. It is a burden Government cannot easily carry due to the competing demands for scarce funds. “This is particularly true in the light of present economic realities of the prevailing recession, dwindling oil revenues, and the dire need for diversification.
“It is now more than ever that the greater involvement of the private sector in the operation and financing of port facilities, especially through Foreign Direct investment (FDI) is critical.
“There is no better time than now to deploy private capital for development of port infrastructure and apply private initiative and efficiency” She said.
Speaking also at the event the key note speaker Executive Director at Sifax group Major Henry Ajetunmobi said the maritime industry in Nigeria is a veritable engine of growth of national economic development and its transformation agenda
According to him “it is a sector that more than most, if well utilized can be a notable contributor to efforts at poverty reduction, creation of wealth, promotion of skills acquisition and encouragement of entrepreneurship. If seriously harnessed and exploited contribute very significantly to the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product and eliminate the nation’s unsustainable over-reliance on petroleum as Nigeria major revenue earner”.
Ajetunmobi added that public-private partnership as a contractual padaigm will ideally achieve certain objectives which includes maintaining or improving upon service delivery, unlocking access to capital and cost efficiencies, maintaining safe and secure operations among others
Speaking earlier the convener of the event Dr. Taiwo Afolabi noted that one of the major factors that have impeded the sector from fulfilling its potential is huge infrastructural deficit, deplorable access roads, faulty cargo scanners, non –existent rail system, non-functional truck bay, among others, have conspired to negatively impact the service delivery efficiency and overall impact.