From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives has called for urgent reform in the operation of Nigerian ports to enable the country get the maximum benefit from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Chairman, House Committee on Commerce, Femi Fakeye, made the call at a public hearing on a bill to repeal the Export Prohibition Act.
Fakeye stated that the many tarrifs and unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks at the ports make it herculean for exporters to transport their goods out of the country.
According to him, in a bid to beat the bottlenecks at the ports, some Nigerians have resorted to sneaking their products to neighbouring countries from where the goods are exported overseas.
He noted that this development does not augur well for the Nigerian economy.
‘Why we are haemorrahaging in Nigeria is the civil service. We have layers of tarrifs you have to clear at the ports. Whether you are importing or exporting,’ Fakeye said.
‘Meanwhile, what you are exporting is even perishable. People that have found their way to beat all these red tape and get their yam to their friends across the border in Ghana, they are doing a lot of business.
‘One thing I want to appeal is that we do reforms, now that we have AFCTA. We will not be able to fight back or win dollars back unless we reform how we do things at the border.
‘If you can get your container of yam through the border to Ghana, within one day or two, but here you cannot even get it to Apapa, what does that mean in financial term? Loss.
‘We have to do some reforms, if we really want to take advantage of AfCFTA,’ Fakaye stated.
The lawmaker expressed concerns that the country has once more become heavily indebted 16 years after her debts were forgiven.
‘This country, as big as it is, is a borrowing country. 2005, we were able to get debt relief for this country. We will recall that we were forgiven our debts: “Go ye and sin no more”.
‘But today, our debit book, Nigeria’s ledger is $86 billion in the red. 86 billion dollars in the red, just between 2005 and now. And so the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to your living standards. Why are we not able to fight back? How do you fight back when you are owing? You export. There is no doubt about it,’ he said.