The Federal Government’s gospel of economy diversificationthrough the non-oil export sector has continued to remain a day dream.
That is because, Lagos, which is the commercial hub, hosts two major seaports, Apapa ports and TinCan Island port. But the two ports located in the heart of Apapa area of Lagos, hitherto described as ‘Pride of the Nation’ have become a shadow of themselves and a night hag to port operators, private business owners, commuters, motorists and the public as a result of the gridlock on the roads.
Historically, Apapa was said to account for more than 80 per cent of all import and export and also about 70 per cent of the total revenue generation from import duties in the country.
However, the perennial gridlock along the two crucial roads, Wharf Road and Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, and other access roads that links to the ports, has imposed unbearable costs on businesses and reduced the revenue, which could have accrued to government’s coffers.
Daily Sun learnt that the gridlock in Apapa costs the government an estimated N140 billion in revenue weekly while the economy loses more than N20 billion daily.
Currently, exporters are losing nothing less than $15 billion annually due to Apapa gridlock situation, as repatriation of proceeds through Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) witnessed a sharp drop. The incessant inability to access the major seaports has negative impact on movement of non-oil exports and has really affected foreign exchange earnings and over 10,000 people are said to have lost their jobs as a result of the gridlock.
Exporters who spoke to Daily Sun said it takes trucks an average of three weeks to get goods from the warehouses to access and exist the ports, which resulted in delays and rejection of most of the fragile export products at the international markets. Agricultural and other fragile exports are said to be faring very badly as the time spent on the queue to get into the ports does a lot of damage to the freshness and market value of the products.
Due to the gridlock, exporters could no longer meet their contractual obligations and their buyers in abroad cancelled the contract both parties signed because of delays in products delivery. This situation has forced so many exporters to lay off some of their workers because they are struggling to pay salaries.
This situation has been blamed by concerned stakeholders, on many years of neglect by both the Federal and Lagos State governments.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Managing Director Universal Quest Nigeria, Mr. Sotonye Anga said the truth is that Apapa gridlock has impacted negatively on exports.
He added: The Apapa Wharf is the gateway to Nigeria. All our goods go through that Wharf. If we don’t have access to it, you can not do any shipment. If you can’t do any shipment, how do we grow the non-oil export sector? If you don’t do any shipment, how will you able to sustain your export duty? How will you be able to run your operations? It is a huge burden for the non-oil sector.
“It has brought us very terrible pains and terrible losses across board. Every commodity exporter is feeling the jinx. Our revenue is dwindling. Credibility of the government is in question now. You cannot meet export contracts and obligations. So it is also bringing in negative sentiments on our national character because you signed a contract and you are not able to perform as at when due,” he added.
He said: “It’s a huge damage on our character; a huge damage on integrity, a huge damage on nationality because it is about perfection and performance. If you are not able to perform, what business are you doing then? So these are the fallouts of the Apapa gridlock. Since the problems are not properly taking care of, the loses are huge.
He said the gridlock is contributing to unemployment because people that are previously gainfully employed in the non-oil export sector are losing their jobs as exporters cannot continue to pay for services they are not enjoying.
He lamented: “People are laying off their workers. You cannot continue to pay workers for doing nothing. So I think it’s a wake up call on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on that Apapa road. It is something that has to be done. The resources are there to do it so that businesses can come back alive. All export commodities are suffering. Non-oil export sector is suffering as a result of this Apapa gridlock.”
He said the nation is bleeding terribly, there is need to fix the problem by throwing resources required to fix it and get it fixed at the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, National President, Cashew Farmers Association of Nigeria Mr. Tola Faseru, said a lot exporters are struggling and making huge losses. He argued that the cost of shipment is expensive at almost 2000 per cent higher than what it used to be.
According to him, exporters are being forced out of business as the cost of taking goods out the warehouses to port is very high because not many trucks want to go there.
He said: “It also take a long time between the warehouses and trucks to get to the port. You know most of our export items are perishable goods. So they are susceptible to deterioration in quality and that has happened severally.”
Faseru, who is also a cashew exporter, said that the situation was affecting export delivery time in addition to hindering exporters’ ability to fulfill commitments on time and making forwarding and shipment very expensive.
He noted: “We also have a lot of contractual issues with the buyers, which have brought untold losses because we have cases where buyers renage on the contract because a key part of the contract has been violated by the supplier (the exporter) due to inability to meet the shipment date of the contract.”