James Emejo in Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara yesterday said accountability and prudent management of resources remained critical to making progress as well as meeting the various demands for improved infrastructure in the maritime sector of the economy.
He expressed dismay that the sector was yet to attain the desired and expected status of becoming the hub for international freight and trade in West Africa.
Speaking at the opening of a three-day investigative public hearing by the House Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways, chaired by Hon. Patrick Asadu (PDP, Enugu), he regretted that the maritime industry has failed to attract the required local and foreign investment in-flow which is proportionate to its contribution to both the Nigerian and West African economy, despite its great potential and enormous investment opportunities.
Quoting statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in March 2018, Dogara pointed out that Nigeria’s Ports dropped down the global ratings basically due to bad infrastructure.
He noted that major competitors in the region, including Port of Lome in Togo, Port of Dakar in Senegal, and the Port of Cotonou in Benin Republic, all delivered better efficient services than the Nigerian Ports.
“This is really not acceptable,” he said.
He identified some of the problems hindering the performance of the country’s ports to include bad infrastructure, high cost of doing business and low draught at a lot of our major waterways.
He reiterated the need to dredge the nation’s port channels to increase traffic to the various ports and invariably increase economic productivity.
Dogara said:”If we have cargoes going up north to places such as Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri, such cargoes would not need to go through Lagos, which is already so congested.
“But for this to happen, the channels of other ports need to be dredged. Reports have it that the Lagos water channel is about 14.5 meters deep, while the Port Harcourt and Calabar channels are less than 10 meters deep, which limits their capacity to receive big cargo ships. This explains why there is so much congestion at the Lagos Port.
The speaker, however, expressed hope that the hearing will proffer lasting solutions to the problems.
A total of seven maritime related motions gave room for the public hearing, including Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage at the Nigeria Ports, Extra Budgetary Spending and other Financial Improprieties by Terminal Operators and Service Providers engaged by the Nigerian Ports Authority among others.