‘New cargo export plan, committee to tackle rejections, bottlenecks at airports’
A year after the report on foreign airlines departing Nigerian international airports empty, the Federal Government has initiated a move to reverse the trend of overseas rejections of local export goods and bottlenecks at airports.
Specifically, the new Aviation Cargo Roadmap and its implementation committee have the mandate of upturning the imbalance of air freight import-to-export ratio – currently pegged at 87:13.
The Guardian earlier reported that more airlines were departing Nigerian shores without exportable goods and much to the pains of stakeholders and losses of foreign exchange earnings, worth billions of dollars yearly.
Findings show that besides mails that topped the cargo net export in 2021, the country has slumped in the export of agricultural produce following spate rejections and prohibitions overseas over poor packaging, documentation and alleged non-compliance with set standards.
Compared to the import-to-export ratio that was given as 66:34 in 2017, last year’s ratio stands at 87:13, though movement of goods through the airports had increased by 56 per cent compared to 2020.
While regulators blame exporters for failure of due diligence and dip in export fortunes, operators pushed back on regulatory bottlenecks, one-too-many local agencies and conflicting guidelines, high cost of freight, multiple charges and extortions even on goods that are not prohibited overseas.
While inaugurating the special committee of aviation and cargo professionals in Lagos recently, Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, described the trend as disturbing and warrants collective intervention to unlock fortunes of air freight in Nigerian aviation.
Yadudu expressed confidence in the committee to etch sustainable guidelines to “address the ways by which our aviation cargo processing and facilitation will increase in volumes to rank us among the first, or at least the second in Africa before or by the year 2027.”
The committee, led by African tourism expert, Ikechi Uko, has the mandate to articulate action plans that meet international best practice and assign timelines for facilitation of cargo processing at airports.
The committees terms of reference include to articulate guidelines that meet international best practice for Public-Private Partnership in developing modern cargo infrastructures and facilities for optimum air-cargo facilitation that meets destination country’s standard.
Also, to articulate programmes and incentives that will encourage mass participation of local airlines in domestic cargo facilitation, and mechanisms to bridge the turn-around time in cargo facilitation, as well as articulate solutions to lack of adequate insurance coverage in the cargo value chain, among others.
“Currently, we are in the fifth position in Africa, having facilitated only 204, 649tonnes of cargo in 2021. The first airport facilitated only 363,204tonnes in the same year. And in domestic cargo, we facilitated only 8,895tonnes in 2021.
“By our projections of 25 per cent on year-on-year incremental basis, we expect to be ranked first or second in Africa by or before the year 2027. With you, certainly, we can achieve this.
“May I inform you that most administrative bottlenecks identified by the various organisations are being considered at the ministerial level. I can assure you that administrative challenges already identified will be rectified for more efficiency in our operations and logistics,” Yadudu said.