Nigeria loses over $20billion annually due to Ports inefficiency and decayed infrastructure. This was stated by the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar at a town hall meeting with maritime stakeholders in Lagos yesterday.
Atiku who was represented by his running mate and former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi said that the Nigerian ports system is not working, even as he alleged that importers making use of Nigerian ports to ship their cargoes are made to pay extra $1,000 Dollars abroad on every container shipped into country.
According to him, in order to make the eastern ports busy and viable, there is need to make it cheaper to clear cargoes there than in Lagos. This he said his government will grant incentives to those using the eastern ports to attract patronage.
He blasted the APC government saying “How can you say Nigeria is working and you have an ease of doing business if the roads leading to your ports are in bad shape? It simply shows a government that is not working”
“For every goods you ship from anywhere in the world into Nigeria you pay additional $1,000, the reason why you are paying that is because of the inefficiency of Nigerian Ports.
“The ports today have not been expanded from what it was from when they were built, nobody has given them any attention and we are not even building new ones. Singapore was the busiest port in the world, and as it is, they are building the busiest and biggest port under the sea, this would start in 2050, but here we are not doing anything, we are busy making sure that the ones built is not working”, Atiku said.
On the traffic gridlock in Apapa due to bad roads, Atiku assured the stakeholders that fixing the Apapa Oshodi expressway could be completed in less than one year.
“The Apapa -Oshodi expressway is not more than 10km and it won’t take any serious government more than a year to fix it, it’s not rocket science, but matter of incompetence and ineffective leadership”.
According to him, running a business and running the country is the same thing. He vowed to deploy his business acumen in development of the ports.
He challenged the Buhari administration to show Nigerians their achievements before asking them for another term.
“Give us the account of your first tenure before telling us to give you another term. If I give you money to trade you will have to give me the account of the first money before you ask for another one, that is what we are asking the APC government ” Atiku said.
He promised that if voted to power the “Atiku/Obi presidency would make Nigeria work. Atiku has experience in governance and in business, he has built schools, so he knows what education is, people cannot offer what they don’t have, imagine Atiku as an ex Custom Officer and myself being a trader, the port will turn around” he assured.
Meanwhile, the gathered stakeholders presented various position papers on the various challenges confronting the sector.
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in a document presented by its Vice President, Mr. Farinto Collins said even though the port as a critical sector generates N5billion daily into Federal Government’s purse, the government has abandoned it.
He said that maritime operators regretted galvanising over 30,000 votes for President Muhammadu Buhari in year 2015, saying that most of the promises made were never fulfilled.
One of the promises according to him was made by the current Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo on revision of the Auto Policy. He said the policy has succeeded in sending many clearing agents out of jobs which they never fulfilled.
Other challenges itemised by Farinto includes bad access roads leading to the nation’s port, foreigners practicing custom brokerage in Nigeria etc. He called for indigenization of the profession.
The ANLCA vice President also stressed the need to review the Customs and Excise Management Act and a creation of a Ministry of Maritime.
He called for the development of a port development plan, saying that all the ports in Nigeria currently have been overstretched.
The Initiative for Rapid Development of Nigeria one of the strong support group for the Atiku/Obi presidency also submitted a highlights of myriads of problems facing stakeholders and the Nigerian ports which need urgent attention.
Some of the issues the IRDNIGERIA enumerated in their paper includes government policies, legislations, high cost of doing business in Nigerian ports, corruption, infrastructural decay among others. The group said they believe that Atiku Abubakar will address the issues when he comes to power in February this year.
The Lagos State Governorship flag bearer of the PDP, Mr. Jimi Agbaje was also at the forum accompanied by his running mate. He assured that if voted into power as the next governor of Lagos State, the traffic gridlock in Apapa would be addressed.
The event was put together by Chief Peter Okocha, Chairman Chrismatel Group; Dr Basil Nwolisa, Chairman IRDNIGERIA; Ifeanyi Okunbor, Innocent Orok and Dr Eugene Nweke . Others are Sir Aloy Okwu, Chief Festus Ukwu, Chief Ik Mbulu and Chief Basil Onyeanusi among others to draw the attention of the Atiku/Obi presidency to the plight of the Maritime sector and how to address them when they get into power.