Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman is managing director/CEO of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), who has been on a mission to restructure the organisation over the past two years. Within the short period, she has made a lot of progress towards elevating NPA to a leadership position in the maritime sector in West Africa.
She has pursued the objective of enhancing revenue capacity and strengthening the role of the authority in the development of port operations. Revenue generation is a key element of her assignment, as government needs to build non-oil revenue capacity desperately in the face of a large drop in crude oil earnings.
Pursuant of the task, she has put new structures in place and strengthened weak areas, which have effectively reduced revenue leakages and opened new channels of income. She has also put in place measures for aggressive debt recovery that have begun to yield fruits. Readjustment of staff structure is also part of the ongoing reforms. The goal, according to Usman, is to strengthen the role of the agency in regulating the operators within the maritime industry.
The job of enhancing the operating efficiency of NPA isn’t an easy one but Usman is confident that the journey of a thousand mile is progressing. She didn’t find NPA anyway different from most public sector institutions in terms of poor quality of job, delayed turnaround time, lack of transparency in operations and poor commitment of staff. Usman has bent a long way backwards to build a new spirit and a new culture in the organisation.
Despite the extra mile effort she had to undertake, Usman is confident that her ability to deliver on mandate isn’t any way in jeopardy. She has obtained a reasonable level of compliance with her leadership directives and she is satisfied that her style of leadership by example has proved to be an effective strategy to achieve full compliance of officers and staff of the authority. “I think my team and I have the skills to drive the authority and position it to take on the responsibility it was set up for”, she said.
Getting staff to follow willingly the lead of the CEO is a key ingredient of organizational success. Usman has undertaken significant capacity building to achieve the quality of human capacity she now has in place. A lot of staff training programmes on ICT, modern equipment handling and general enhancement of management skills have been accomplished.
The NPA boss has also accomplished much with her Business Process Re-engineering Initiative. This has gone a long way to improve efficiency, reduce redundancy and position the organization as a professional body.
The efficiency improvement exercise has partly involved injecting a good dose of sanity in dealing with contractors. This has helped to address the recurring cases of service disruptions that are traced to failure of contractors to perform as per agreement. She has put the procurement department on its toes and contractors unable to deliver on obligations to the authority have been flushed out.
Taking NPA to a leadership position in the maritime sector in West Africa requires a competitive dressing for Nigeria to capture an increased share of traffic flow. Usman has appraised the competitive force of the authority and has embarked upon infrastructure development initiatives with a view to optimizing it. She has examined NPA’s tariff structure alongside those of Central and West African coasts with a view to achieving a better competitive positioning for Nigeria.
Repositioning the authority to compete on the basis of openness and transparency is a key strategy with which Usman is leading by example. Last year, she unveiled NPA’s tariffs that used to be held in secrecy for the world to see on the agency’s website and on the pages of newspapers. This is a big step forward in ushering in transparency that has been lacking in the authority’s operations.
This step has ushered in a new era in port administration and competition within the Western and Central Africa. Some other African countries such as Ghana have followed her example in sharing data and information. Usman is therefore leading the port authorities across the West and Central African coast towards transparency and healthy competition.
NPA needs good infrastructures to win in the new competition. Improvement of terminal facilities has been a major focus in 2017. Expansion of sea ports and coastal areas is part of the infrastructure development agenda in respect of which a lot has been accomplished. Others include acquisition of tugboats capable of performing multiple functions, including fire fighting equipment and search and rescue facilities.
A decline in the nation’s capacity to import stands in the way of meeting NPA’s revenue target. Usman is however finding a way round the constraint by shifting focus to encouraging exports. She has designated Lilly Pond Terminal in Ijora and Ikorodu Light Terminal for export of agricultural produce. This is a major step forward towards achieving government’s non-oil export drive. The positive effect on the growth of the agricultural sector and economic diversification are expected to be immense.
In partnership with terminal operators, export desks are springing up and the effort in promoting non-oil exports has geared up. Night and day monitoring of operations is enhancing capacity for 24-hour port operations in anticipation of increase in the volume of export activities.
Usman believes that the culture of endemic corruption and inefficiency that characterize the public sector is changeable if there is leadership that has the energy and the capacity to shake up and to rebuild. She is on a mission to prove that in the maritime industry where she has challenged the status quo and is bringing about the change that is transforming the sector.
For her accomplishments so far in transforming port operations in Nigeria, Usman is named one of the top 10 CEOs, 2017 by Top 10 Magazine.