Nigeria has continued to lose enormous revenue as 30 per cent of the 65 per cent of cargoes destined for Nigeria are diverted to other West Africa countries due to the failure by successive governments in Nigeria to put in place appropriate policies to reverse the trend. Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Cowry Asset, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, who made the revelation over the weekend, said that only 30 per cent of the cargoes are discharged in Nigeria because of high import charges, bad port roads and rarity of port infrastructure to facility trade.
This is just as local manufacturers and other industry operators in the country have cried out over high charges by shipping companies, describing it as a cankerworm that has forced so many companies into extinction.
The stakeholders, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACIMMA), Association Of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), among others who gathered at a maritime industry summit in Lagos over the weekend, bemoaned the effect of high port charges on the survival of their businesses.
In his keynote address on ‘Port Charges: How Plausible,’ at the first National Conference of Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN), in Lagos, Chukwu wondered why Nigeria should allow Cote d’Ivoire to build the largest seaport in Africa when a larger chunk of cargoes are destined to Nigeria.
According to him, right now, Nigeria is rated the largest supplier and manufacturer of cement but there is no effort to put facilities in place to export the product.
He warned that if the common ECOWAS tariff is fully implemented, Nigeria will lose businesses because the common ECOWAS tariff means that once a tariff is paid in one country, no other tariff will be paid in any other country in West Africa.
To this end, he absolved the terminal operators of the high charges, pointing out that the operators, having faced a lot of infrastructural challenges which impact negatively on their business, it makes some business sense if they hike charges to recover their expenses.
President, MAN, Frank Udemba Jacobs, said port charges are major source of worries for the manufacturers and have contributed to high cost of production.
Jacobs, who was represented by Niran Olajobi, who called for reasonable ports charges, bemoaned the deplorable of ports access roads and the gridlock, which have contributed to the charges, urged the government to immediately fix the roads.
President, NACIMMA, Mrs. Alaba Lawson, commended the federal government on the initiatives of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) for its action plan aimed at creating enabling environment and easy movement of goods across borders, calling for full implementation of the action plan.
In her remarks, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman said that NPA as a regulator has a tariff price which encourages a unified charge.
Usman, who was represented by the Manager Audit, Mrs. Sarah Oghomienor, however, acknowledged that port charges are designed to cover operational expenses because everybody is in business to make profit.
Port charges, she further noted, is a result of all deficiencies like the road infrastructure.
But the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said that the federal government of Nigeria official gazette no 158 Marine Environment Management (sea protection levy) Regulation 2012 empowers NIMASA to impose levies on all commercially operating vessels of 100 GT and above in Nigerian waters.
Peterside who spoke through the Head Shipping Development, Mr. Ogadi Anthony said that the agency introduced the Marine Environment Sea Protection Levy via the Marine Notice dated August 9, 2012.
The Sea Protection Levy (SPL) is to be paid by all commercially operating vessels of 100 GT and above in Nigerian waters and also on all potential oil polluters, installations and pipelines.