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Decongest Apapa with ports outside Lagos

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EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Apapa Port Complex in Lagos. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)


A recent lamentation by the Organised Private Sector (OPS), that the Nigerian economy lost a whopping N6 trillion to the protracted gridlock in Apapa should spur the authorities to seek ways of decongesting Lagos, which is to open other ports in other geo-political zones in the country. Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar, among others, are ports that could serve as alternative to ports in Apapa. Government should develop these ports and stop playing to the gallery with presidential and gubernatorial directives.

The fact that the country has other viable ports that could serve the same purpose as Apapa ports in Lagos, and yet the authorities are not serious about it, shows that the debilitating gridlock on Apapa roads and bridges is contrived to serve the ulterior motives of some persons in authorities and business. That way, the economy will continue to suffer huge loses until the right thing is done.

The OPS, among others, expressed their disgust in Lagos at the 62nd annual general meeting of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).

According to the group, the survey it carried out showed that Nigeria lost about N3.06 trillion, an equivalent of US$10 billion on non-oil exports and about N2.5 trillion earnings annually across the different sectors due to the Apapa gridlock. This is shameful.

The claim by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, represented by his former adviser on Economy Recovery and Job Creation, Adeyemi Dipeolu, at the event, that effort at decongesting Apapa was yielding positive results is spurious given that there is no improvement in the traffic situation in Apapa. The positive results are yet to be seen. And, there may be no change without opening other ports outside Lagos.

In the same vein, recent reports that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had cancelled the contract for the $2.6 billion Badagry deep seaport for the reason of a wrongly done master plan is a welcome development provided the agency is geared towards opening other ports outside Lagos.

It is incomprehensible why all the seaport projects are concentrated in congested Lagos, when other equally viable ports that should be developed have been abandoned. That all the functional ports – Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports, are all in Lagos and yet new ones are being planned for Lekki and Badagry, is senseless. Why have the other seaports not been developed for use as deep-sea ports?

The ports in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri, Brutu, Sapele, Escravos, Forcados and Onne are lying fallow, while the nation puts all her eggs in one basket in Lagos. This is strategically and economically unwise. They need dredging and that should not be difficult to desperate federal authorities at this time.

For security reasons, for instance, having all the nation’s ports in Lagos could portend danger. A good Ports Master Plan should create other alternatives for efficiency and public interest.The Managing Director of the NPA, Hajia Hadiza-Bala Usman, who reportedly disclosed that the Badagry port project had been cancelled, explained that the agency had begun the process for fresh bids for the approval of a new port master plan for the deep seaport project. This should be reviewed to accommodate the ports outside Lagos.

According to Usman, “The Outline Business Case (OBC) for Badagry deep seaport was reviewed. Some of the responsibilities of the government were taken and put in the OBC for Badagry port. I have objected to that and written to the Federal Ministry of Transportation on this.”

The point at issue is not who does what at the port but the rationale for building another port in Lagos when the city is already choked with killer traffic gridlock. Without having a port at Badagry, the Lagos-Badagry highway is already congested. And there is no efficient rail transport system to evacuate goods and people coming from Seme borders in Benin Republic. It would, therefore, be foolhardy to compound the gridlock in that axis by building another seaport in Badagry.

The port master plan in view, should be comprehensive enough to guide on what is right instead of having two deep seaports near Lagos. It is unfortunate that Nigeria, which should be a powerful maritime nation, is lagging behind in terms of efficient port operations.

With the horrifying traffic gridlock plaguing Apapa, it takes an average of one month for container-laden trailers to access the ports owing to dilapidated roads. This has negatively impacted on port operations and made importers and exporters incur huge overhead costs, which the OPS is lamenting. Truth is that there is dreaded congestion in Lagos because the other ports are not functional.

Government should open the other ports to decongest Lagos. It makes no sense to import goods that are meant for the South-East and South-South through Lagos and then have them transported overland by trucks. That is the cause of the gridlock in Lagos. Heavy vehicular traffic also contributes to road failure.

More important, Ports should be operated by the local administrative authorities where they are located. We have repeatedly emphasized that the Apapa Local Government Council, in whose jurisdiction the Apapa ports are located, should be in charge of the Ports as in other climes.

The monopoly by the federal government on the ports without involving the states and local governments is unjust and counterproductive. Federal monopoly kills competition. In the main, we need federalism for institutions and agencies of governance to work better in all spheres. Federalism would give power to local authorities to manage their resources more efficiently. The present administration’s strange opposition to federalism principle stunts progress.  That is why the issue of decentralisation should not be trifled with anymore.   

 


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