By Steve Agbota and Job Osazuwa
The prediction that Nigeria may fall back to recession in the next few years could come to reality sooner than expected as non-oil export of the economy faces serious threat.
Though, the Federal Government’s focus is to diversify the economy from oil to non-oil export but today, goods worth billions of naira are rotting away in the port as export processes are becoming impossible due to negative impact of the deplorable state of Apapa access roads to export promotion.
Agro commodities export has fallen to 100 tonnes from 1,7000 tonnes per day that an exporter can ship under normal circumstance when the Apapa road was in good condition. Exporters described the fall in commodities export as bad business.
However, the exporters say Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) should be fully privatised as its level of inefficiency has become intolerable, as cost of transporting containers to the port has increased by 150 per cent.
Speaking at a press conference on non-oil export with the theme: “Nigeria’s Economic Diversification Under Threat,” the President of National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Tola Fateru, said that export commodities, which include cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seeds, ginger, hibiscus, shea nut gum Arabic and many more are perishable, as failure to ship on time would cause them to perish, meaning great loss of income, livelihood and export revenue for both exporters and the nation.
He said if Apapa road linking export terminals at the port are not fix on time, exporters may stop buying agric produce from farmers, which he said may cause another crisis for them.
According to him, export warehouses are filled with commodities instead of being promptly shipped and they are rotten way. He lamented that the Apapa gridlock gives rise to corruption as uniform men now collect a bribe of N25, 000 on every container.
He said that exporters’ truck drivers are idling away on Apapa road, waiting in their trucks for as long as seven days to get into the port as against four hours.
He added: “bank customers that have borrowed or taken loans to finance their exports now find it difficult to meet their financial obligations and their ability to pay is hampered due to cost overrun as a result of this delay. Transaction circle for all export is now taking longer necessary and this is threatening export from Nigeria to the benefit of the other countries that also produce and export the same.”
He suggested that priority should be given to exportable commodities in line with the Federal Government economic diversification agenda. He said that all roads dedicated for export to be made absolutely for export only and nothing more.
He added: “APM terminal concession should be terminated and the process for the choice of a new concessionaires/operators be made transparent and open. Key private stakeholders who are mainly exporters should be involved in the process along with relevant government representatives.
Oshodi-Apapa road to Sunrise require urgent palliative. Emergency fixing of the road should be done within 14 days to allow for easy access to the port while the core repairs go on.”
Also speaking at the event, National Publicity Secretary, National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Sotonye Anga, said that government should declare state of emergency on the Apapa road so as to find urgent solution by fixing the road, as the gridlock is killing export business.
He added: “farming is on the line, our livelihood is on the line, zero is under threat and export from Nigeria is about to extinguish and destroyed. So we need help and we are begging for help and government should help us. Due to the promises of the government and emphasis on non-oil export, a lot of people are into farming. Where would they sell the products they are farming?
This year alone, we have increase cashew production from 160,000 metric tonnes to 175, 000 metric tonnes and more cashew has been planted against 2018, where are we going to sell all the agric produce when there is no way to ship them?
He said because of this, exporters were unable to meet with their contractual obligations even as they had their capital tied up in banks.