Cargo clearing will now take two days instead of two weeks, says Koko
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, has said Nigeria has started wresting cargoes meant for the nation’s ports from neighbouring countries including Benin Republic, Togo, and Ghana.
He said this was made possible by the inauguration of the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos and improved ports efficiency.
Koko, who disclosed this during an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos, said business has commenced in Lekki Deep Sea Port.
He noted that unlike two weeks it takes for cargo clearing at Apapa Port, it would take two days in Lekki.
His words: “I must say it is the first time a government will start construction of a port, finished and commissioned it before leaving office.
“As you know, the Lekki Deep Seaport has been in the brain box for over 10 years. It is this administration that came in and gave all the necessary support through the Ministry of Transportation and the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).
“They have done the test run on all the necessary equipment, they have done their recruitments, people have been training and the vessels have started coming in, at least, we had a vessel that came in to take out empty containers and by April, we expect that the first commercial vessel will start coming.
“So business has started actually in Lekki Deep Sea Port. Everything is ready and it is going to be automated as we said and all the gaps we observed either in Tincan Island Port or Apapa, whether in terms of scanners, equipment and others, you will find all of them in Lekki.
“Unlike two weeks it takes for cargo clearing at Apapa port in Lagos, at Lekki it would be out in just two days.
“With Lekki Deep Sea Port, the NPA has been able to wrest cargoes from neighbouring countries back to the country.
“It changes everything. For instance, you are an importer, and you know that going to Apapa, sending in your cargo or importing your cargo through Apapa will take you two weeks.
“Whether because the road is bad, whether because the Customs scanning system is limited, or probably the automation is not complete and so on and so forth, it will take you two weeks.
“But if you take it through Lekki, probably in two days you are out.
“First, it is for you to determine who are the importers of these cargoes and if you determine that, you will then ask why they are taking these cargoes to those locations.
“As I have said earlier, what we simply did was just improve efficiency. If you are efficient nobody wants to send his cargoes to Lome and starts dragging it down to Nigeria.”
Also speaking on trans-shipment of cargo, Koko said NPA is already working on it, pointing out that neighbouring countries have it but Nigeria currently does not have.
He said: “Neighbouring countries have cargo trans-shipment nut we don’t have. So you find that the bigger vessels go to Lome and then they use smaller vessels to bring the cargo into Nigeria.
“But that is what Lekki wants to start doing and they already have a market for it, it is just to have the necessary cooperation by relevant government agencies, so that happens.
“It brings in more revenue to Nigerian Port Authority and more activities into Nigeria. It changes that perspective. We are no more going to have situations where cargo cannot come into Nigeria because of lack of port infrastructure.
“And the interconnectivity from Lekki to other locations, you know what is going on, there is a survey for a train to be linked there. So it changes everything. It also creates competition; it means that the existing terminal operators need to sit up so as not to lose business to Lekki.’’
He further disclosed that four deep sea ports are coming on board across the country as part of efforts at making Nigeria a regional maritime hub in Africa.
“We have had proponents that have been coming with their ideas. I can tell you, we have like three or four now that are really, really serious about investing in other Deep Sea Port. They have seen the possibility, it can be done.
“They understand that somebody has set the pace and they see that it is going to be profitable based on the projections.’’
On the revenue generation drive of the NPA and plans to raise the bar by 30 per cent, Koko recalled that it increased from about N317 billion to over N360 billion in 2022.
He said:”I also said that we would ensure that we increase our revenue. We have increased our revenue from probably about N317 billion to over N360 billion in 2022. We transferred about N80 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in 2020 and over N91 billion in 2022.
“We have also improved on staff welfare whether it is in terms of their offices, their salaries and allowances, provision of buses, working tools, uniforms where necessary and for the physical port infrastructure, that is a bit of a long term project, but we have gone very far.
“I can say that easily we should be able to increase our revenue by between 20 to 30 per cent in the next year. Now, don’t forget that NPA has not increased its tariff since 1993 and every time you hear the cost of doing business at the port, people ascribe it to NPA, but it is not.
“If the Nigerian Customs increases its tariffs, it increases the cost of doing business at the port, if immigration or the Standards Organisation of Nigeria ,SON, increases their tariff, or of NIMASA increases, the cost of doing business at the ports increases.
“When vessels call at the port and spend longer days before it offloads its cargo, that is also cargo waiting time incurring demurrage.
” We are working to ensure that we reduce ship waiting time and the cargo dwell time, but even though we have not increased our tariff for how many decades.
The first commercial vessel had berthed at the nation’s first deep seaport on April 1, 2023 with a draft of about 16.5 m.