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Stakeholders move to stop transit cargo losses to neighbouring ports

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Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Betta Edu (left); Special Adviser to Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director General, Ubong Essien and Eastern Zonal Director of the agency, Sani Audu, during the distribution of relief and entrepreneurship materials to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by NIMASA in Calabar.


Stakeholders in the maritime sector have said capturing Nigeria’s lost transit cargoes from neighbouring countries as well as improving services at the ports to compete with other landlocked countries will attract more vessels to berth in Nigerian ports and increase revenue for economic development.

According to the stakeholders during the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) 2021 Strategic Management Retreat recently in Lagos, themed: “Take the Leap,” Nigeria is yet to maximize the full potential of the maritime sector, which is the second contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Acting Managing Director Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, decried the large number of transit cargoes Nigeria has lost to neighbouring landlocked countries due to multiple issues limiting port operations.

“We have lost most of the transit cargoes to neighbouring countries because of multiple issues at our ports. There are hundreds of checkpoints; some of the roads are not very good. We are thinking of what we can do to bring back that transit cargo and the revenue streams we need to capture,” he said.

Koko pointed that improving the turnaround time of vessels and reducing cargo dwell time is critical to attracting more vessels to Nigerian ports.

He added that optimising the business opportunities that the landlocked countries with whom Nigeria shares borders with presently, is a critical success factor in actualising its growth projections.

According to the NPA boss, the need to attract larger vessels and maximally benefit from the economies of scale that comes with them shows that the ongoing efforts to have deep seaports in Lekki, Badagry and Ibom, among others are steps in the right direction.

He said NPA is constantly scaling up its responsibility of dredging channels to safely berth vessels of reasonable sizes, while encouraging the use of flat bottom vessels (FBV) in areas with low draught in the meantime.

Koko further said every stakeholder in the maritime industry must ensure that NPA’s drive towards attaining the compliance status for Quality Management System (ISO 9001), Environment Management System (ISO 14001) as well as Occupational Health & Safety Management System (ISO 45001) becomes a reality.

According to the NPA boss, efforts being made to make Nigeria’s port the desired destination for vessels include, infrastructural renewal and expansion; introduction of barge operations; automation of truck transit (e-call up); improvement in the sources of revenue and collections; plugging income leakages and reducing overhead costs and elimination of monopolistic conduct.

Others are formulation and implementation of policies aimed at incentivising patronage of the Eastern Ports; encouragement of competition; keeping up with the dictates of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) and Fiscal Responsibility Act; compliance with international best practices; elimination of red tape and employee morale and capacity building.

Professor of Political Economy and Management expert, Patrick Utomi, said the world-leading economies are focusing on the concept of ocean cities as growth drivers.

He said the maritime sector in Nigeria needs rethreading because it can give the country 20 times more revenues than oil. Utomi frowned that the Nigerian ports system is not fully functional and can neither attract investors nor make businesses grow.

He said Nigerian ports were positioned to be great trans-shipment centre for the continent of Africa, running from Dakar, Senegal all the way through the South African ports, but that is not the case today.

Utomi, who is also a Board Member of Renner and Renner Consulting, noted that part of the tragedy of Nigeria not becoming like Singapore, is its failure to realise that there could have been a replica of Lagos ports in other states, making it one of the longest coastlines that exist in Africa.

He said Singapore grew her economy through the revenue generated from its only asset over 30 years ago, the natural country port, primarily used for trans-shipment as it built an extraordinary economy where today, the average income is over $30, 000 per person.

Utomi also added that China has increased its per capita income to 30 times what it used to have when Nigeria’s per capita income was about $2, 000.

The Country Director, Renner and Renner Consulting, Ibby Iyama, said high cost of Nigeria’s ports operation is limiting economic growth, especially as importers and other maritime stakeholders who borrow loans from the bank to bring in containers hardly make their capital.

She said Nigeria lacks functional and strategic plan to run its ports system unlike Benin, Togo and Ghana that have a strategy to run their port system, thereby attracting investors to patronise them and building their economy with revenue generated.

Iyama said putting a workable port system in place would make Nigerian ports sustainable, competitive and increase revenue generation for economic growth.

She also frowned on the inability of the NPA to achieve the International Standard Organisation (ISO) certification after two years, while other neighbouring ports like Tema, Ghana is ISO certified.

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Mohammed Bello KokoNPA
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