How Nigeria’ll become maritime hub for AfCFTA, Shippers’ council

By Martins  Nwamadi

NIGERIAN has about 1500kms of navigable waterways with a vibrant population of over 200 million living across an area of over 900,000km2.

Nigeria has one of the highest growth rates in Africa with vast arable land mass, natural resources like oil, natural gas, coal, gold, bauxite, ethanol, diamond with 6 functional Ports.

Transportation is a critical component to development because it impacts on social, political and economic sectors of the economy. It enables the movement of people, goods and services resulting in the creation of economic value.

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According to the Minister of Transportation Rt. Hon. RotimiChibuikeAmaechi, an efficient transport system underpins economic development, delivers improvements in the quality of life and enables effective governing of the state.

As at today, Nigeria’s transport sector including Rail, Maritime, Aviation and road contributes a misery average of 3percent to national GDP.

Furthermore, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) transport activities contributed 1.84 percent to nominal GDP in Q4 2020, a decline from the 2.11 percent recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.

In real terms, transportation and storage sector grew by – 5.59 percent in Q4 2020. It means that the contribution of the sector to real GDP in Q4 2020 stood at 1.32 percent but the sector contributed 1.18percent to real GDP in annual terms in 2020 fiscal year.

Given that the global maritime industry generates about $6 trillion annually, when juxtaposed with Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA’s revenue generation to the nations GDP in 2019 of around 62.18percent gives a not too promising future in the maritime sector.

It shows that we have a very herculean task ahead. It portrays our economy as just struggling to stay afloat -This is so because countries like Singapore, South Africa, Greek, Egypt, UK have developed their Ports to a level that it has become a benchmark for other countries to copy. Their maritime industry is their economy.

Recently, the new Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Jime on assumption of office embarked on a duty tour. Within a reasonable short time, Jime has visited DalaInland Dry Port Kano, Premier Kaduna Inland Dry Port, Ibadan Dry Port, held stakeholder engagement with Port Operators, Shipping Companies, Freight Forwarders, Terminal Operators, Logistics Chain Operators, Customs and Shippers Associations. He has also visited Port Harcourt and Onne Ports, Akwa Ibom and the new Deep Sea Port in Lekki.

One striking feature of his engagement with stakeholders is his appeal that maritime sits solidly as the sector next to oil if well exploited. This mission is to build a relationship and partnerships founded on a synergy to create innovative, sustainable services that will bring about a new port order that will drive Nigerian Ports as Africa hub.

He canvassed that the Inland Dry Ports facilitated by the Council in the 6 geo-political zones of the country is a concept that will provide landlocked states access to Shipping Services at their doorsteps. Dry Ports reduces high cost of moving goods around the country, provides easy access to markets around the country, and to the outside world, stimulates economic growth while boosting trade facilitation. It will equally facilitate ease of doing business at the Ports as it will save Customs department time in processing and documenting clearing papers.

To demonstrate his commitment to actualizing the completion of these Dry Ports, he was not only blunt but warned the concessionaires to deliver or be kicked out. It is believed that the Dala Dry Port, Heipang Dry Port and IsialaNgwa Dry Port when fully completed will create hubs for human resource development while leading to a job creation of about 30,000 individuals along the value chain.

Are Jime’s engagements a tough sell? No. it is rather sharing of ideas on how to move the industry forward. Infact the promise of science and technology to drive the maritime industry is now here and we can’t afford not to tap into it otherwise we shall be left behind. The Utopian vision of yesterday is now here putting us on our toes but we must adjust. We can’t allow smaller countries around us to take advantage of our past mistakes, he added.

We must by now start exploring all links between the use of technology as a driver to port efficiency and economic growth development. To this end, Jime is imploring all stakeholders to deploy the use of technology to drive port operations. “We must therefore begin to operate the ports as business that will attract foreign investment”. We must operate on a transparent and open manner with a standard of integrity. To achieve this onerous ambition of the Federal Government, Jime advised shipping companies, freight forwarders, banks to deploy appropriate technology and most importantly adapt to the principles as stated in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and in the National Port Process Manual (NPPM) which simplifies port operations. The SOP and NPPM is a Web Portal designed as a one-stop site to gather information about Port Operation. It is all encompassing.

Hear Jime, if we are to modernize our ports with necessary infrastructure and hitech, expand production, facilitate trade, we shall begin to enjoy the enormous benefits the continental AFCTFA offers to the nation. To achieve this export drive, we must imbibe a new business-oriented approach on how to quickly implement the port reforms, build modern industrial capacity, modernizing facilities at the ports to reduce Cargo dwell time, person to person contact which breeds corruption as all these will promote our achieving a seamless 24hours port operations and economic diversification in Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council is known for controlling his facts and figures but one thing going for this development economist is that he smells problems before they arrive. His brilliant ability to think analytically provoked and re-awakened the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) that held its continental meeting in Abuja last week to draw up a timeline and a gentle push that will tactically see the International Shipping Companies to a robust cost saving reduction on tariffs and insurance. High tariffs and insurance premium has been a bane to our maritime development in Sub Sahara Africa.

Harold Geneen said that Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. This probably informed Jime’s philosophy when he said that, “his vision is to build excellence, transform the ports environment to not only be user friendly but meet global standards with appropriate infrastructure, technology, capacities and expertise while ensuring unhindered flow of trade”.

The road to this journey looks tortuous. Since we have not reached the destination, we cannot rest on our achievements so far. The doors are large enough to contain port operators that have integrity but all we need is to collectively raise those pillars to the advantage of our national and sub national economy.

With just 4 months in the saddle, Jime seems to be redefining the rules while withering the storm in the maritime industry.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.