With a coastline of 852 km, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and a maritime area of over 46,000 km, Nigeria is no doubt a force to reckon with in the maritime world.
But unfortunately, despite its enormous endowments, the country is yet to maximise her maritime potential as it has failed to sustainably develop its sea transportation system.
Consequently, Nigerians have not reaped the gains of its maritime resources with positive indices on economic development. The current administration has been hammering on diversification of Nigeria’s economy. But much efforts are not being made to harness the blue economy prospects in achieving economic diversification for the country.
Presently, Nigeria is not doing any transit as landlocked countries have pulled out from doing business in the country due to bottlenecks in its ports system, bad roads network, cumbersome transit procedures, inefficient logistics systems and poor infrastructure, which substantially increase the cost of doing business.
Now, no cargo transit through Nigeria even though Nigeria have a border with landlocked countries of Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali that are supposed to be using Nigeria’s corridor for operations. But importers are going to Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire because of their efficient procedures.
However, Nigeria is being deleted as a transit nation because Nigeria is not doing any transit. Invariably, Nigeria has lost its transit potential to Ghana, Benin Republic and Cote d’ Ivoire.
The problems in the Nigerian ports are enormous. It takes almost two weeks for one to enter Apapa and Tin Can Island ports and another two weeks to come out and that is a month. Whereas, in Ghana and Benin, it takes 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, which makes it costlier for them to patronise the Nigerian ports.
Ghana now expanded their ports and make it more efficient and their cost is reduced. Nigeria is the only country that has huge cost. So for any country that don’t have sea, they prefer to come through Benin Republic and Ghana because they make their ports cheaper at the expense of Nigeria. So landlocked countries see Benin Republic and Ghana ports more cheaper and convenient to patronise than coming to Nigeria.
A recent visit to Seme border by Daily Sun, shows that Nigeria is lagging behind in transit trade. From other end of Seme and Cotonou, one would see lot of trucks queuing for accessment and clearance. All the trucks were loaded with goods coming into Nigeria. But at the Nigeria end, no single truck facing Cotonou waiting for clearance.
The President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said talking about landlocked countries, Nigeria is a transit country but is being delisted as a transit nation. adding that “Nigeria is not recognised as a transit nation because there is no transit operations going through the system again.
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He explained: “Niger Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali are very close to us. These are landlocked countries. Even Cameroon and Port Novo rely on Nigeria in those days and patronising them, but they are now losing their facility. So the landlocked countries cannot use Nigeria’s facilities when our import and export are now in shambles. Our transit has cumbersome and lengthy procedures.
“These problems are caused by our regimes. As at now, we are not able to harmonise our system and our procedures are archaic when Ghana, for instance, has a satellite tracking system. They track their transit and exist Ghana. Ghana has an inbond process, which is national guarantee bond.
Nigeria doesn’t have anything and we are still operating the 1949 system.”
For Nigeria to regain its potential as maritime hub, he said there is need to reform port system completely by experts not those who doesn’t understand what customs is all about. He added that there is need to regig the system for Nigeria import and export system and its transit regulatory procedures in order to meet up.
“For instance, Nigeria is ranked 183 out of 190 countries on trade across border, which transit fall under. So Nigeria actually has no transit facility, has no transit procedure and has nothing to do with transit because all what we are doing is not in compliance with any of the procedures. All we do is an imposition. We are all thinking about revenue and we have lost our transit, transhipment and domestic cargo.”
He said the three layers of cargo that Nigeria has, which include transit, transhipment and domestic input that coming into the country are being shared between Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana. He added that Nigeria has the market and throughput that being shared by other county that has developed their infrastructure to siphon the nation’s cargo because Nigeria doesn’t have the tools for transit.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Spokesman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola, said the conditions of Nigeria roads out of the port and in the hinterland is a major deterrence to the landlocked countries.
He said: “Why will anyone want to spend several weeks on the road to get their cargoes to their countries? Also, there is no rail connection. Cost of haulage within Lagos at present is N700,000 per truck. How much do you then think it would cost per truck to Niger Republic or Chad? I’m sure it would be millions of naira. That’s the real problem here. The importers in those countries can certainly not afford this cost.”
We need to fix our road and rail infrastructure to attract the patronage of landlocked countries. Our ports are very good inside. Marine services and cargo handling operations are top notch – far better than any other country in the sub-region. However, we need to address our Customs processes, which is largely manual.
Government also needs to ensure that functional scanners are installed in the ports and also get the rail working again. There’s also need to rehabilitate our road networks. That’s the only way to attract transit cargoes,” he said.