…As manufacturers groan over Apapa traffic gridlock
Nigerian importers have continued to lament that they are still losing several billions of naira to lack of 24-hours operation and activities at the nation’s seaports on public holidays, weekends and night, LEADERSHIP can report.
This is coming one year after the then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo signed an Executive Order and directed the commencement of 24 hours operations at the nation’s seaports. Prof. Osinbajo had mandated the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigerian Ports Authority, other service providers and government agencies to commence 24 hours operation immediately.
The Acting President said the order was aimed at eliminating negative impact of non-clearance of goods on weekends and public holidays which shippers said was having serious effect on the cost of doing business in the nation’s seaports.
However, stakeholders argued that the ports provide essential services and should therefore remain open at all times including weekends, public holidays. The concession agreement also stipulates 24/7 round the clock operation at the ports. The situation now is that while skeletal services go on at the ports on Saturdays, the port system is completely shut down for operation on Sundays and public holidays.
Stakeholders said it is of higher interest of the larger port community that the ports remain open every day for both ship and landside operations because storage charges and demurrage accrue on these days that the ports are not in operation thereby adding to cost of doing business.
Clearing agents, customs officers and other stakeholders have identified bad road, insecurity and poor lightings as obstacles to the implementation of 24-hour port operation at the ports.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP, the Customs Area Controller of the Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Compt. Musa Baba Abdulahi, attributed the non-effective implementation of the federal government Executive Order on 24-hours operation at the ports to the poor state of infrastructure at the ports.
According to him, while the command commenced round-the-clock operation, security around the port environment, bad state of the road and lack of power supply were some of the challenges hindering its full implementation.
He said, “We operate 24 hours. Our officers work on Saturdays and Sundays. But there is the issue of infrastructure too. That is why I emphasised that the whole thing about trade facilitation is not about customs procedure alone. For example, what has customs procedure got to do with lighting of the port? Do you ask an agent to come to this place in the night when there is no light?
“So some of these things are beyond customs but the impression is whatever has to do with the port, it is the customs. Assuming a vessel arrive our waters, even before arrival, the shipping companies are supposed to send manifest. It is their responsibility not customs’. So if there is any delay, it is not caused by the customs officers.
Also, the Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA) said the provision of port roads, security and lighting of the port access roads for night operation will facilitate the 24-hours port operation.
The National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Joe Sanni, who called for the automation of operations by terminal operators to achieve government directives, said the executive order operates only on paper. “Let me start from when we met the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman. She lamented that the MDAs are not helping her at all because when the federal government said there shouldn’t be more than seven or eight agencies at the ports, they flout the rule and more agencies like Plant Quarantine and the rest are at the ports now.
“They are not supposed to be there at all but they are there; partaking in examination and adding to signatures needed to clear cargoes at the seaports. There is no 24-hours operation at the seaports presently because of the road which are bad. The stakeholders must automate their process so that we don’t have people running around unnecessarily and truck drivers have to look for their trailer parks; empty containers should be dropped at various holding bays,” he said.
Also, a frontline clearing agent, Adegbite Babajide confirmed to LEADERSHIP that apart from the gate that operate at weekends and skeletal service on Saturdays, the port systems is totally shut on public holidays with no operations at night.
Meanwhile, some importers who are mostly manufacturers have lamented that they spend billions of naira on demurrage and logistics on weekly basis due to the gridlock on the Apapa bridge. They also complained that it takes more time for raw materials they import into the country to arrive their factories due to the bad road thereby compounding challenges of high production cost and un-competitiveness of locally made products.
The chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ede Dafinone, in chart with LEADERSHIP said this portends more frustration for businesses. According to him, the situation is likely to worsen an already bad security situation in the area, with attendant costs for exporters, manufacturers, businesses and residents.
Also, president of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Tola Faseru, said, “An exporter, who ships 1,700 tons of commodities per day under normal circumstances when Apapa road was in good condition, now manages to only ship between 100 and 250 tons. This is bad for business.”
He lamented the humongous loss borne by agro exporters while moving export products to other countries via Apapa roads. He explained that transaction cycles for export are taking longer than necessary and foreign buyers are beginning to question the integrity of contracts they enter into with Nigerians.
Chief executive officer, Startlink Global and Idea Limited, Adeyemi Adeniji, trucks take seven to 10 days on Apapa road and 15 days at the APMT, meaning that their non-oil products start depreciating before they get to the ports.
“Nigeria is competing with the best origins of the world. It is quite unfortunate that with the recent happenings, we may start losing all that we have achieved do far. Most of our buyers have started writing to cancel the contract agreements we have entered because of the delays in meeting up with those contracts.
‘‘The standard of our commodities is also affected. Before now, cashew nuts used to have 1.2 or 1.3 percent of fatty acids but today, due to the Apapa gridlock, we have found out that our recent shipments get to their destinations having 15 percent of fatty acid,” he stated.
Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, recently said all stakeholders have resolved to work together to bring sanity to the Apapa axis and would, therefore, not hesitate to sanction recalcitrant operators, who disobey the resolutions.
Lawanson said that a Security Task Force has been constituted by the federal and Lagos State governments. He said the task force would work continuously for 30 days to bring sanity to the roads.
President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, also explained that the gridlock has continued to impose unbearable cost on businesses. He explained that the cost to business is horrendous due to problem of access to raw materials from the port as well as traffic congestion which has extended to the metropolis from the port. He said these measures needed to be holistic, decisive, consistent and sustainable.
He: “The rail system should work; the capacity of the ports should be expanded; the pipelines for the transportation of petroleum products should be made functional and the tank farms should be better dispersed. We need to urgently restore order and sanity to the ports and improve access to them.’’
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