The maritime industry had been worn out by the hullabaloo and politics surrounding the dredging of Calabar Port and whether or not it could be viable when the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman appointed Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu, Calabar Port Manager, barely two months after resumption. Experts and users concluded that nothing really could happen at Calabar port until government took the bold step to dredge and prioritize the continual maintenance of the channel.
While stakeholders waited for the big dredging decision from government, Olotu assumed office as Port Manager Calabar in 2016 with a charge from the executive management to make the port work. But some naysayers had told her Calabar couldn’t work and advised she went to Calabar, resumed and just “waited out her tenure” as the port was dead, Olotu mentioned to TNMN. Two years and nine months later, the same port of Calabar records a 150% increase in revenue. The port’s revenue which was N837,231,974.04 between 2013-2015 had soared to N2,471,020,157.27 between 2016-2018 and the volume of business had also increased under her watch.
Upon interactions with some staff and stakeholders, TNMN learnt that when Olotu arrived Calabar, she cleared all debts and yet left a substantial credit balance for the port before leaving for Apapa.
Speaking with TNMN, His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, The Obong of Calabar described the former Port Manager as “different…one who had the interest of the people at heart” and did not stop at anything in making Calabar Port work.
At an interactive session held recently to welcome the new port manager, Mrs Maire Asein, stakeholders did not mince words in expressing gratitude to Mrs Olotu for her immense work.
The General Manager, ECM Terminals Limited, Calabar Free Port, Mr Diran Akorede who applauded the purposeful partnership initiative by Mrs Olotu , added that she made the Port effective resolving matters in certain areas of operations that were previously ignorned.
The representative of Ayowalhz Global said Olotu redeemed the image of the ports which had become notorious for owing many for over two years before her posting as Port Manager , Calabar.
NorthWest Group appreciated said Olotu for her forthrightness describing her as one stopped sharp practices in the port and made it efficient.
Even though Olotu generated much revenue, collected debts and surpassed her targets, she insists that the frugal management culture which her team embraced was key to their success.
“We achieved a lot and still saved money. At a point, we were saving every month. People thought I was stupid or crazy. And I took it from one of my predecessors here, I must acknowledge him- Mr Ayodele Durowaye. When he left Onne, he left a substantial credit for his successor. He showed me the light.
“Some people will say you are keeping money, I am not keeping money. If you give me money for erosion and Marina had earlier done the erosion, why should I spend that money on erosion again? If you give me money for roads and signages, why should I? So what we do is when we need money for something else, we approach them, “Sir, we want to do this, we have surplus in certain areas, can we?” and most times they oblige us. Even if it is not my personal money, I cannot waste government money”, she stated.
Top on Olotu’s agenda upon resumption was increase of business activities at the port. After various enquiries, she stumbled on modern day flat bottom vessels whose draft could navigate through the Calabar channel and established contact with the company in Greece. Later that year, during her annual leave, she paid them a visit at her own expense. That visit concretized efforts to bring in Desert Ranger, a vessel with 60,000 metric tons of wheat. This singular initiative gave rise to the call of two vessels at Calabar. Desert Ranger berthed at the Port of Calabar during its maiden voyage in October 2017.
Olotu who recounts this success story said this effort earned her a special merit award for excellence from the Executive Management who also paid back every penny she expended on reaching out to Greece. The Chief Pilot who brought in those vessels was not left out. Prior to the arrival of the vessel, he was sent to Greece for a simulation course during which he emerged one of the best.
Upon arrival of Desert Ranger in Lagos, owners insisted he alone would pilot their vessel which was relatively new from the shipyard. Pilot Bida executed the task successfully and the executive management, on the plea of his Port Manager rewarded him with double promotion thus moving him from level 9-12.
Other achievements of the Olotu led team at Calabar include:
- Implementation of Management Decision on reversion of berth rent which until her arrival was not effected.
- Partnership with Lafarge on regular calls of export vessels with Klinka from Calabar to Port of Tema, Ghana.
- Published Annual reports from 2013-2018
- Facelift of fences and admin buildings etc
- Calabar now has a training and development centre and operational meeting hall, and the information Centre.
- Successful hosting of the 2018 NIPOSA games.
- Initiation and hosting of the maiden edition of Calabar port Management retreat to foster Purposeful Partnership with stakeholders
- Executive Management Meeting with stakeholders.
- Reward best performing officers in Promotion exams.
- Fostering of relationships with the Obong and other royal fathers
- Corporate Social Responsibility projects to IDP camps, the physically challenge, schools etc
A disposition dated June 21, 2019, moved Mrs Olotu from Calabar to the premier Apapa Port as Port Manager. This decision has generated mixed reactions from stakeholders in Calabar.
Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu handed over to Mrs Marie Asein , the new Port Manager Calabar on June 28, 2019 and assured stakeholders that Asein would no doubt sustain the tempo of growth.