Port infrastructure deficiency threatening Nigeria’s export drive - DAILY SUN
•Exporters lose $15bn over stranded cargoes
BY Steve Agbota
In most of the developed economies, good port infrastructure is a bedrock of export trade, which boosts their economic activities and foreign exchange (forex) earnings.
But in Nigeria, lack of massive investment to upgrade or develop port infrastructure has created a major setback for export trade around Nigerian ports. This means that the Federal Government’s gospel of diversification through the non-oil export sector has continued to remain a mere slogan.
Ideally, export trade facilitates economic expansion, promotes international cooperation, improves the balance of payments and boosts foreign currency earnings. Through export trade, Nigeria earns vital foreign exchange, increases its revenue. In 2019, alone, Nigeria raked in N2.5 trillion from non-oil export in spite of bottlenecks causing a set back for the nation’s export trade around the ports.
But the unpalatable condition of access roads to the Lagos ports complex (gridlock), dearth of modern railway, multiple charges, multiple government agencies, lack of holding bays, extortion have all made Nigerian ports inefficient and a hinderance to the nation export drive.
However, the poor processes and procedures of export documentation by agents at the ports was also part of the problems facing export, while shipping line and other operators contributed the largest problems as regards export in the country.
Daily Sun learnt that some Nigerian exporters are losing as much as $15 billion annually and they are as well losing their contractual agreements because they could not meet their contractual obligations with their foreign counterparts due to unfriendly port challenges. The incessant inability to access the major seaports has negative impact on movement of non-oil exports and has really affected foreign exchange earnings and over 10,000 people are said to have lost their jobs as a result of the gridlock.
For instance, between April and May 2020, about 1000 export cargoes were trapped at Nigerian port terminals for several weeks. It takes the intervention of the Nigerian Shippers Council to facilitate the movement of about 800 trucks of these export cargoes. The export cargoes, which are perishable goods, were denied entry into the terminals.
At a recent briefing, Executive Secretary of the Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, urged the Federal Government and all stakeholders to focus more on export, saying it is export that would sustain Nigerian economy post COVID-19.
“Export is very important. For non-oil export in 2019, Nigeria got N2.5 trillion; in 2018, we got N1.1 trillion; in 2017, N629 billion and in 2016, it was N344 billion. You can see it is rising. Then why can’t we build on this? There is no other time to develop our export than now,” he said.
He hinted that Nigeria lost so much revenue in crude oil export, and importation has equally dwindled seriously due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has grounded the world economy.
Speaking with Daily Sun, an exporter who is also the Managing Director of Universal Quest Nigeria, Mr. Sotonye Anga, said, for Nigeria to break barriers against export, there is need to ensure free flow of traffic within all the access roads leading to the port. He added that dedicated lanes should be created for cargo movement to sustain export cargo and cargo containers moving into the port.
“Once they there is ease of traffic, we will be able to improve deliveries and revenue will increase by 50 per cent. We need to ensure that we create alternative ports as a relief to Apapa and Tin Can ports. We have the Onne Port, Warri Port and other ports in Nigeria. We should develop all of them and ensure that export has alternative.