Clearly, the above headline sounds not only a bit disagreeable but to a large extent antithetical for those who are familiar with Hassan Bello in the discharge of his national assignment, in the past one decade or so.
But the casting is deliberate and by no means intended to subtract from an already established fact that the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello remains the beacon of the ports industry development agenda, a master technocrat, avid performer, great initiator and facilitator; with a knack for uncommon strategy and conquest in matters of utmost urgency.
It is in the light of the qualities aforementioned that the headline finds expression, since no nation or strategists appeared to have been able to respond adequately and sufficiently to exterminate the global economic disruptions caused by the raging corona virus pandemic.
Given that advanced economies and societies have been caught up in seemingly debatable dimension, Nigeria remains one of the third world countries that have put up a very impressive response strategies and emergency tools to contain the scourge, while maintaining a window of economic port activities and by extension supporting Nigerians with their essential non local supplies.
The import/export sector which is characterized by sundry markets with certain percentage of time bond consumables escaped the losses that would have come with total lockdown of the port industry along with other sectors.
Though it may sound trite, the truth however is that Nigeria was able, despite the mortal scare and global panic of the Covid-19 pandemic, ensured that the economy maintained a low profile operation in critical sub sectors to avert national starvation, health and medical dysfunction.
The period also raised the bar on corporate collaboration between critical departments of government in the maritime industry than had been seen in recent years, while operators, players and officials safety also received excellent administration, based on analysts assumptions that the industry’s uncommon successes during this trying period, could not have been achieved without the front row lead by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
It is therefore only natural that the fidelity of purpose, the commitment and drive of government that saw the port industry as the war time gate of hope and survival is acknowledged and properly situated, and in this case, politics aside, the man at the Council driver’s seat, the energetic and quintessential Hassan Bello.
As the Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), perhaps, what worked most for him was his unassuming nature, which clearly established a nexus of corporation with sister port agencies at the highest levels, and which also forged an uncommon bond that produced good corporate governance Nigerian rode on to come this far.
As the ports economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council under Bello’s stewardship deployed critical engagement and collaboration to full advantage. This attracted the leadership of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) into the national emergency scene, where together they co-facilitated and piloted maritime, ports and shipping operation at the thick of the Covid-19 outbreak.
It is significant to note that terminal operators under the umbrella of Ship Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) , service providers including the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria (CRFFN), Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), all responded favorably to the call to keep the port economy going.
Unarguably a shrewd corporate business personality with unremitting diligence, regulatory finesse, a sound evaluator with outstanding listening culture, in the bid to achieve maximum result, Bello and his co-pilots categorized the various interventions into different business modules, separating sensitization and education from technical and economic mechanism, safety and works from administration, services from operations, cooperation and synergy from information management, media and mobilization. This was further structured into working visits and facility tours to assess compliance, monitoring and on the spots assessment tours to evaluate case studies and challenges as they arise.
A researcher and organizer per excellence, Bello and the NSC also ensured that to achieve set goals, all stakeholders must be onboard and proceeded to design stakeholders’ engagements to interact and sensitize, in addition to inter-agency engagements designed to harmonize the various dynamics and emergency interventions. This way, and together with the leadership of NPA and NIMASA, Bello served as conduit for effective dissemination of important presidential notices to shipping companies and terminal operators, regarding demurrage waiver on cargo covering the period of the national lockdown. Bello also stepped up official diplomacy in the negotiation of the said waiver, over alleged noncompliance, while his personality was believed to have stood in the gap to press home the presidential directive to suspend waivers with the offer of sovereign guarantee designed to compensate shipping companies and terminal operators.
Thereafter, the sensitization programme moved to the terminals and shipping companies where the NCDC hygienist, Moji Ayorinde under the direction of Dr. Everistus Aniaku who is the head of emergency operations and National Response Team on COVID-19 in Lagos State, gave talks on how to protect oneself from contracting COVID-19. She demonstrated the correct method to wear a mask, hand washing, hand sanitization and physical distancing among others.
It is instructive to note that the Bello led monitoring and intervention produced a framework of contextual scope, observation and evaluation; while working closely with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 as well indeed with the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and other intermediate sub structures such as National Emergency Operations Center (EOC), National Rapid Response Teams (RRT) etc. By the time the Nigerian Shippers’ Council rounded up its first phase of Covid-19 sensitization in the maritime domain, the gains were obvious and significant. During the 3-day programme Bello presented safety kits including hand gloves, sanitizers and face masks to the heads of seven trucking associations, who he identified as critical to the national economy, and whose safety the NSC is highly committed to, Bello said. He also commended them for their cooperation in acceding to NSC’s request to reduce their fees during the period of the lockdown.
Over 100 stakeholders attended the first phase of the sensitization programme, with participants drawn from the freight industry, shipping companies and port terminals. NSC Head, Public Relations, Mrs. Rakiya Zubairu in a statement said participants are expected to pass forward the lessons learnt as the dictates of physical distancing could not allow for all stakeholders within the different terminals and shipping companies to attend the sessions. Participants also received masks and sanitizers from the Council.
A lawyer by training and economic administrator by divination, Bello has not only affected in significant measures, the dynamics of ports trade, administration and investments, he has for all practical purposes and intent re-written the concepts of evolutionary ports developments in Nigeria, through his routine advocacy for ports infrastructural modernization, intermodal transportation system, linking the seaports with landlocked commercial centres nationwide, through a sustainable, competitive and affordable framework of market interchange.
His evolutionary ideas have remained top compelling policy proposals that have continued to engage stakeholders in the maritime industry and beyond, with very robust and sincere government attention at all tiers of governance. What drives Bello is perhaps, no more than his passion to service through simple, believable, and do-able returns on investment initiatives that is not only able to aggregate the diverse ports economic potentials but also able to simplify economic processes through structured, modern and appropriate tools of commerce.