- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Monday, 25 June 2012 11:25
- Written by Nzuko Igbo, USA
It is common knowledge that approaching cargo ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nigeria harbor can go in more than one direction: It may go straight into the river Niger banks area comprising Port Harcourt, Wimpey, and Onne deep-water ports, on
right toward Calabar port, or on left towards Warri, Sapele and Lagos ports or harbors. Many countries of the world do not have such luxuries, as they are landlocked. Fortunately, Nigeria is blessed with many natural harbors and ports. Nigerian Ports will increase as a result of the Federal Governments inland water-way dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue for development of seaports to accommodate a growing economy. Such expansions and undertakings make good economic sense, especially when ports’ revenue is second to oil in Federal Government earnings. Nevertheless, the existing seaports must be put to optimum use before embarking on the more expensive venture of inland waterway dredging and building of new seaports.
Talking about inland waterways, no one, even the governments, remember dredging of the Azumiri Blue River and the Imo River that empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Iwenga Ndoki historic Seaport. This Seaport has long been forgotten in spite of its historic, commercial and tourist attractions. It also needs to benefit from the recent inland water-way dredging and port development. The blue River needs restoration and the Imo River dredged.
Talking about natural deep-water harbors or ports in Nigeria, notable ports like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, Wimpey, Warri, and Calabar ports come to mind. However, Lagos port remains the only all-time active of all these ports. In the normal process of import and export, shipping cargo traffic in Nigeria is a big deal, compounded by thousands of its citizens overseas sending goods back to their homeland, on regular basis. Over the years, frustrations have become the norm for many shippers who sometimes wait for months in vain to have their goods cleared, due to congestions at the Lagos Port that often results in demurrage charges. Some importers even lose their goods due to complicated paper work and several trips from the hinterland to Lagos on dangerous and death-trap roads. The big question, then, becomes, why is economic activity of cargo dispersions and other shipping related activities concentrated or centered at Lagos?
It is inconceivable that a big country like Nigeria blessed with many natural deep-water ports can only maintain one sea port to be functional; or is it an act of regional economic sabotage and favoritism? Could it be that the powers that be favor Lagos metropolis to other metropolitan areas with seaports? If the above are true, why haven’t the political and economic leadership of ports facilities deprived areas spoken out. We look with nostalgia to the 1970s and early 1980s, when all the seaports in the country were functioning and Port Harcourt and Lagos were put to optimum use. If our port facilities are aging or unable to handle modern shipping vessels why should Lagos alone benefit from ports facilities upgrade. If Port Harcourt and Calabar are upgraded, invariably Lagos will be decongested. Two are always better than one. Other natural seaports in Nigeria should be equipped, upgraded and kept functional.
It is possible that the underutilization of Port Harcourt and Calabar seaports is deliberate since we gathered that duties and other clearing charges are higher at those ports than Lagos, even though they are on the same costal line and in the same country. These seaports have been subjected to the faith of international flights into South-South and South East regions (As for the South East approved Akanu Ibiam International Airport, this may take another century to complete. The airport comes to the attention of the government election years to attract South-East votes). The two regions generate the highest air travel passengers, yet only Port Harcourt international airport which is often out of commission services the two regions. We also gathered that aircraft landing fees are higher at Port Harcourt than Lagos hence international airfares are to Port Harcourt are higher, thereby discouraging passenger patronage and resulting in fewer flights. Federal Government facilities in these parts of the country are always lacking one thing or the other. The Eastern Railway line is now a thing of the past and East-West Railway line is unthinkable.
Chances are that the present government may not be aware of the intensity of these problems and the need to remedy the situation. However, Nzuko-Igbo, USA view it as a civil responsibility to echo the prevalence of these unaddressed problems that require urgent attention from President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Assembly; especially members from the South-South and South-East Regions of the country, the Governors of the South-South and South -East Regions , the business community and the Nigeria public in general. The issue of Lagos port being the only active of all the ports in the country, while the rest of the ports have little or no traffic is no longer acceptable and must be addressed forthwith. For a start, decongesting and re-directing of ships to other ports by creating attractive incentives for patronizing those ports such as; provision of adequate security for importers and goods, reduced import duties and other clearing charges, including provision of port facilities capable of handling ships and containers of all sizes. These must commence immediately to alleviate the frustration of shippers. If these other ports require expansions, work must begin immediately to solve such problems and bring them to Lagos Seaport standard. A healthy competition among these ports will result in decongestion of Lagos port, shorten clearing time, reduce or eradicate demurrages and make prices of goods and services more affordable to the public. It will also stimulate the local economies of those other port areas, by creating the much-needed local employments. It will ease transportation of goods to the interior, reduce road hazards and increase the durability of our poorly constructed roads.
Nzuko Igbo, USA calls on the Federal Government to end favoritism in the provision of facilities in the country. Efforts should be geared toward modernizing Port Harcourt and Calabar seaports to attract more shipping activities. Government owes it as a duty to provide equal economic growth policies and economic enabling environment to all regions of the country. The federal character provision enshrined in our constitution should and must be extended to infrastructure development.
B. Uma, Ph. D. - Project Director Vincent O. Erondu - President