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Stakeholders fume over FG’s plan to develop new deep seaports

Posted on June 19, 2024

* ‘It is misplaced priority, avenue to embezzle funds’
* Nigeria needs to regain maritime hub, lost cargoes, says CPPE

With proposed four deep seaports stalled by poor funding, the Federal Government is considering developing additional deep seaports, a plan stakeholders dismissed as a white elephant project and an avenue to embezzle funds.

The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, had during a recent conference, announced the government’s plans to develop additional deep seaports on a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement to bolster the country’s maritime capabilities.

Already, Badagry Deep Seaport, Snake Island, Burutu and Ondo Deep Seaports, which are intended to be executed on a PPP basis, remain in the pipeline due to a lack of funds.

Stakeholders claim creating additional ports is a white elephant project aimed at embezzling funds, as there are several underutilised seaports plagued by challenges such as inadequate infrastructure and shallow drafts, which limit their ability to accommodate larger vessels, as well as insecurity.

Despite efforts and substantial investments to revitalise these ports, congestion remains a significant issue at the western ports in Lagos.

Of note is that the Federal Government is still seeking approximately $1 billion for the rehabilitation of the Tincan Island, Apapa, Rivers, Onne, Warri and Calabar ports.

The minister highlighted measures aimed at improving Nigeria’s ease of doing business ranking and fostering a conducive environment for trade and investment.

The measures include the development of additional deep-sea ports on a PPP basis, ongoing efforts to upgrade infrastructure, including the development of inland dry ports, advancing modernization projects at key ports across the country, dredging activities and deploying cutting-edge maritime technologies.

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, listed as major challenges the continuous deterioration of port infrastructure, underutilised seaports, lack of automation as well as fiscal and monetary policies as significant trade barriers causing Nigeria to lose its transit and transshipment of cargo to neighboring ports.

Recall that the President, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said the modernisation of port management systems of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic has made them the leading ports in West Africa, leaving Nigeria far behind.

The National Public Relations Officer of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, stated that building more ports is a misplaced priority and an avenue to embezzle funds through white elephant projects.

He argued that a serious government should focus on ensuring the full functionality of existing ports, adding that it is only when these ports cannot handle excess trade should the construction of more ports be considered to accommodate the large inflow.

Fatomilola noted that deep seaports like Badagry are not functional and that the functioning ports and bonded terminals in Lagos are underutilized, receiving fewer ships and cargo than their capacities.

He also mentioned that unfavorable government policies and fluctuating exchange rates are detrimental to import and export trade, driving importers and investors to focus on neighboring countries.

“This government is about how much you can eat. If they don’t initiate projects, how can they siphon money? I don’t see reasons why more ports should be built. The government should focus on utilizing the existing ports to their full capacity and making favorable policies that will facilitate trade. Building more ports is a misplaced priority,” he lamented.

The former president of the Shippers Association of Lagos (SALS) and Vice Chairman of the Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) Integrity Alliance, Jonathan Nicol, said that existing deep-sea ports are underutilised due to a lack of patronage.

“The Minister of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is under intense pressure from his detractors, who are presently close to his administration and offering wrong advice and projections for non-existent and worthless proposals towards building more deep-sea ports in Nigeria. The MDAs under the Blue Economy are responsible, especially when they arrogate to themselves the role of almighty economic regulators of ports. That singular act has driven investors out of our environment,” he stated.

The Chief Executive Officer of the CPPE, Muda Yusuf, said the country has just one deep-sea port, with the rest at the level of promises and plans.

He emphasised the need for a more concrete commitment to activating them as the economy grows rapidly.

He stated that Nigeria needs to regain its maritime hub status in West Africa from the ports of Lome and Cotonou, where transit cargoes are currently diverted.

“In the medium and long term, Nigeria should be able to link up with landlocked countries and serve them their cargoes, especially as Nigeria has the largest container traffic. The economy is growing, and we need more competition for existing ports, especially given how they treat importers with their exploitative charges. When there are more functional ports in the country, the trade will be fairer as importers will have a variety of ports to take their cargoes to and port charges will reduce,” he said.


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