WITH the crises at the Nigerian seaports, the country may have steeply dropped to number 183 (out of 190 ranked countries) in the Ease Of Doing Business, EODB, ranking from the 145th position it occupied last year, according to some informed maritime industry sources. If this is officially confirmed, it would probably place Nigeria last in ranking even within Sub-Sahara Africa.
The forecast 38-point drop has been blamed by maritime and shipping industry stakeholders on the seemingly intractable congestion at the wharves due to the terrible state of roads around the Lagos ports area.
Already, some of the stakeholders have raised the alarm that apart from the risk of losing the relative gains recorded in the EODB last year, the real casualties are the businesses connected to the ports system and located around the ports area in Lagos. This area alone handles over 80 per cent of the nation’s sea cargoes. This calls for urgent actions and reforms to address the challenges on import, export, transit infrastructure, regulations, systems and procedures at the ports.
It is noteworthy that EODB covers 11 areas of business regulation and environment of the 190 countries, which are measured on time and cost on procedural requirements for import, export and the shipment of goods. Time and cost are associated with three sets of requirements which are: documentary compliance, border compliance as well as domestic transport which allows for comparability across all 190 countries.
We join the stakeholders in pointing out that Nigeria’s import, export, regulatory and transit procedures are yoked by lengthy and cumbersome procedures. Red tape leads to unnecessary delays, high transaction cost and increase of cargo dwell time. These make Nigeria’s seaports the most expensive in the world based on verifiable information.
This situation has been compounded by the horrible state of the transit system in and out of the ports, already recorded as the worst in the world. This highly regrettable situation has now been further worsened by the crude stop-and-search method of cargo inspection which the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, has adopted. The already stressed roads in and around Apapa have been transformed into a theatre of nightmares as container-laden trucks under search by men of NCS litter everywhere.
The need to reform our import-export regulatory and transit procedures can no longer be ignored if our highly-celebrated EODB gains of last year are to be preserved. We must clear the clutter in Apapa and speed up processes and procedures to facilitate trade. We must also upgrade other ports around the country and end our Apapa ports dependency.
The Federal and Lagos State governments must join hands to remove all obstacles from the roads and bridges of Apapa and environs to promote free flow of international trade.