The Federal government must ensure that this year comes with infrastructure facelift at the ports. This is a sure way of lifting the national economy, especially in relation to the government’s diversification agenda. The main factor affecting Nigerian ports is the poor road infrastructure. Government should declare a state of emergency on the ports access roads, and ensure rapid reconstruction of the roads because it is very important to the national economy. Our ports are in a terrible state and this is part of what is making the economy go down. The bad roads we have in Lagos, especially in Apapa,are causing people to lose goods and sometimeslives are lost as well.There are other things that should be put in place apart from the roads like the 24-hours cargo clearance and cargo scanners. In addition, multiple government agencies should be pruned down; they are there to extort importers. The Customs clearance procedure (tariff charge) is cloaked in secrecy and our waterways are not secure; all these must be tackled. These issues must be resolved holistically to make Nigerian seaports business-friendly and enhance the ease of doing business.
The government needs to look more into the shipping sector because it has the potential of contributing immensely to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of this nation. The policy of Free on Board (FOB) must be shelved as it is denying us a lot of foreign exchange for freight, that indigenous ship owners could have earned. Nigeria is losing millions of dollars every year and it is bad because members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are the ones making this so called policy and it is not helping the country. There should be a national fleet in this country because it used to be a pride for us to fly the Nigerian flag all over the world. We no longer have that pride so we should not deceive ourselves by saying we are the giant of Africa when smaller countries are all doing better than Nigeria. Concerning the Inland Container Depot, without the railways it is pointless. Better countries are linking their rail to the airport and seaport. I am hoping the rail started by the Minister of Transport from Calabar to Lagos will be effective and if it is, that means all the port and roads will be linked by rail. This is something Nigeria should have done ages ago and it would have caused us less money because there wouldn’t have been a problem of congestion at our ports. Furthermore, we are not making use of water transportation; everyone relies on the roads which are not well maintained and that is why our roads are in a deplorable state. The ferries and the inland water movement are all available; unfortunately, we are not enhancing our resources.
This year, I will urge the Federal government to invest in security architecture to wade off insecurity especially piracy and sea robbery. We need the government to invest in Nigeria’s naval fleet and we want the Navy to work together with maritime agencies like NIMASA to be able to assist merchant shipping. At the moment, merchant shipping has no direct access to the navy. We don’t have direct access to the Navy so we need NIMASA to be the go-between us and the Nigerian Navy. They all need to collaborate because in every country in the world, there is always a relationship between the maritime agency that is handling regulation and the navy of that country in order to curb piracy. It is important we see that synergy this year.
I am expecting the government to improve on all the promises they have made so far as regards the ports. They should ensure that the port access roads are motorable, boost transportation and address the problem of gridlock. Also, the Federal government should compel shipping companies to start using the holding bays to receive their empty containers. An enabling environment should be provided for business to thrive at the port. There should be people-friendly policies this year, so that people will be able to key into the industry.
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