Poor port infrastructure, cause of high cost of doing business in Nigeria – Shippers’ Council


By Abiodun OBA

The poor port infrastructure has been identified as one of the reasons for the high cost of doing business in Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Hon Emmanuel Jime made this known at a Breakfast Meeting organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos.

Jime said that, for Nigeria to be a maritime hub in West and Central Africa Sub-region, attention must be paid to the infrastructure deficit at ports across the country.

“There is no debate about the quality of infrastructure available in this industry. If we are going to be competitive and live up to our dream of becoming the maritime hub in West African sub-region, we must focus squarely on development of infrastructure and make them of International standard,” Jime said.

The Shippers Council boss also said that inter-modal transportation in the maritime sector is very important to alleviate most of the challenges in confronting ease of doing business at the port.

In so far as the mode of cargo evacuation still remains road network, that is not a sustainable way of delivering services at any port in the world. Inland Waterways, rail linkages and barge operations must come together for us achieve that ultimate objective.

Jime however lamented that the absence of legal regulatory framework makes government agencies in the sector working at cross-purposes.

“The regulatory framework in place is not strong enough. I have made it a point of duty to work with the National Assembly, my legacy here must be that when I leave, I would leave the maritime space better and the framework better as far as our activities are concerned.

“It is because of the weak legal framework that we have that is leading to challenges which seems like disconnection and vacuum existing among government agencies” he said.

Also speaking, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Mohammed Bello-Koko, disclosed that the Authority is concluding discussions with local and international partners with the requisite financial and technical competence to fund the Tin Can Port reconstruction project.

Bello-Koko who was represented by the General Manager MD’s office, Mr Ayo Durowaye said the theme of the meeting “Rehabilitation of Tin Can Island Port: Proffering Workable Solutions” is very much in sync with NPA’s renewed drive towards ports infrastructure and equipment renewal across all locations.

He said, “The reconstruction of Tin Can Island quay walls is top on the agenda because it is the Port requiring the most urgent intervention.

“As most of us are aware, owing to successive decades of neglect, the cost implication for fixing Port infrastructure deficit far outweighs the budgetary provision at our disposal.

“However, we have explored and identified sustainable Public Private Partnership funding options which we have put forward to government for necessary approvals.

“I am glad to inform this distinguished gathering that we are at conclusive stages of discussion with local and international partners with the requisite financial and technical competence to fund the Tin Can Port reconstruction project.

“In the meantime, we are fixing what is within our capacity. Only recently we commissioned a state-of-the-art control tower for Tin Can.

Bello-Koko stated that Authority has taken measures to forestall a future re-occurrence of Port Infrastructure having to decay before intervention. According to him, the new Concession Agreements has ensured that all parties will have hands on deck to ensure infrastructures are maintained.

In his contribution, President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) stressed the need for government to get Terminal Operators involved in renovation of port infrastructures.

He said that the union is withdrawing the services of its members from one of the terminals at Tin Can Port; Five Star Logistics Terminal due to poor infrastructure and maintenance.

“I gave part of my job to you on behalf of the government, and where you are making your hell of money, the place is sinking. The NPA, Shippers Council must wake up and ensure that terminal operators are involved in repairing their terminals, it should not be government alone.

“Terminal Operators are making so much money and they should be able to repair their terminals, they should not wait for government to repair for them, there are some tenants that would not wait for landlords to come and repair their homes” Adeyanju said.

According to him, the decision to embark on the strike action is a directive from the National Executive Council of the union.

“If you go to Five Star Logistics Terminal, it is like a death trap for all the workers in that place. We are withdrawing the service of our members from that terminal, and we are not going back. Go to their toilet and see what we are saying, so many infrastructures have not been put in place, we have been giving them a lot of benefit of doubt” he said.

On his part, the Chairman of the occasion, Head of Research, Sea Empowerment Research Centre, Dr. Eugene Nweke, opined that the current state of the nation’s port should necessitate an urgent declaration of state of emergency with collapsed quay aprons and other flaws at seaports.

Nweke described seaports as vital components in global shipping business and maintained that they be carefully managed as the physical interchange or middle grounds for the trading community.

Earlier, the President of MARAN, Mr Godfrey Bivbere called on the federal government to consider exempting maritime agencies from certain bureaucratic processes to enable them quickly to address pressing port issues.

Bivbere said that a major challenge faced by NPA and all government agencies in the industry is the involvement of politicians in almost all financial expenditures, which according to him, makes it often difficult for things to be done correctly.

Speaking on the collapsing quay apron of the Tin Can Port, the MARAN President said, “While it is expected out of habit that some people would be pointing accusing fingers at the NPA for allowing such critical facility deteriorate to the point they are presently; it must be said that being a government parastatal, it’s capital expenditure must have to pass through the procurement processes which takes a lot of time.

“I doubt if there’s anybody here who is not familiar with our bureaucratic bottlenecks. As stakeholders in the maritime sector, we all know that some capital projects in the industry do not have the luxury of time with regards to their execution.

“It is my considered view therefore, that given our circumstances, the Federal Government should become more representative and exempt the maintenance or replacement of critical facilities from the Civil Service procurement processes.”

The Breakfast Meeting was organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) for stakeholders to dissect and proffer actionable solutions to the dilapidated quay apron of the Tin Can Island Port as well as reconstruction of other ports across the country.

A major highpoint of the event was the inauguration of the newly elected executives of MARAN which was carried out by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hon Emmanuel Jime.

Hon Jime administered the oath of office to the 9-man newly elected MARAN exco led by Mr Godfrey Bivbere as President and Mr Gboyega Oni as Vice President.

Other members of the Executive include: Babajide Okeowo, General Secretary; Pearl Ngwama, Assistant Secretary; Collins Abbah, Financial Secretary; Joy Mmereole, Treasurer; Sandra Chukwunyere, Public Relations Officer/Internal Auditor; Dapo Olawuni and Joy Enamuna, ex-officio members.

The Breakfast Meeting was attended by maritime dignitaries like the Former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Barr Temisan Omatseye, the President-General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Com Prince Adewale Adeyanju, the President of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria, Mr Olubunmi Olumekun, among others.

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