Steve Agbota, [email protected]
Successive Nigerian governments at the centre who came to power in the country had always propagated economic diversification away from oil as central to its economic policy.
Even, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has repeatedly shown interest in diversifying the economy through the non-oil sector. But the diversification campaign seems to have hit rock.
Today for instance, non-oil sector is in disarray because of the gridlock along the two major roads leading into the two major seaports, Apapa ports and TinCan Island port, which is Wharf Road and Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and other access roads that also links to the ports.
Although, Apapa accounts 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, no successive government has been able to address infrastructural challenges around the area. Government’s negligence and lack of political will made the situations in Apapa to deteriorate and become a nightmare for port operators, private business owners, commuters, motorists and the public. Stakeholders believe that due to the menace of congestion and Apapa gridlock around the ports, Nigeria exporters have lost about 45 per cent contractual agreements to neighbouring neigbouring countries
In most of these instances foreigners who entered into contractual agreements with Nigerian exporters to cance the agreements and diverts interest to exporters in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau and other African nations due to Nigerian exporters inability to fulfill their contractual obligations.
Exporters who spoke with Daily Sun said that the situation has become so terrible now that they are losing contractual agreements to a country like Tanzania, which they described as national shame to the Nigerian government. They said the quest for diversification has been more prominent on paper than in reality. According to them, it takes trucks an average of four weeks or more to get goods from the warehouses to access and exist the ports, resulting in delays and rejection of most of the fragile export produce at the international markets. Agricultural and other fragile exports are said to be faring very badly as the time spent on queue to get into the ports does a lot of damage to the freshness and market value of the products.
Daily Sun learnt that in the first quarter of 2019, exporters lost about $1 billion as result of the gridlock.
It was also established that exporters are losing nothing less than $15 billion annually due to Apapa gridlock situation, which has really affected foreign exchange earnings.
Speaking with Daily Sun phone, the Managing Director Universal Quest Nigeria, Mr. Sotonye Anga, said the situation is really pathetic and most unfortunate.
He added: “We need to understand that whatever that is produced in Nigeria can be produced in other countries. Therefore, most of these neighbouring countries are among Nigerian competitors to the Nigerian nation. So what is produce in Nigeria is also produced in these neighbouring countries and globally, where we export our commodities to, they don’t want to hear whether you have congestion in your port or gridlock because it is none of their business, they don’t understand it.
“They can’t just understand what is meant by Apapa gridlock. What they want in the contractual agreements, we should supply to them. All they want to see and hear is that you will berth your contractual obligations, not to tell stories. So while we were under the power of the traffic, those who are not the burden of gridlock, other nations don’t have the same experience, were exporting and making money while we Nigerian exporters couldn’t perform, our contractual agreement is being cancelled, we are losing money; we are losing business; we are getting blacklisted but the economy of our neighbouring countries were booming and they are making money at our expense.”
According to him, it is a very unfortunate because it is something government shouldn’t allow as a country. He said there is need to allow the nation’s ports to function efficiently, effectively and properly.
He said: “We must understand that the port is our gateway and therefore, every roads leading to the ports should be efficient and functional.We should ever again allow something like gridlock should happen again. If it happens, it is a big failure on the part of the country as a nation and the government.”
National President, Cashew Farmers Association of Nigeria Mr. Tola Faseru ,said that the situation has a lot of implications on the nation economy because “at this time, when we are trying to diversify our economy away from oil and when we are looking at agricultural commodities to help us share up our economy, to help us increase and diversify our sources of foreign exchange, we feel that this is not to good for us.”
He argued that most of people have been incurring huge losses because of contractual agreements cancellation and the situation is being so challenges for exporters. He added that a lot of exporters have to leave the business while others have been owing banks here and there just because of port problems.
Said he: “Government is doing a lot now to boost the export of agricultural commodities by way of providing different type of supports through the Anchored Borrower Program, trying to get the funds to exporters at cheap rates. But when all of these are done, we are not able to get the goods out at the right time, not able to meet the contracted agreements because when it comes to export, we are talking about international trade, there are basic terms and conditions that surround the business, which is of two batches.
“When it gets out of control of the exporters to be able to fulfill it within the time specified and also as you aware, these goods are subject to deterioration because of the time in the container. By the time the goods spending three months within the country and then have to spend another three months on the sea that will affect the quality of the goods.”
He noted that the image of Nigerian products is at risk because every country wants to project it’s own commodity as the best. Saying Nigeria is not the only one in the world producing, in the cocoa for instance, there is Ivory coast and Ghana.
“Again, Nigeria is not the only one producing cashew, there is Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau and by the time, their own quality getting there, we lose out. It is an image issue, which could take a long time to have the buyers at the international community to corporate and redeem the image even when the problems of the port has been resolved.”