That New Sheriff at NPA

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By Odumu Igbudu

The name Mohammed Bello Koko might not ring a bell at the slight. But it is doing wonders at the strategic Nigerian Ports Authority. In record time, the revenue drive and operations of the agency improved tremendously. And Nigerians wondered what happened.

I have been an ardent critic of the operations of the NPA, describing it as an inept agency lacking leadership and operational efficiency. I believe this position was corroborated by a large section of the population, especially those in the maritime sector.

Those of us in this category were pleasantly surprised with the turn of events in recent times with Mohammed Bello Koko at the helms of affairs. Initially, I saw him as one of them that would do nothing to improve the agency’s fortunes. But I was wrong and remained so.

Today’s NPA reflects purposeful leadership, improved fortunes and rapid transformation in port operations across the country. One of the indicators of what to expect at the NPA was the efforts at revitalizing port operations in the eastern part of the country and the partnership with the Lagos State government on taming the gridlock on the access roads to the two busiest ports in Apapa.

Mohammed Bello Koko justified his appointment by implementing sustainable reforms in the nation’s seaports. This is on the heels of the strategic import of seaports in revenue generation in the country.

For example, the NPA generated a total of N172, 285,626,312.00 (One hundred and seventy-two billion, two hundred and eighty-five million, six hundred and twenty-six thousand and twelve naira only) from its operations in the first half of 2022. In the same period, the NPA remitted N78, 496,966,862.20 (Seventy-two billion, four hundred and ninety-six million, nine hundred and sixty-six thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two naira and twenty kobo) to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the Federation. This is indeed brilliant and a feat in the annals of the agency.

I wasn’t surprised by these notable achievements recorded in the NPA. As a first, Mohammed Bello Koko is a thoroughbred professional whose grasp of port operation was manifest when he was first appointed as the acting managing director and subsequently as substantive managing director. According to reliable insider sources, he hit the ground running, and one of the areas he focused on was blocking revenue leakages. And it paid off handsomely.

Today, the revenue of the NPA recorded a 5.38 percent increase. According to the managing director, this was an expression of the ports’ operational performance. I could not agree less with this position.

Also, his sterling performance has led to unprecedented growth, improved operational efficiencies that led to a significant increase in container traffic to Onne Port, and the demonstrated resolve to open up the Eastern Ports of Warri, Calabar and Rivers. This culminated in the successful berthing of MV Lady Jane vessel in Onne Port, Rivers state.

These and many more initiatives of the agency geared toward repositioning the eastern ports for productivity are yielding results, and that Onne Port Complex is fast becoming an attraction for container vessel traffic is an indication of the leadership drive of the NPA under Mohammed Bello Koko to optimize port operations across the country for greater efficiency and productivity.

There is, therefore, no doubt that the NPA helmsman is restless and eager to implement a complete turnaround in port operations in the country. And in doing this, he is leaving no stone unturned. His leadership of the agency has brought about improved productivity in its workforce. Also, there has been an array of technological improvements in operations across seaports in the country.

This has led to efficient port services in a safe, secure and customer-friendly environment. Various stakeholders in the maritime sector attested to his efforts at repositioning port operations in the country. Today, port operations in Nigeria have adorned a new look.

The NPA digitization project has also received considerable action from the Mohammed Bello Koko-led administration. The smart port transformation agenda of the agency, aimed at the enthronement of paperless, time-saving and cost-efficient port operations by 2025, is a move many industry watchers have commended. If implemented, I gathered that this project would address critical challenges in port operations in Nigeria.

Mohammed Bello Koko is indeed the new sheriff at the NPA. His exemplary leadership reminds me of the famous quote on leadership by John Maxwell, “A great leader’s courage to fulfil his vision comes from passion, not position.” This is what Mohammed Bello Koko exudes at the NPA. He has touched on those critical areas of the NPA operations that need to be rejigged. And it was easy to see results in a short period due to his passion for the job.

Is he relenting? It doesn’t seem like it from feelers gathered from stakeholders in the maritime sector in Nigeria. They have described him as the Apostle of Change that revitalized port operations in Nigeria in a short period. One can only imagine what to expect in the future.

I am impressed with his drive and passion for the job. He is indeed a thoroughbred administrator who has successfully combined influence, initiative, and responsibility to turn the fortunes of the NPA around for good. He is also a lesson in public service that should be emulated. He must be encouraged to sustain the reforms introduced in port operations in Nigeria.

Igbudu wrote this piece from Abuja.

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