Barring any urgent intervention to tackle numerous challenges bedeviling Nigerian seaports, the country may lose over 40% of its cargoes before the end of the year.
Clearing Agents under the argues of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), warned that the nation might also lose 40% of its revenue from ports operations to neighbouring ports, unless the new administration resolves the lingering problems in the sector.
The Vice President, ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, in an exclusive chart with The Guardian, said it is a shame on the reigning government that the nations second largest revenue earner, after oil was left to wallop in such a sorry state.
Farinto said there are too many factors that are drawing the sector backward, ranging from bad access roads to the ports, to high shipping costs, shallow water draft at seaports, foreign domination, poor policy implementation, lack of coordination, and proliferation of government agencies at the ports among others.
He bemoaned a situation where the government is not exerting political will to develop the sector, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to muscle enough political will in this new dispensation to rescue the industry from collapsing.
“There are too many issues responsible for the setback. The government does not have either the political will or she is not serious about implementing those good policies. You should expect that before the end of this year we are going to have more than 40 per cent drop in cargo coming to Nigerian ports,” he said.
Noting that the neghbouring countries, such as Ghana, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana and Togo are rapidly developing their seaports, he said Nigeria is currently loosing grip of the shipping economy due to abandonment of the sector, which is the second revenue earner for the government after oil.
He also bemoaned the increasing number of foreigners in the system, saying: “Our industry has been taken over by foreigners. We have people from different countries, even Lebanese, Indians, Chinese now have license to clear cargoes in our seaports. This is not good in terms of security, it is bad economically, and it is anti-employment for the indigenes. There are one thousand and one reasons why Nigerian importers will want to import through neighbouring countries”.
The prevailing situation at the seaports, according to him, is seriously affecting the clearing agents.
“We are loosing businesses; people are loosing jobs on daily basis. Recently, we made presentation requesting for implementation of indigenization of customs brokerage. As a Nigerian and a licensed customs agent, I cannot go to Cotonou Port and clear cargo. Even when I have consignment to clear in Cotonou or Ghana Port, I must subject it to an indigene of that country. But, here in Nigeria, we have a situation whereby they are even licensing Lebanese, Chinese among other nationals. They have access to our ports, they have access to our examination process, and the more reason why a lot of contrabands are smuggled into the country, a situation where Tramadol was imported, because he is the one that is importing it, he will clear it, warehouse it and sell it. All the chains of logistics are vested in them. They don’t have the interest of the country at heart. They are here to make money and go away,” he said.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ecomarine Terminals Limited, Adedayo Moruf Balogun, had recently blamed the over concentration of activities on Lagos ports. He enjoined the Federal Government to open up the Eastern ports to attract cargoes and earn more revenue for the nation.
He said: “Everything about Nigerian economy has been over concentrated on Lagos ports, in spite of their limitations. You cannot believe that today, it is cheaper to ship container from China to Lagos than to take the same container by road from Lagos to Kano. That is the reality. Why have the authorities refuse to develop the Eastern ports. These ports have the capacity to relief Lagos of the burden of congestion and the bottlenecks.
“For example, Calabar Port is strategically located to serve as a hub for the landlocked country of Niger, because Calabar is closer to Niger than Cotonou that Niger is currently using as a hub. Why can’t we develop Calabar port to serve as hub for Niger? Calabar port is the nearest port to the 16 northern states, but today the port of Duala is servicing the North Eastern part of Nigeria, which is suppose to be a captive market for Nigeria, if Calabar port was well developed. The question is why have we not developed Calabar port to a level of draft that it can serve as a hub. No Nigerian port is now a transshipment hub” he said.