Steve Agbota, [email protected]
Apapa Port City, Nigeria’s premier port complex and international gateway to the economy is now a stinking heap of refuse with faeces and other waste products doting its sidewalks.
Even as the nation recently marked its 60th anniversary there is every reason to believe that Nigerian Ports which is a major revenue earner for the country still lacks basic amenities like toilets, portable water and bathrooms among others for port workers.
Majority of port users are exposed to open defecation and ‘shot put’ around its surrounding environment making every available space within the port a sort of public toilet for port users.
The port’s loathsome infrastructural degradation, including failed road networks, disused rail lines, abandoned houses and businesses leave those who had seen the exclusive residential areas of the port city, bewildered at the current level of decay.
Apapa was an exclusive and preferred home for white colonialists due to its natural harbours and beautiful waterfronts. But today a visitor to the place will be greeted with shock and regrets on how official negligence had ruined the port city. Ironically, in place of its glorious past, distraught residents, traders and trailer drivers have turned nearly all access roads leading to Tin Can Island ports complex and Apapa Wharf into refuse dumpsites with the port environment being turned to public toilets. But apart from the total collapse of the roads and other infrastructures in the city, the whole environment looks dirty and full of refuse and faeces.
Stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun blamed the Federal Government for making Nigerian Ports unfriendly for business and even for investors. They argued that government should have considered infrastructure upgrade as integral part of its port reform carried out in 2006, where part of the ports were concessioned to private operators.
But President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, believe those are among the facilities, the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) should provide.
“Like I will continue to say, NPA is not an revenue based organisation where they go and collect money or bring money to the Federal Government as part of revenue organisation. NPA is not doing its job because there is an Act that designed NPA to do the functions, to make the port environments better and conducive. When you look at the provisions of the Act, it says NPA should provide offices that are conducive for Customs. It is the same thing they are supposed to do because when they leave cargoes and give them out to terminal operators, they are supposed to monitor them so that those operators will be able to provide public toilets around the port environments so that port users will not continue to deface the port system,” he added.
He added that in line with section 32A of the NPA Act, the agency was expected to provide infrastructure for port users within the environment, adding that the Authority has a lot of roles to play in making the port environments better and creating true interface with the terminal operators to have public toilets.
He explained: “NPA used to have public toilets before now. When you go from shades to shades, you see public toilets. In those days when the NPA operated the port, they had public toilets. Why are the toilets not there now? So it is something NPA and terminal operators must work together to provide.
“Every port you has public toilets being run by NPA, you have holding bay being run by NPA. But what you don’t see the Authority running then was the trailer park, which is run by Lagos State Government. All those things are no more available. So government must review the concession to accommodate all these things. The concession is not only to make money for the private operators because the concession is to be able to make the port a better place and efficiently managed facility. It is under the provisions of the Act of NPA to provide public toilets.”
According to him, Nigerian ports is lacking infrastructure, especially within the Lagos area where users are exposed to high cost, lengthy and cumbersome clearing processes making it one of the most expensive cargo clearance processes in the world.
“So we have infrastructure problem, we have gridlock problem, holding bay problem, facilitation problem, procedure problems and we have problems of applying tools. We have a port that must be reformed. If we don’t reform, we will continue to complain, one day we’ll just find out that our port is empty and nothing will be coming down to the country because other ports are developing their ports for Nigerian cargoes.
“Benin Republic doesn’t have the capacity for the kind of containers going to their port. Togo is a hub now, Benin is within our corridor and Côte d’Ivoire too and all these ports are designed for Nigerian cargoes. So we have a lot of problems. If we don’t develop our port system, most of the problems we have in Nigerian ports are man-made problem,” he said. Also speaking an importer, Mr. Jude Uchenna, said unsustainable economic policies and huge infrastructure deficit have been identified as the bane in actualising growth aspirations of the Nigerian maritime sector.
“It baffles me when I see people defecating openly around the port environment. People at the helm of authorities, travel to other ports around the world and they see the modern infrastructure put in place. Every port even the neighboring ports have convenient (toilets) kitted with necessary sanitary to make users comfortable”. “But here, you see dockworkers and people exposed to open defecation. The problem with Nigerian government is that they put people who have no stake at the port to head maritime agencies. Most of these people don’t know anything about port system. You can’t blame terminal operators for not providing most of these things because nobody knows about the details of their concession agreement.”