We are looking forward to a more robust maritime sector this year, 2015 was not good for the sector at all because of some government policies especially the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) restriction on foreign exchange which made it difficult for importers to source forex. So, I am hoping that government will review some of these policies this year at least for now so that it will encourage importation of some of the items placed under restriction. Nigeria, we all know is an import dependent country, so I don’t know who the government is trying to help with placing of restriction on foreign exchange when we don’t have the capacity to manufacture some things.
We hope this year will be better than last year especially in the area of addressing the Apapa gridlock and provision of holding bay for trucks. I am also looking forward to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council playing their role as an economic regulator effectively. The implementation of the cabotage act should also be on the front burner this year; of course we can’t talk about cabotage without owning vessels so the government should make sure the country secure its own vessels while the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) should do more in policing the nation’s waterways. Customs should also work at harmonizing its value so that the duty that is obtainable on a particular item in a command will be the same in other commands. There should be standardization and they should not introduce astronomical duties for people to pay because they want to meet their target. I also expect synergy among the various freight forwarding associations to speak with one voice.
There are quite a lot of expectations from the industry this year. As we speak, the industry is still in comatose even with the price of oil going down and movement of oil is also limited too. So we all pray that there are alternative ways of government generating money by focusing attention in the sector this year. In the area of transportation, the government should look at resuscitating a functional railway system because it’s almost impossible to move around in Lagos due to traffic gridlock. So a functional rail system should be vigorously pursued both intracity and intercity, that will ease the gridlock and the roads will last longer.
In terms of operation, I expect the agencies including customs, terminal operators to be more efficient in their Service delivery this year. The chaotic traffic gridlock around the port should also be improved upon and more importantly the ISPS code should be on the front burner this year especially as it relates to our compliance status in the eye of the international community.
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