In the next 48 hours, the curtain for 2018 will be falling to give way for a brand New Year, 2019 AD. Expectedly, individuals, groups and even the government will be having new expectations for the New Year. Not left out are the traders in Alaba International market who are taking stock of the passing year to make projection into the New Year.
Indeed, most of them expressed deep reservations concerning the out going year, saying that it was not really a good one for them. They blamed this on a legion of challenges that confronted their businesses, ranging from the state of the Mile 2/Badagry road, the congestion at the Apapa Port, high exchange rate, among others.
These have made many of them to express strong pessimism while some others are hoping that 2019 would be better. They, therefore, suggested that for 2019 to be better than 2018, the Federal Government must do something completely different from what it is doing at the moment.
According to Chike Ezekwe Henry, the managing director of Citi Image Global Concept, who deals in electronics, 2018 was relatively okay.
“But it would have been better if not because of the state of the roads in Lagos State. Right now, it takes up to 4 hours from Mile 2 to Alaba International market.
“This is what takes about 15 minutes few years ago. Because of the poor state of the road, trailer drivers that carry containers from Wharf to Alaba have increased their charges to over 150 per cent. Before a trailer driver charges about N200,000 to N250.000 to carry a container from wharf to Alaba, but today they are charging above N500.000.
“At times after paying this huge amount, the container will not get to its destination because on a daily basis, containers fall between Lagos International Trade Fair complex and Ojo Army barracks. It is only the lucky ones that make it to Alaba.
“This has in turn increased the prices of products in the market. Because of the high cost of bringing products to the market, customers are finding it difficult to buy. You know what the national minimum wage is in the country. So, the state of the Mile 2/Badagry road is seriously affecting our turnover. We suffer to go to Alaba and when we
manage to get there, we will stay from morning till evening doing little or nothing,” Chike said.
He, therefore, called on the Lagos State government as a matter of urgency patch up the potholes along Mile 2-Badagry expressway. He also pointed out that another issue starring them in the face is the perennial congestion at the Apapa port.
“These days, no container hardly comes out of the wharf without going into demurrage. I don’t know why the Federal and Lagos State governments have found it difficult to find solution to the congestion.
“It is one of the reasons that imported products are going out of reach of the average Nigerian. Alaba importers struggle to clear their goods, struggle to bring them out of Apapa and still struggle to take them to their warehouses. All these cause additional expenses and you know that everybody in business is there to make profit. That is why prices of products are on the high side.”
But Evangelist Emmanuel Amaife, the managing director of Rizbell Technology, dealers in telecommunication and sound equipment, said that 2018 is not really a bad one for them, though he pointed out that high exchange rate is still rearing its ugly head in their business as they are import dependent.
“When the Federal Government said that the country had exited from recession, we had thought that the exchange rate will come to what it was before they came on board in 2015, but it did not happen.
“If you change millions of naira to dollars or pounds, you would see that it would not amount to anything. So, that means we have very low purchasing power as a result of the high exchange rate and because we are buying at exorbitant exchange rate, it makes it very difficult for ordinary Nigerians to afford brand new products.
“That is one of the reasons Nigeria has become the dumping ground for other countries of the world. It is the things that have been rejected abroad that are been shipped to us here in Nigeria and that is what the ordinary Nigerians can afford. If you think about it, you would see that it is logical. If you cannot afford the best, you have to settle for the worst.
“Apart from the exchange rate, there is also the issue of chaotic traffic situation. Trucks have taken over Lagos State. There is no more free movement of vehicles. The traffic situation along Apapa road and Lagos-Badagry road, coupled with deteriorating infrastructure, especially roads, is affecting our business negatively.
“As an entrepreneur, my expectation is that the budget should be a budget of hope. Hope in the sense that it would address the problems plaguing Nigerians like lowering the high exchange rate, and tackling the deteriorating infrastructure, especially the road networks.”
These and favourable business policies, he said, would bring about enabling environment, adding that once there is an enabling environment, businesses would begin to flourish and the traders would begin to create more jobs.
“Again, since 2019 is an election year, my expectation is that the federal and state governments should take the issue of security very seriously. They should ensure adequate protection of lives and property. Politicians should try to play by the rule so that the election would be hitch free,” Evangelist Amaife advised.
Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer of Chipon Macdon, Chika Ogbodo, dealers in generators, business was dull in 2018 because there is no money in the hands of consumers to patronise their products.
“The high exchange rate is making a mess of our businesses. We buy at outrageous prices and that makes our products to be out of reach for the teeming Nigerian masses who ordinarily would have loved to have our products. You know that Nigerians are not still getting value for their money from the electric distributing companies. When the exchange rate was below N200 per dollar, we were making good sales.
“So, my expectation in 2019 is that the Federal Government should grow the economy so that exchange rate would reduce. This would in turn make the prices of imported products to come down. It is how we buy that we sell. If we buy cheap, we will definitely sell cheap and vice versa.”
Like the other traders in the market, he bemoaned the state of the road.
“Alaba International is the biggest electronics market in Africa. Before now, people were coming from other African countries like Ghana, Togo, Cameroun, even Morocco and this means a lot of foreign revenue for the government. But today, they are no longer coming because of the state of the road. It is not only that people from other countries are no longer coming. Lagosians themselves are now going to other places. Alaba International deserves a road network that befits its status as an international market.
“So, I am calling on both the federal and Lagos state governments to do something urgently about the road. If the road is expanded and traffic begin to follow smoothly, it will be a win-win situation for both government and the traders and even the economy because there will be cash flow.”
Like some of his colleagues, Kingsley Chidi Okike, the managing director of Chidoking Concept Ltd, distributors of electronics products, 2018 was not a good year for the traders, saying that they experienced reduction in their customer base.
“The high exchange rate has made electronics products to go to the roof top. A lot of Nigerians now can hardly afford television sets. It is when you come to the market that you would see that Nigeria has truly become the poverty capital of the world. From morning till night, traders sit in their shops without somebody coming to ask them of the prices of their products. Poverty has truly become endemic in the country.
“The issue of using Lagos port for shipment of goods from China and other parts of the world is also a problem. The reality is that the port in Lagos has been over-stretched to its limit. This is the cause of the congestion. So, government should try to open the other ports in the country. We have a port in Calabar that has become moribund.
The Onne Port in Port Harcourt, nothing much is going on there. If the ports are made to become active, it would go a very long way in decongesting the Apapa port. Why should importers in Southeast and South-south be making use of Lagos port, it does not make sense. So, government is just punishing Nigerians. You cannot be talking about diversification while you are practicing monopoly. We should learn how to practice what we preach.
Opening the other ports across the country so that importers living in those areas would be making use of them is part of diversification because it would help to free the port in Lagos. That is my expectation for the New Year; for the government to open the other ports and repair the roads.