The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group, the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria, and other stakeholders have lamented the impact of the two-week suspension imposed on export cargo containers going into Apapa ports.
The Nigerian Ports Authority had on Monday announced a 14-day suspension of export receipts at Lagos Ports Complex and the Tin Can Island Port as well as all satellite truck parks.
It said the development was necessitated by the need for consultations with export cargo stakeholders and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council on the harmonisation of procedures required of owners of this category of cargo.
The Chief Executive Officer, NEPC, Mr Segun Awolowo, at a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the council in Lagos on Thursday, said the frequent gridlock as a result of cargo congestion and access road to the ports in Lagos had become an issue of great concern to export development and promotion in Nigeria.
He said there were constant complaints from exporters on losses incurred due to delays of consignment before access into the ports which at times rendered the products unwholesome and subsequently leading to rejection.
He said, “This has made exports from Nigeria not to be competitive in comparison with exports from other countries.
“The Nigeria Port Authority has always been concerned about this unpalatable development and therefore has been engaging the NEPC and other relevant stakeholders in the export sector on how to mitigate the challenges for the benefits of export business.”
The Chairman, MANEG, Chief Ede Dafinone, said the delays caused by the approvals from different agencies were ‘extending the business cycle and reducing profits that can be made by exporters’.
He said, “It is clear that the agencies at the ports, the shipping companies, Customs, and CBN have multiple documentation that is delaying the process. My first reaction to the announcement that exports would stop for two weeks was to start wailing that the disruption to business is huge.”
“The delay of two weeks is not solving the problem,” he said, adding the backlog of export cargo containers would increase significantly after two weeks.
The National President of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria, Dr Victor Iyama, said members of the association were already incurring losses.
“At the end of two weeks, we will be talking about over 2,000 export containers waiting to enter the ports, and that is why many of us are saying we cannot afford that luxury of waiting. They didn’t consult us before taking the decision. Many of us are losing money,” he told our correspondent on the sidelines of the event.
The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, said the challenge with congestion within the port area over the weekend led to the suspension.
She said, “We are trying to categorise cargoes, so that there is understanding of the movement and timing of cargo. As at Sunday, we had 823 export cargo trucks that had been ticketed and were already on the way to the port. So, imagine those 823 trucks and releasing an additional 200 a day, where will that lead us to?
“We should also recognise that these roads are used by other people. We must be conscious of the fact that these roads cannot be occupied by containers.”
According to her, the number of trucks that can be accommodated within the port is a maximum of 120 every day.
“So, being pragmatic and recognising the need to have seamless flow as much as possible into the port informed that decision. As at today (Thursday), we still have 620 trucks that have not got access into the port.”
Calabar port solution to congestion – NEXIM Bank boss
Meanwhile, the Managing Director/Chief Executive of Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Abubakar Bello, has said the Calabar port offers solution to the congestion at the Apapa ports.
Bello stated this on Thursday in Calabar at the maiden loading of chartered 7,000 metric tons capacity vessel from Calabar port to the United States of America by Starlink Global and Ideal Limited.
He said, “This occasion is quite significant, not only because it offers a solution to the traffic congestion and gridlock that has characterised Apapa ports over the years, but also because of the prospects of opening up the economy of the South-South region of the country towards improved contribution to international trade and the job creation potential.”
He added that an enduring solution to the congestion at Apapa ports was in the use of the other ports in the country.
Bello said NEXIM Bank remained committed to promoting initiatives aimed at facilitating trade in the country, one of which was the Sealink Project.
This involved ‘partnership with private maritime operators who have agreed to deploy about 20 vessels’ with Calabar designated as one of the routes for the Sealink vessels.
He said the bank had earmarked at least N1bn per state to support the State Export Development Programme geared towards developing one exportable commodity per state, under the Zero Oil Plan of the Federal Government.