Stakeholders Decry Economic Loss to Exporting Nigerian Goods by Road as Against Airfreight 

Chinedu Eze

Stakeholders in the aviation industry have expressed concern over the huge economic loss of exporting Nigerian goods to other countries by road, instead of airlifting such goods from airports across the country. 

According to them, the objective of the federal government to promote non-oil exports and strive to have balance of trade by improving exports of perishables and other products may not be realised, due to avoidable obstacles that make it very difficult to airfreight made-in-Nigeria goods.

At the Zenith Bank 7th Annual International Trade Seminar on Non-oil export held in Lagos last week, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, frowned at the current situation where Nigerian goods are taken by road to neighbouring countries and exported overseas as goods produced by Ghana, Togo and others which receive the foreign exchange at the expense of Nigeria.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote also lamented obstacles to export made-in-Nigeria goods and stressed that the huge revenues earned by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) would not be as high if Nigeria is importing so much and exporting very little.

He emphasised that Nigeria is today known as import oriented country, which has contributed immensely in weakening the local currency and advised that increase in exports would help to strengthen the naira.

These deliberations prompted THISDAY to carry out investigation on export of goods by air and what challenges the exporters face at the airports.

THISDAY findings revealed that there is the tendency of federal government agencies at the airports, including the NCS, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and even the Nigerian Police to rip off the exporters.

This combined with high charges by these agencies, has made it very difficult for exporters to carry out rewarding business.

It was also variously confirmed that goods are delayed by avoidable bureaucracy by the aforementioned until some of them, especially agricultural produce are damaged and wasted to the exporters’ loss.

THISDAY also gathered that the most adversely affected are small and medium scale export oriented businesses that export a lot of goods on marginal profits, After bribing their way through, they will not have anything to gain from the exercise.

Those who spoke to THISDAY described the extortion as ‘despicable disincentive’ to export of goods by air.

Commenting, the Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SACO), Mr. Basil Agboarumi, told THISDAY that in order to know the impact of these obstacles it would be good to find out why airlines that freight cargo to Nigeria fly back empty against their wishes.

This, he revealed, was due to high charges on the goods, the opaque export process and the stumbling blocks, which if Nigeria is seriously desirous of boosting its export, would have used policies to check.

“We told government what to do to enhance export of made-in-Nigeria goods but they didn’t listen to anybody. It is embarrassing that many cargo planes that bring goods to Nigeria go back empty. This will tell you that there is a problem why that is happening. That should be attributed to government policy, particularly requirements. Why is it that airlines come in but they find it difficult to pick cargo and go back,” he questioned.

Agboarumi explained that after paying charges and meeting the demands of the personnel of the government agencies in charge of export, Nigerian goods become very expensive and uncompetitive in the international market.

He also said that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should earmark more land for the expansion of cargo terminal so that handling companies can expand their facilities, if Nigeria is really desirous of boosting its exports.

“We need to expand our facilities to accommodate exports. Export is growing everyday but not to the volume expected if there were no impediments in the process. Government should do something to encourage exports,” he added.

Travel expert and organiser of the annual cargo conference in Lagos, Aviacargo, Ambassador IkechiUko, told THISDAY that if Nigeria wishes to boost its cargo exports by air, it should treat cargo the way passengers are treated at the airport.

He explained that passengers have one place security checks, where they pass through and are scrutinized, cargo should also have similar one place check; where goods are moved and checked and them be taken to the aircraft for export.

“The processes of goods should be done in one place. In doing it that way you reduce the time the goods are delayed. Today the situation is like a minefield where the exporter meets obstacles here and there. We have to simplify the process. There is over regulation by Quarantine, Customs, Immigration, a lot of hindrances and obstacles,” he said.

An insider from one of the major aviation handling companies told THISDAY that from the gate of the cargo terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, the Police officers at the gate are the first to stop the exporter and examine the goods. Immediately they realise that the person came for export, they would insist on ‘settlement’. 

That ‘settling’ continues through the Quarantine, Customs, Immigration and in addition he pays the huge official charges.

“They should fasten the process of exports. The exports are necessary to counterbalance what we import so that the naira will gain value,” the source said.

However, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine, who identified himself as Femi, told THISDAY that there has been improvement in the relationship between exporters and Quarantine, disclosing that the agency is currently carrying out sensitisation campaign to enlighten potential exporters, the conditions and requirements that they must meet in order to have easy movement of their goods for export.

Femi said that things were getting better and that volume of goods for export were growing, but also admitted that Nigeria has not reached there yet.

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