Strong indications emerged that the new management of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA may enter into a long battle with the board and management of. Heritage Bank plc over $19million (N9.12 billion) trapped in the bank.

Managing Director of the authority, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, who fielded questions during an interactive session with the maritime media in Lagos yesterday as part of the activities marking the 100 days in office of the new management, said the management is also exploring all legal means towards the recovery of a total of N255.3 billion indebtedness to the authority, some of which are 10 years and above.

She also said the management discovered huge debts owed the agency when it assumed duty at the authority on July 17, 2016.

It was gathered that many of these debts have however gone bad but are still prominently featuring on the authority’s financial books, which has given rise to the need to write them off since many of the companies and government agencies associated with these debts are no longer in existence.

A profile of the debts showed that apart from the over N400million trapped in Aso Savings and Loans Scheme, a total of N9.12 billion ($19 million) is currently trapped in Heritage Bank Limited, even as another N240billion ($500million) and N10billion respectively are also owed the agency.

The MD however disclosed that the authority was undertaking every legal means to ensure that the $19million trapped at Heritage Bank was recovered and paid into the coffers of the Federal Government.

She said: “For the N400million trapped in the Aso Homes, the Executive Management has directed the Legal Department to come up with a letter detailing the transactions including the exact account name as the time of opening the account so that we will be properly guided in pursuing it”.

“We also did report on assumption of duty that we discovered that Heritage Bank is indebted to the authority to the tune of $19million that is outside the Single Treasury Account TSA and they have made some payments but $19million is still outstanding and so we are making efforts to ensure that these monies are paid into the coffers of the government”, the MD also said.

It was however gathered that the agency is currently holding talks with the relevant officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN with a view to assisting in recovering the debts.

Investigations also show that many of the debts, which are 10 years and above have already gone bad since some of the government agencies and even private organisations that owe some of the debts are no longer in existence, which makes their recovery very difficult.

Giving more insights into the origin of the debts, the MD disclosed that many of them arose from long term leases done by the authority in which some of the leases could not take possession of the premises probably due to the topography or other reasons while the lease agreements have already been captured in the financial books of the authority

While speaking on the policy direction of the new management, she disclosed that emphasis were being placed on revenue generation and blocking of leakages, stimulation of exports, succession, strategic capacity building through training and a robust welfare package for staff to enhance efficiency and productivity.

On the challenges faced by the new management, the MD cited the inability of some of the stakeholders including some agencies and even organisations to conform to basic standards and principles of the rule of law, which she warned would not be tolerated.