By Godfrey Bivbere & Gideon Nnaemezie
FOLLOWING the collapse of the Seme – Mile 2 expressway in Lagos, Nigerian importers who patronise Cotonou port in the Benin Republic have resorted to trucking their consignments through the northern Benin Republic before entering into Nigeria and then truck to the southern and other parts of the country. The distance covered on this new route is more than 2000 kilometres instead of the less than 300 kilometres covered through the Seme border.
Vanguard Maritime Report investigation revealed that the trend has become acceptable to most importers some, with some of them alleging that it is far cheaper than freighting from Seme through Mile2 to other parts of the country as a result of the bad roads.
Vanguard Maritime Report reliably gathered that at the height of the road crises, Nigerian importers who patronise the neighbouring ports were forced to spend between N3 and N4 million to transport their consignments on the extra-large trucks from Cotonou to warehouses around Iyanu Era to Okoko in the Badagary border area of Lagos. It is from these warehouses that such consignments are transported to markets in Lagos and other parts of the country.
Recall that the chaotic traffic situation at the seaports in Lagos at a time resulted in over 700 per cent hike in the cost of transportation of imported goods from the ports in Apapa to surrounding towns in Lagos. Transportation of a 20 feet container from Apapa to Ikeja which used to be N25,000 rose to more than N300,000.
President/CEO of NICSOL Worldwide Investment Limited, an export handling company, Mr Nicodemus Odolo, who confirmed this, said that the bad roads have affected the movement and cost of consignments to and from the port.
Odolo stated: “Bad port access road for the past four years has affected the cost of transportation. Now containers that are supposed to move from Apapa port to Ikeja at the rate of about N30,000 now costs up to N300,000.
“So all these things are factored into the cost of production and affect the selling price. That is why you see made in Nigeria goods costlier than those imported. It is unfortunate that people in government seem not to understand this.”
Similarly, President of Shippers Association of Lagos, Rev. Jonathan Nicole, said transportation of goods from Tin-can Port to Ikeja which used to cost N50,000 for a 20 feet container now costs N275,000. Nicole added that movement of a 40 feet container which used to cost N80,000, now attracts between N430,000 and N450,000.
He said this was caused by bad roads which made transporters to stay on the roads for weeks before they get in and out of the ports. He added that importers were being made to pay high demurrages because it was becoming increasingly difficult for trucks to get into the port and when they did, they only went to the highest bidders.
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, acknowledged that the situation of the road was a problem to trade facilitation but noted that the Federal Government was aware of this and has awarded a contract for the reconstruction of the road.
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He said: “The Badagry –Seme road contract has been awarded and work would soon start. If you take for example Ilorin-Jebba road, for thirty years it has been bad but it has been done now. There is also the Port Harcourt –Enugu road, it has also been done, the second Niger Bridge and many others. The Federal Government has realized that it is important for our trade and for our competitiveness to have the infrastructure and I think they have taken conscious efforts to redress such.”
President of the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Zeb Ikhokide, blamed the development for the nation’s ports not being able to function at full capacity. He said: “Well, you are talking about freighting; the most important thing is how much (consignments) we are able to remove from the port. How many imports are we able to freight out of the ports? That is the most important thing.
“Government should work at how they can ameliorate the traffic situation in the port area so that people who want to move their cargo from the ports can easily do that as quickly as possible. You can not talk about freights when there is no access to the ports that is the most important thing. Trading is not so good at the moment because of the economic situation in the country.
“If the trade is okay, then we can now talk about freights that are open from time to time. But people are not going into the trade in terms of importation and all the rest of them because of the economic situation.”
Similarly, National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Joe Sanni, said there was a need for government to pay attention to the failed Seme – Mile2 expressway and the nation’s port access roads in Lagos.
He said: “You know the kind of business they do there if I tell you that I am unconnected I would be a liar. Be that as it may, I think the government of Nigeria must work at fixing the bad roads leading to and from the ports.
”The truth of the matter is that no matter how much bilateral agreement and synergy the Benin Republic counterparts would allow them to do what they want to do because it pays them. The difference between the cost of clearance between the Benin Republic and Nigeria is not significant why should I go to Benin? Does that make sense?
“The economy of Benin Republic is one that is dependent on Nigeria. If you talk about cars and the likes our people find it convenient going through that side. It is the duty rate. The duty rate is so high here.