The Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA) on Thursday lauded the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for approving 10 per cent discount on vessels calling at the Eastern ports.
Mr Chris Ukachukwu, the First Deputy President of ONICCIMA, gave the commendation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Onitsha.
Ukachukwu said that the action would decongest the Lagos ports.
NAN reports that the management of the NPA had on Tuesday approved a 10 per cent discount on harbour dues in the concessioned terminals of Calabar, Rivers and Delta Ports.
Ukachukwu said that once implemented, it would help decentralise activities at the Lagos ports and at the same time, create significant economic activity in the various locations of the Eastern ports.
“It will stimulate economic activities at the Eastern ports of the country and will also stem the urban drift.
“As it is now, it appears as if for you to do anything, you must go to Lagos.
“The implication is that Lagos becomes overpopulated, while other parts of the country will see the drift which was not the original plan of the country.
“The idea was that the various economic hubs in the country within the six regions must develop simultaneously, so that wherever you are, you have that sense of belonging,” he said.
According to the ONICCIMA boss, the new policy will reduce the cost of transportation as well as reduce inflation.
“Most times, to transport goods from Lagos ports to the Eastern part of the country cost as much as N600, 000 or more.
“Importers will have no option than to add the cost of transportation to the prices of goods which permeates down, such that prices of goods keep skyrocketing.
“However, once importers know that it will cost less than one third of the previous amount to get the containers to any part of the Eastern region, it will positively affect prices of goods,” he pointed out.
Ukachukwu also called for legislation by the National Assembly to regulate the activities of customs and Police personnel, especially on the highways.
He said that in spite of several announcements that the Federal Government had withdrawn customs and Police officers from the roads, they return within one week or two.
“When you travel from Lagos to the East for instance, you will encounter lots of check points mounted by the Police and Customs which are often targeted at importers.
“For them to stay on the roads mean multiple taxes and creating difficulty for businessmen.
“But, if there is a legislation that will further regulate the activities of these law enforcement agencies, it will create the desired impact needed in the country.
“Officers can easily incur the wrath of the law if they flout the law,” he stressed.
Ukachukwu noted that the initiative was a win-win situation for all Nigerians as the demurrage usually incurred and time wasted at the Lagos ports would reduce.
He advised the NPA to create awareness on the new directive to enable Nigerians to begin to divert their goods to the Eastern ports.