The maritime sector was bedeviled with series of crises, which had negative effects impact on its annual revenue.
The problems were so enormous that they made the year 2018 so challenging for the maritime sector across board.
For instance it takes trailers almost two weeks for one to enter Apapa and Tin Can Island ports and another two weeks to come out. Whereas, it takes Ghana and Benin, just few days to go through the same process.
For importers to clear their consignments at the ports, they pay all sort of illegal charges, making it costlier to patronise the Nigerian ports and leading to diversion of cargoes to Ghana where they pay less.
Ironically, over 70 per cent of Nigerian cargoes are been presently diverted to neighbouring countries. The Nigerian ports battled with poor infrastructure (roads, rail, quay, buildings, equipment, and yard) and remained heavily congested leading to insecurity and pilferage, delays in cargo clearance and inefficiencies in cargo handling largely due to manual processes.
However, the non-oil export sector is losing more than $15 billion annually due to Apapa gridlock as exporters repatriation of proceeds to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) witnessed a sharp drop with over 10,000 jobs lost in the sector.
Daily Sun learnt that the gridlock in Apapa was costing the government estimated N140 billion in revenue weekly and economic loss of more than N20 billion daily.
Today, Nigeria is missing in the global maritime space. The absence of a Nigerian shipping company in the container shipping business is chiefly attributable to the absence of government support and a harsh operating environment.
It is difficult to consider a country as a maritime nation when none of its shipping companies plays in the global arena or in container shipping that is responsible for more than 60 per cent of the seaborne trade according to stakeholders.
Nigerian shipping companies are so feeble that they cannot even compete in their own coastal waters. Currently about 90 per cent of Nigerian shipping companies have liquidated and those that are still in business are struggling to survive because they lack the capacity to compete.
Speaking with Daily Sun, National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said 2018 is the worst ever in the polity of the country, lamenting that the maritime sector has been terribly bastardized.
According to him, Nigeria’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business on trade across border, which actually has to do with the core components of the ports, import, export and transit and regulatory procedures, stands at 183 out of 190 countries and the last in Africa.
He added: It means our import and export are the worst in Africa and almost the worst in the world. If you look at the impact this thing has created, we have lost almost N7 trillion yearly because when we say we have lost up to N7 trillion, people are looking at the computing the cost of the business. No! Apart from the cost of the business, almost 800 companies have closed down.
“You can’t access the port, you can’t go out of the port and people are losing lives, and their cargo. The cabotage regime and the maritime fund are there and nothing is done. Four years have passed, by February next year, we are going for another election. What have we done with the cabotage fund and the maritime fund?” he queried.
He said the ports in Lagos that generate the revenue the government is using to take care of many things not oil revenue, adding that the ports in Lagos accounts for almost 90 per cent of the revenue in the whole country and government has not given much needed attention to the ports.
Meanwhile, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola said the sector has really thrived against all odds to push forward, to boost government revenue and generate employments.
According to him; “We have really tried. Though, the environment has been very challenging. But despite this, the sector has remained a key earner of government revenue and a major employer of labour in the country.”
He said the terminal operators were responsible for the cargoes that provided the N1.1 trillion revenue for customs and that is not just because of the efforts of customs, which means there is efficiency in the port.
“But the major obstacle in the ports is the roads. Bad state of the roads is not restricted to Lagos ports alone. Go to ports like Port Harcourt, Onne port and everywhere, the roads are bad. The roads leading into and out of the port are bad. Government must develop alternative mode of evacuating cargoes from the ports, the railways, the waterways are there. We have to make use of them. Over reliance on the road is killing our ports, which is one of the major challenges we must overcome.
“The other challenge is government policies, which is driving away cargoes from our ports and government policies are feeding the ports of the neighbouring countries. Policies like automotive policy, 110 per cent levy and tariff on rice, 70 per cent levy on imported vehicles, all those are contributing to depriving our port of much needed cargo while the bad roads and lack of truck parks is inducing inefficiency in our cargo evacuation mechanism.”
Said he: “Indigenous shipping, it has not been a good year for the Nigerian shipowners and it has never been for the past ten years. I thought their fortunes will change this year but it has not changed. There are a whole lot of challenges facing Nigerian shipowners and the foreign shipping companies are benefiting from this.
“For instance, the cabotage financing fund is there, it cannot be access and it has rise to over $200 million. The cabotage fund again is not being implemented to enable shipowners to play effectively in the coastal trade.”