Nigerian ports and Rep. Jibrin’s faux pas

I was in Abuja last week when a friend drew my attention to a story in Daily Trust newspaper of Monday 21st January 2013 titled Nigeria losing billions to ports congestion –Rep Jibrin. 
The paper quoted Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Representative Abdulmumin Jibrin, as saying that the Federal Government was losing huge amount of money every day due to congestion in Nigerian ports. It reported that the House had penultimate Thursday instituted an investigation into the circumstance that led to congestion in all Nigerian ports in the last two years when it mandated its committees on Finance, Marine Transport and Customs and Excise to probe the matter and report back in three weeks.
In the interview he granted Daily Trust, Jibrin – a Kano lawmaker elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said congestion in the ports had lingered for about two years now and “it’s creating a lot of obstacles for free movement of goods”.
He was further quoted as saying: “We consider this exercise very important because government is losing revenue because of the problem.”

The lawmaker disclosed that a joint committee made of the House Committees on Finance; Marine Transport and Customs and Excise has already “commenced preliminary work.”
He also hinted that feelers from the ports indicated that there is conflict of interest among the various agencies which has worsened the situation.
If I had Representative Jibrin’s telephone number I would have immediately called him to find out the ports he was referring to because the last time I checked, there was no congestion in any Nigerian port. Not since this year started, not last year and not in 2011. So where did he get his facts from? And how much exactly are we losing to port congestion, if I may ask?

I think our lawmakers must understand the implication of making unsubstantiated claims.
The comments of the lawmaker could trigger off high freight cost for Nigerian shippers.
It could send very wrong signal to the shipping lines, which may lead to the imposition of congestion surcharge on Nigerian ports. That is the enormity of such comment emanating from the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly.
There could not have been congestion at the port because there has been a lull in importation since the second half of last year largely due to liquidity squeeze. The fuel subsidy palaver of 2012 created cash crunch for many importers. Because most of the importers ran low on cash, their abilities to undertake substantial importation were hampered. The activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect created much security concerns and also hampered the volume of importation into the country.

If only Honourable Jibrin bothered to check, he would have been duly educated on the true situation of our ports.
Again, there is overcapacity at the port. Supply is now more than demand. Every terminal operator now wants to handle container at the detriment of general cargo.
At the ports in Lagos, there are only two dedicated container terminals – the Apapa Container Terminal at Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Container Terminal at Tin-Can Island Port Complex. Every other terminal is a general cargo terminal although I am not sure if the concession agreement expressly bars them from handling containers. What we now see is that every terminal wants to be a container terminal and this has created a glut and an overcapacity.
The facts are there to check. There is no congestion and I do not think the House of Representatives should expend our resources and time on this wild goose chase. Except if there is something else they are looking for?

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