By Isaac Anumihe
Over 5000 workers have lost their jobs in the Apapa area of Lagos. This followed the closure of over 50 companies including banks and entertainment outfits located in Apapa who depend on the activities from the wharf.
On Wharf Road alone, Daily Sun counted over 10 banks and two eateries that have closed their branches because of the lull in the ports.
Unity Bank which used to have four branches, has two now and Ecobank with eight branches has reduced to four. Similarly, Access Bank with seven branches also cut down to four
Eateries like Tetrazini and some ‘mamaput joints’ have been shut down, while a popular Kingstone Joe – a fast food company – that had two outlets at Warehouse Road and Wharf Rood are closed down.
Tantalizer with three outlets has been reduced to one while the only Mr Biggs eatery in Apapa on Creek Road is now out of the market.
Major hotels like Rockview, Excelsior and many others are groaning for lack of patronage as most of their rooms are empty. Chains of events that require renting their halls no longer come with faster frequency. A room rate which used to be between N25,000 and N30,000 can now be negotiated to between N8,000 and N10,000 because of the low patronage.
Other businesses that collapsed on Burma Road include, grocery shops, shipping companies, haulage outfits, freight forwarding firms, clubs and other recreational outlets. It was gathered that each of the outfits has between 20 and 50 staff while one of the biggest brothels which harbours over 200 inmates in the area has equally closed shop and the inmates relocated to other parts of Lagos where they can get ‘customers’.
The entertainment outfit, according to the president of Association of Maritime Journalists (AMJON), Mr. Ismaila Aniemu, said that the brothel served as a relaxation spot for sailors but since there is no activity in the ports, the brothel lost patronage and had to close shop.
Beside the bank and entertainment workers that lost their jobs, some ancillary businesses like the provision stores and food vendors that supply the low-end workers also ceased to be active.
The popular Eleganza complex that used to house over 1000 offices is virtually empty because the tenants have relocated or are out of business. The few tenants who are still hanging on are owing several months rentage. The complex which used to be the centre of activities is now a ghost of itself—empty, deserted dilapidated.
The popular Nnewi Building where over 800 offices were located is now empty, abandoned and lonely.
Generally speaking, property owners in Apapa are all lamenting because nobody occupies their property. Daily Sun gathered that since this year, only five ships had berthed in Apapa port, a situation that now makes maritime business unattractive and boring.
The situation is worsened by recent high foreign exchange rate which is almost N500 to a United States dollar from what used to be about N160 to a dollar in 2015.
Daily Sun gathered that the high exchange rate and the ban on 41 items by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) contributed to the low activities in the ports.
The 41 items include, rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil products/vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, vegetables and processed vegetable products, poultry chicken, eggs, turkey, private airplanes/jets, indian incense, tinned fish in sauce (Geisha)/sardines, cold rolled steel sheets, galvanized steel sheets, roofing sheets, wheelbarrows, headpans, metal boxes and containers, enamelware, steel drums, steel pipes, wire rods (deformed and not deformed), iron rods and reinforcing barbedwire mesh, steel nails, security and razor wine, wood particle boards and panels; wood fibre boards and panels, plywood boards and panels; wooden doors, toothpicks, glass and glassware, kitchen utensils, tableware, tiles-vitrified and ceramic textiles, woven fabrics, clothes, plastic and rubber products, polypropylene granules, cellophane wrappers, soap and cosmetics, tomatoes/tomato pastes, eurobond/foreign currency bond/ share purchases.
The CBN policy implies that, those who import these items can no longer buy foreign currency from the official window to pay the overseas suppliers. Rather, they will have to source forex from the parallel market or Bureau De Change to pay for their imports.
Most businesses in the area were heavily dependent on the state of the ports in Apapa Complex and Tin Can Island.
President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Comrade Tony Nted Emmanuel, had announced in August that the government policy has led to more than 3000 dockworkers losing their jobs.
Investigations show that over 50 per cent of these dockworkers are from Apapa Port. The chains of food vendors and other ancillary service providers who hitherto enjoyed their patronage have been shut down. The Sun