The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and members of the organised private sector have called on the federal government to immediately put plans in place to drive export to avoid foreign exchange scarcity and economic depression as it begins to ease the lockdown in key states in the country to halt the spread of COVID-19.
They stated this in Lagos, when the NSC hosted members of the organised private sector, which included: the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines And Agriculture (NACCIMA), Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Shippers Association of Lagos.
Speaking at the meeting, the Executive Secretary and CEO of the NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, stressed that the Nigerian economy has to be export-driven, adding that how quickly the pandemic is put under control and the policy choices that the government has to include the impute of the private sector at this critical time.
“We need to export; we have to look for a way to streamline our dependence on imports a country. To achieve this, our ports must be reformed, all processes must be automated, all terminals must have electronic transaction and the same applies to shippers and freight forwarders, the banks and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS),” he said.
He also called for intermodal transportation to ensure swift evacuation of cargo from the port stressing that effective use of trains and barging for cargo evacuation will reduce the cost of transporting goods from the port.
The Director General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said the impact of the pandemic on the economy would be felt after the country gets out of the lockdown, warning that the manifestation of the consequence of what has happened will hit Nigeria.
He warned that the country cannot look up to the oil sector between now and the end of the year for anything in terms of revenue and foreign exchange.
“The salvation of the economy now lies with the non-oil sector or non-oil economy. There is no way we can drive that sector if we don’t have the right kind of logistics and the port logistics and related things are very critical to this. This is why it is important that as organised private sector, we rally round to support the NSC initiatives.
“I have had discussions with people in the presidency and sometimes they tell you they don’t even have the facts; they don’t know what is happening. Again, on the side of the private sector we don’t have that effective voice, which should bring about the reforms that will turn around the economy.
“It is important that the message is very clear that if you don’t resolve all the bottlenecks to logistics especially in the ports, this economy may crumble because the non-oil economy is now the livewire of this economy, given what is happening and is likely to remain so throughout the rest of the year,” he warned.
He added that liquidity in the foreign exchange market was key, adding that when people starts to demand for foreign exchange after the lockdown, there will be a major crisis around foreign exchange.
On her part, the representative of the President of NACCIMA, Mrs. Margret Orakwusi, pointed that what has happened has motivated government agencies in the port to be efficient in their usual duty.
She commended the NSC for putting together the port forum, adding that the private sector has always wanted this to happen, “because we also recognise the overlapping functions of the different agencies and prior to this time, its kept them working, every man with his own agenda, a lot of jealously and what have you. The lack of unity really affects the private sector.”
Representative of the President of the manufacturers association of Nigeria, Aluya John, commended the federal government for waving demurrages during the lockdown.
He also commended the NSC for bringing together all the agencies in the port to work together to ensure port efficiency.