Apapa Gridlock: Export Business May Collapse, Operators Cry Out |RN

                                Traffic bottleneck at Apapa, Lagos

Akinpelu Dada

Indigenous exporters have cried out that their business is about grinding to a halt as a result of the difficulties in accessing the Lagos ports due to the near total collapse of roads leading to the port complex in Apapa.

Highlighting the problems associated with the deplorable state of the roads, the exporters said trucks bringing produce to be shipped abroad often spend weeks on the road before they would be allowed into the export terminal and that by the time they would have discharged their contents, the produce would have lost quality.

Speaking on behalf of the exporters at a press briefing in Lagos on Thursday, the President, National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Tola Faseru, said export commodities like cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seeds ginger, hibiscus, shea nut and gum arabic, among others, were perishable and if not shipped on time, would perish.

Faseru said, “An exporter who can ship 1,700 tonnes of commodities per day under normal circumstances, when the Apapa Road was in good condition, now manages to only ship between 100 to 250 tonnes of commodities, and this is bad for business.

“Our truck drivers are idling away on Apapa Road, waiting in their trucks for as long as seven days to get into the port as against four hours.”

He added, “Bank customers who have borrowed or taken loans to finance their exports now find it difficult to meet their financial obligations and their inability to pay is hampered due to cost overrun as a result of this delay.

“Export warehouses are filled with commodities instead of being promptly shipped and they are rotting away. Transaction circle for all export is now taking longer than necessary and this is threatening export from Nigeria to the benefit of other countries that also produce and export same.”

As a result, Faseru stated that the exporters were now being forced to reduce their workforce due to the lull in export business arising from the Apapa gridlock.

He also alleged that the gridlock had given rise to corruption as security personnel were now collecting a bribe of N25,000 on every container, while the cost of transporting containers to the port had increased by 150 percent.

While describing the organisation of the port as an embarrassment to the nation, the exporters said there were eight roads at the APM Terminal, two of which were dedicated to exports, adding that inside the port, there were so much import consignments that export consignments could not go inside the terminal.

“This situation is not acceptable at all. We want all roads dedicated for export to be made absolutely for export only and nothing else,” Faseru added.

The exporters stated that the Oshodi-Apapa road to Sunrise required urgent palliative, adding that the emergency fixing of the road should be done within 14 days to allow for easy access to the port, while the core repairs go on, otherwise there would be a total collapse of the export business in two weeks.

The group also wants the Nigerian Ports Authority to be privatised as its level of inefficiency currently has become intolerable, while the concession of the APM Terminal should be terminated and the process for the choice of a new concessionaire/operator should be made transparent and open.

According to it, key private stakeholders, who are mainly exporters, should be involved in the process of appointing a new concessionaire for the terminal along with relevant government representatives.

Faseru added, “The obnoxious terminal handling charges should be cancelled immediately. Terminal charges were increased from N4,000 to N40,000 for 20-foot containers, and N6,000 to N60,000 for 40-foot containers. This is an increase of 1,000 percent. This increase is not supportive of the economic diversification of the Federal Government.

“Exporters should be granted unconditional express entry to the port in order to enable us to meet our export contractual agreements as foreign buyers are becoming wary of signing contracts with Nigerian exporters and if nothing is done, this situation of gridlock at Apapa may kill exports.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Starlink Global and Ideal Limited, Adeyemi Adeniji, said most cocoa exporters had been unable to deliver June consignments meant to be received by the importers in July, adding that it was now taking about 45 days instead of the normal 15 to 18 days to send cocoa from Nigeria to Europe.

“We are likely to be out of business in the next six months if the government does not come to our rescue. The non-oil economy target of the government is seriously being threatened by the situation at the ports,” he added.  (Punch)

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