An economic and investment consultant, Dr Vincent Nwani, has proferred solutions to Nigeria’s dwindling port fortune, stating that unless the country’s leadership musters enough political will to re-direct its maritime sector, Nigeria’s ports will continue to lag behind that of Benin Republic and Ghana.
Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, Dr Vincent Nwani, who was the immediate past Director of Advocacy at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), stated that, “Unfortunately, the Nigerian maritime sector has not fared favourably in the last four years. It is very clear even from the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Indicator.
“Fine, Nigeria made overall progress from 169 or 170 to 146 where we are now, but when you look at the indicator that actually measures how Nigeria’s maritime sector has fared, that is Ease of Trading Across Border Indicator, you will find out that Nigeria has gone worse to where we were four years ago. Four years ago, we were at number 151, but as we speak, we are now at number 183 out of 185 countries as regards to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Across Borders indicator.
“In that World Bank index, we have about 13 indicators, and one of them is the Ease of Doing Business Across Borders Indicator.
“It is no longer news that the ports in Accra and Benin Republic were recently ranked as the best ports in West Africa. These ports have taken the shine away from Nigerian ports. It is impossible for us to be the hub in West Africa when the roads leading to our ports are very bad. Aside the bad roads, the traffic gridlock at our ports access roads makes it difficult for businesses to access our ports. This is one of the reasons why the non-oil products like the agricultural products get spoilt or downgraded before getting to the ports. These cargoes spend weeks and months just to access our ports, thereby getting spoilt on the way.
“These are the major reasons why our throughputs have dropped. Even Customs revenue has gone down.
“Is it in the area of vessel ownership or channel management? We have not done well enough. Our indigenous ship-owners cry every day over lack of capacity. Many have gone bonkers. Our ports and channels are not safe, thereby making vessels visiting our ports to charge astronomical freights compared to what they charge when they visit other ports in other nations. These are indeed challenging times for us in Nigeria.
“If only Nigeria had that political will to connect our ports with good roads and rail; and most importantly adopt and connect the Single Window technology to our cargo clearance procedure, then we should have been home and dry as regards efficient port system.
“Human interface remain a concern in our ports. Bad roads and over reliance on the ports in Lagos are serious issues confronting us here in Nigeria.
“We keep talking about diversification from oil, but how do we diversify when the ports where these non-oil products will pass through are facing this enormous challenges? We have got to that point where we need to move away from mere words of mouth and political promises to real action.”