The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala-Usman, has identified four major causes of the diversion of cargoes meant for Nigerian market to ports located in the neighbouring countries around Nigeria.
These, she listed to include the desire to escape payment of high import duties on the cargoes, the non-availability of deep sea ports in the country to welcome larger vessels, slow and frustrating cargo clearance due to 100 per cent physical examination of cargoes in the Nigerian ports as well as the facilitation of smuggled contra banned goods
According to the NPA boss, who spoke during a forum hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), consignees divert banned cargoes or those with high import duties such as rice and vehicles to neighbouring ports and smuggle them into Nigeria.
According to her, another reason that accounts for the diversion of cargoes meant for Nigerian market was the absence of deep sea ports in the country, to accommodate larger vessels in an era when the shipping lines were embracing the use of larger vessels that offer them economies of scale.
This, according to her, “is the reason they go to neighbouring countries to berth and bring them into Nigeria in smaller vessels.”
She also identified the inefficiency of cargo clearance in the country as a source of frustration that constrained Nigerian importers to prefer neighbouring ports. “Currently, Nigeria does not have scanners in its sea ports and therefore subject every cargo to 100 per cent physical examination in the port. Automatically there will be a delay and I will leave you to imagine how efficient that could be.
“The need to introduce scanners is very urgent and must fast track its procurement, which is the responsibility of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS),” Bala-Usman said.
Moreover, government agencies that operate in the port process are not connected through the single window system, which enable them to carry out their functions through a common electronic, she noted.
“The single window needs to be restored because it is one of the trade facilitation processes for ports efficiency. The absence of scanners and the single window mechanism create longer turnaround time and frustrate importers, which form the basis for cargo diversion.
“Port’s efficiency means that shorter time is required for consignments to get to the consignees’ warehouse after arriving at our port,” she said.
The NPA boss also shed more light on the reasons traffic congestion had become the norm in the Apapa area of Lagos.
According to her, the situation has been around for a much longer time because 95 per cent of the cargoes that arrived at Apapa ports were being evacuated by road.
The resultant effect of this procedure, she stressed was that the roads would be bad and congested.
Therefore, “we must have inter-model transportation system for cargo evacuation to enable us have efficiency in cargo clearance.
“This is the reason the ministry of transport is constructing a rail line into Apapa ports to facilitate rail evacuation of cargoes. But this is not what that can be done in two months.
“We are also talking with AP Moller to set up inland water ways that can move cargoes from the port to such places like Epe to further facilitate speedy cargo clearance and decongestion of Apapa roads.
“The other issue is the need for us to have trailer parks and mandate truck drivers to use them. We are currently discussing with the Lagos and Ogun State’s governments on the establishment of trailer parks to deploy these trucks.
“Our stand at NPA is that every truck coming to the port must come from a designated truck park so that they can come to the port only when they are needed.
“We want to set up a large truck park in Ogun, then another one in Lagos where they can be situated and a create space in Lilypond where they can wait to take their consignments,” Usman explained.
The managing director of NPA also used the occasion to explain the factors responsible for the underutilisation of the Eastern ports located in the South-South region of Nigeria.
She attributed this to importers’ preference for the Lagos ports because most of the imports are consumed around the Lagos-Ogun axis.
In addition, truck drivers, according to her, prefer Lagos ports because of the clarity on the road networks from Lagos to the hinterlands than from any other destination in the country