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N868b export-bound goods stuck in seaports

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• Maritime workers threaten strike
• Shippers appeal to Labour

Export-Bound goods worth about N868 billion might be wasted at seaports, unless the Federal Government tackles obstacles inhibiting export trade. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had directed exporters to register with the Nigeria Export Proceeds (NXP) agency before exporting their goods. Some of them have failed to meet deadlines for registration and had their cargoes stuck at seaports.

Exporters have consistently appealed to CBN and other government agencies to liberalise the process to encourage struggling entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has threatened to embark on a three-day warning strike from today, December 9, over deplorable state of access roads to seaports in Lagos State.

The Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) has appealed to the union to shelve the planned action considering the volume of export cargoes trapped in the ports.

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President of SALS, Jonathan Nichol, in a chart with The Guardian, yesterday, said some of the shippers had not been able to register for the NXP, and, therefore, could not export their goods. “The goods are already in the ports and they are so many that even the shipping lines said they could not take any more export cargo,” Nichol explained. “So, the export cargoes are now more than the import cargoes struggling for space at the terminals.

“Goods that fall under exports remain on top of the trucks indefinitely, as there is no space to keep them; they are not sure of exporting the goods due to NXP issue and they cannot take them away from the ports,” he said.

SMEs are mostly into export business and we expect government to encourage such people. There are no jobs in the country and these are the people who have taken the bull by the horn to export agricultural products.

“This is not what government can achieve within three years, they need to be liberal with their policies to encourage struggling exporters. This is the peak period and the rush is much; so, we have appealed to CBN to let the registration be continuous,” he said.

On the strike action, Nichol said the actions of the association, especially the ANCLA’s call for state of emergency is in order.

“However, goods worth over N868 billion are under threat of decomposition as a result of regulatory bottlenecks.

“We will give our support for a total lockdown if our exporters are not treated nicely by the Central Bank of Nigeria and for the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the Shipping Lines and the Terminal Operators to have a serious dialogue with all the associations, including the Shippers Association Lagos State.

“There is need for concerted support for export trade and we cannot allow exporters wallow in massive loss of perishable goods. Strike will definitely worsen our troubles by increasing cost of demurrage on import and export cargoes.

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“Apapa’s has evolved to be a Lagos State traffic that has shown no respect to anyone. Indeed, workers spend quality man-hours on the road, to and from work. The traffic is threatening our corporate existence. Trade is dwindling.

“This is as a result of systemic failure that will affect all port management agencies for their failure to address the intractable traffic situation.

“We support the amalgamation plan for truck owners in the new concept of tackling traffic; after all, they are the owners of the trucks on the roads. These issues demand our collective efforts now. Congestion in the ports is real,” he said.

The CBN had, earlier in October, threatened to sanction exporters who shipped out goods without NXP numbers. Governor Godwin Emefiele noted that many shipping companies did not comply with Federal Government’s directive that such shipments should carry NXP number.

The Form NXP is a mandatory document to be completed by all exporters through an authorised dealer bank for shipment of goods outside Nigeria, irrespective of the value and whether or not payment is involved. Any customer willing to engage in export business is required to register with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council.

MEANWHILE, the Maritime workers union, in a communiqué, noted that MWUN could no longer watch the situation degenerate. The communiqué, which was signed by President-General of the union, Adewale Adeyanju, and Secretary-General, Felix Akingboye, said that the poor state of access roads had made articulated vehicles to block them, putting other road users in danger of losing man-hours and facing risks of accidents.

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It stated: “To avoid unnecessary deaths as well as loss of man-hour on the failed roads, the NEC in-session hereby calls on the Federal Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to urgently fix the access roads and make them motorable,”

MWUN said that its NEC in-session unanimously approved the central working committee’s recommendation that the union should proceed on a three-day warning strike to bring to the public space its disappointment with the total neglect of access roads to Lagos ports by successive governments, and the urgent need for government to repair the roads.

“From Second Rainbow to the ports, in the last three weeks, it takes not less than five to seven hours to access the ports, depending on when and where one gets trapped.

“When you are leaving the ports, you even spend more hours from the ports to the same Second Rainbow. “A lot of innocent lives have been lost, many have been maimed by hoodlums who rob and dispossess victims of their belongings,” it said. The union said that response from government would determine its next line of action after the warning strike.

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