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Resolving the mess in Nigerian ports

Beyond the current challenge of traffic gridlock around the country’s two most important seaports of Apapa and Tincan Island, all in Lagos, other factors are also militating against import business in the country. In one vein the grid lock has spawned a geometric increase in the cost of moving freight from any of the affected ports to any other part of Lagos by as much as 600% in some cases. 

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According to the President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Increase Uche, “Only a few months ago haulage of a 1,400feet container was for N120,000.00 while that for a 20 feet container was transported for N80,000.00 within Lagos. But the prices have shot up to between N555,000.00 and N600,000.00 for the 40 feet container”.  Speaking further he observed that the cost of moving the 40 feet container up country is now around N1.2 million which he sees as “unjustifiable”. 

In another vein, over 6,000 imported vehicles with a combined value of about N25 billion may have been abandoned at the same Lagos ports by their importers, as a result of a slack in import duty operations by the Nigerian Customs Service. The vehicles have remained abandoned due to the failure of their importers to clear the respective import fees, which go at the rates of 70% duty and 70% levy brand new vehicles, as well as 35% duty for used vehicles. 

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The situation has discouraged importers from patronising Nigerian ports. According to an importer, Mr Samson Benjamin, while Nigerian importers are desirous to patronize Nigerian ports the various agencies in charge of administering the ports are not helping matters. Where the problem is not in poor infrastructure, it rears its head in outrageous charges and administration all of which translate into avoidable business losses for the importers. 

To corroborate the messy state of affairs at the country’s ports the House of Representatives is currently engaged in a comprehensive probe of the state of affairs at the country’s ports and activities of terminal managers and their sub-contractors. The probe which is by the House Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways is driven by serial complaints and petitions over serial infractions at the country’s various terminals. 

While speaking at the opening of the probe the Speaker of the House of Representative Yakubu Dogara, lamented over degenerate state of Nigerian ports in comparison with those of neighboring countries with respect to infrastructure and operations’. He went on to emphasise the pivotal significance of viable seaports in the development of the country’s maritime industry which he described as yet to attain the desired and expected status of becoming the hub for international freight movement and trade in the West African sub region.

 In a related development Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics in its March 2018 Report recorded a drop of Nigerian ports in global rating basically because of dilapidated infrastructure.  Against the copious volume of resources ploughed into the country’s maritime sector over the years, the situation there constitutes oscillating forward and backward movement that captures little or no progress. The ultimate consequence is the current state of congestion and associated traffic grid lock on Lagos roads and related malpractices that drive importation business and attendant revenue out of the country. 

In the context of the country’s maritime development aspirations the situation remains unacceptable as there are other seaports that are presently idle and are calling for attention and business. Such ports located in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and Koko are left to wallow, in a state of distorted ports management regime by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and its subsidiary the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). 

 In the light of the undeserved agony of Nigerians from the incipient state of affairs in the country’s ports administration, a total overhaul of the sector is highly recommended.       

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