With the reform programme, Nigerian ports have been attracting huge investments as private terminal operators have been able to acquire modern cargo handling facilities. This alone has improved the productivity of the ports as they record better cargo dwell time and turn-around time of vessels.
The above has cleared one major hurdle in the attainment of speedy cargo clearance, but the worry of the port watchers, is that the port has remained a storage place for cargo, taking us to the nightmare of the pre-port reform years when containers were left in the ports for several months because importers and their agents refused to come and clear them. There is need for cargo owners to have a change of mind in this regard.
Another worrisome area that needs urgent attention is the dismantling of multiple customs procedures that require importers to fill numerous documents which are very cumbersome. This sad development in our port industry is already stalling the attainment of 48 cargo clearance, which keeps importers and their various businesses in peril. Moreover, the ports remain relevant to her land locked neighbours of Niger and Chad. All strictures on cargo clearance must be removed to make the ports not only attractive, but competitive.
The frustration in the port access roads should also be tackled quickly. Though the Federal Government has intervened, what is needed is a permanent solution to the problems of roads especially Mile 2 – Apapa Expressway that leads to Lagos ports. It is equally instructive that traffic authorities should regularly check the indiscipline among truck owners and ensure stiff penalty for those who abandon their broken down vehicles on the road which remains a bottleneck for the evacuation of cargo from the ports.
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), bracing up to this enormous challenge, has introduced the Nigeria Trade Hub – a veritable portal for trade facilitation – and is also working towards a single window approach for fast cargo clearance. The management of NCS should show more commitment to make these projects succeed to ensure that the objectives of establishing them are met.
The ports have to be repositioned for better efficiency in the interest of the national economy.