How poor policies, infrastructure deficit wreck Nigerian ports
Unsustainble economic policies and huge infrastructure deficit have been identified as a major bane in actualising the growth aspirations in the maritime sector.Indeed, the major operators who are apparently irked by the prevailing situation lamented that these factors have brought shipping business in the country to the lowest ebb, as shippers divert cargoes to neighbouring countries.
The Managing Director, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistic Base (LADOL), Amy Jadesimi, said, Nigeria has vast potential in the maritime sector which is yet untapped.She said: “Nigeria has the largest coast line in West Africa. We also have a vast number of maritime professional and about 70 per cent of the cargoes coming to West Africa used to come to Nigeria. If you look at the global maritime industry you can see the real potential that our maritime sector affords us and if you put together the facts about Nigeria and how the global maritime industry grows the economies across the world, you will see that we are really missing something in Nigeria.”
Jadesimi said the nation should be generating more forex income form maritime sector than it was getting from oil and gas, if right policies and proper implementation were in place.“The maritime industry will create facilities and will trigger investment of tens of billion of dollars through which investments will flow to the rest of the country,” she said.
Jadesimi emphasised: “If we don’t develop our maritime industry, it will be very difficult to grow our economy…So, we have a real problem here and if we don’t address the issues ravaging our maritime industry, more problems may lie ahead,”
The Group Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group, Taiwo Afolabi, at the maiden Taiwo Afolabi Maritime Lecture in Lagos, described the maritime sector as a veritable vehicle for growth of the national economy.He said the crash in prices of crude oil has underscored the need for Nigeria to shift focus from the ‘black gold’ (oil) to the ‘glittering blue gold’, which is the maritime sector.
President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, also berated the huge infrastructure deficit in the country, noting that lack of appropriate infrastructure for cargo clearance has hindered smooth business operations in the ports axis.
According to him, there is no railway line and the Apapa access roads and internal routes are nothing to write home about, noting that containers fall on daily basis while shippers are loosing millions of dollars to accidents and long man-hour wasted on the road.
Besides, Ogbeifun said the multiplicity of regulatory agencies at the ports is making cargo clearing tedious and more challenging. This has forced some shippers to opt for neighbouring countries.Ogbeifun said that the effect of diversion of cargo to neighbouring countries call for serious concerns in the presidency.
The Executive Director, Sifax Haulage, Henry Ajetumobi, said Nigeria is only aspiring to be Africa’s maritime capital but refused to work towards make the dream a reality.
“Every nation of the world has hopes and aspirations to be great, but you must work for it. We have what is required to be great but we have not harnessed what we have that are expected to lead us from the level of potential to reality.
“Our maritime standing is like our football aspirations in this nation. Look at our population. Why do we find it difficult to select just 11 good players out of how many millions? Something is wrong with us. Something is wrong with our attitude, and if we do not get that attitude problem right, we will have problem with altitude.
“Without deceiving ourselves, I think we just have to tell it as it is. We are a coastal nation does not mean that we are a maritime nation. We have the gift of nature with waters around, but we have not done anything about it. We don’t have a single deep ocean going vessel in this country. And yet we call ourselves maritime nation.
“It is one thing to have the asset, it is another thing entirely to harness those assets and exploit them. With our large population, we should dominate Africa and beyond. Some of the problems we have is that somehow we have got it wrong. When we had the national shipping line in the 70s, we lost it to simple administration issues. Before you know it, our ships were impounded from all the ports because we were owing them.
“If we want to change and we have the political-will to change, he said the nation has to look at other alternatives to rescue its ailing economy.Ogbeifun stressed the need for economic diversification.
“Because crude oil as a source of revenue is shrinking. We may have to turn to other sectors and one sector that has been available since the beginning of time is the maritime industry, but we need to go and dominate it because we are yet to take dominion of our maritime assets,” he said.The President, Shippers Association, Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said policy failure from government has wrecked more havoc on maritime businesses in the country.
“Our system is just a very complex system where government will wake up in the morning without any notice and distort the peace in the maritime sector. The reason why we are having all these problems today is because of policy failure from government. It does not happen like that in other ports.“The terminal operators have modern equipment but there is no encouragement. As shippers, we are the providers of cargo but I must tell you that it is a sad story today that even the shipping lines don’t have anything to carry.
“Last month, there was a report that 20 shipping lines left Nigeria and now we are about to bring in our flag ship. Where are the cargoes to carry?” He queried.Nicol said: “About 20 years ago, we had all these infrastructure in our own little way and they were working very well until this madness for wealth came into our system and government started bringing in people who are not even qualified to handle maritime issues,”
Berating the ban of used-vehicles and other products hitherto imported into the country, he said: “As shippers, we bring in goods so that we can make maximum profit, at least, enough to take care of our businesses. Suddenly, government started encroaching on the little profit we make and I can reveal to you that a very key sector that can earn so much money for our country has been blacklisted.
“You have the formal sector and the informal sector and government said goods coming into the formal sector should not come into the country and that account for about 60 per cent of our cargo. So, we are looking at reducing employment at about three million people.
If you go to Alaba market, most of them bring in informal cargo but things have changed drastically because government claimed to be stopping substandard goods. You cannot even define what is substandard and what is standard because they don’t have the equipment.
“The government has also distorted the importation of second hand vehicle all in the name of encouraging made in Nigeria cars. Currently, government is loosing about N600 million yearly to ban of Tokunboh cars.Nicol further expressed worries over delay of cargoes during the process of verification and certification.He enjoined the government to liberate the sector and relax some of the stiff policies and the forcing shippers out of the country.
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