ARGUABLY, if inland sea ports in Eastern and Southern Nigeria were fully developed and operational, Nigeria would not have been watching a huge N1.00 trillion go down the drains every year/
Activities at the Calabar Port in Cross River State, Warri and Koko Ports in Delta State are not economically significant. Developing a functional sea port in Onitsha, the commercial hub of Eastern Nigeria is being crippled by seeming selfish political considerations. It is being feared that such a sea port could kill those in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.
Now, the nightmarish state of access roads to Lagos ports is costing the country over N1.00 trillion annually as shippers are being forced to divert their cargoes to ports in neighbouring countries to escape the horror associated with clearing goods in Lagos.
That does not appear to make a good economic sense Port Harcourt, Calabar, Koko and Warri ports are there.
President of Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) Jonathan Nicol, says the losses arose from import duties and other charges not paid to Nigerian ports. According to him, there is massive diversion of Nigeria-bound cargo to ports in neighbouring countries due to bad access roads to Lagos ports.
He said that despite the seeming inconvenience of using ports outside Nigeria, it was still significantly cheaper than Lagos ports the demurrage, terminal charges and storage fees incurred by shippers ran into billions of naira daily.
“There are also queue of vessels within the Lome waters awaiting call-up for berthing in Lagos ports.
“This will attract port congestion levy on cargo, which is no fault of the shippers (importers and exporters).
“Demurrage on containers is increasing with no control from maritime agencies. Importers and exporters are suffering,” he said.
Nicol called on the contractor handling the rehabilitation of the access roads to Apapa port to expedite action to reduce problems encountered by shippers and truck owners.
“Industrialists are incurring huge expenses on haulage due to lack of access roads and they are counting more losses daily.
“There is no entry into Lagos ports and no access out of the ports after loading,” the shipper said, adding that truck drivers remained on queue for several days.
He, however, commended Dangote Group, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for offering to rehabilitate the access roads. “It should be noted that they (Dangote and Flour Mills) are industrialists going the extra mile to keep the maritime industry afloat,” Nicol said.
The SALS chief said the export initiative of the Federal Government was also under threat as export goods spend many days on the short distance to ports before arrival for processing and loading, pointing out that to avert congestion, the backlog of goods at the ports should be cleared.
According to him, the port congestion recorded in the past is mounting again and may lead to prolonged litigation on who pays the demurrage charges, and accordingly advised that empty containers inside the ports should be exported as a matter of priority.