Forex restriction on imports affecting port operation – Ubogu

The Managing Director, Micura Stevedoring Services, Michael Ubogu has complained about the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regulations denying importers of some select items access to foreign exchange in order to shore up the value of the naira.

Speaking exclusively to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Ubogu said the restriction of foreign exchange on about 41 commodities has adversely affected the maritime industry, especially stevedoring companies.

According to him, “41 commodities restricted from the forex is definitely affecting our business especially rice importation.

“Rice is basically the commodities that importers bring in big tonnages because ‎we are paid according to tonnages discharged. But if the policy is pursued with human face, it will be nice because we cannot win all the time. We win some and lose some.

“I hope the government pursues the policy to a logical conclusion without benefit to certain individuals but if it is for a general well being of everyone, we support it.”

Ubogu also said the industry had been experiencing downturn due to the forex restrictions and lack of policy direction by the government.

“Obviously, from January till now, if there is any sector that is worst hit, I will tell you it is the maritime sector. There was down time and this was because a lot of people are waiting for the general election and after the election, people are waiting to see the handover and see what is contained in the handover notes and after that there were no Ministers.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has not made appointments into strategic positions yet and no one knows what is in the mind of the government.

Subsequently, because the budget has not been fully implemented and because no one will want to import into the country and want it to be placed on restrictions list, imports have ceased so there is a whole lot of fundamental issues that need to be addressed because it is affecting businesses generally. This is not exclusive to maritime alone but other key areas of the economy,” Ubogu said.

On his expectation of the current administration, he said, “If I meet with the President today, I will tell him that all major roads should be rehabilitated because that is affecting major operations because huge man hours are lost to traffic congestion. The road is bad on both sides especially from Tincan to First Gate.

“The government should be able to look for where they can ask most of these articulated vehicles to stay because most of them have turned the road to parking lot but if the government should have parking lot and enforce it then the traffic problem will be half solved.

“Whenever I go to London, Liverpool for instance, there is a whole lot of goods coming in and going out but there is a dedicated lane for smaller vehicles and this does not affect operation of other road users but today one cannot come in through the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

“It is difficult to come in because the containers and tanker vehicles will block the road and for those of us who do businesses that we are being paid in containers brought into the port, it is affecting us because the time in which containers should go inside the port will be affected.

“Government should be able to address the issue of bad road congestion, articulated vehicles and also try to reduce corruption at the port.”

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