Lawmakers Begin Probe Into Nigeria’s Loss In West African Maritime Sector

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Following the loss of 50 percent of the 60 percent of the West African imports destined for Nigerian seaports, the House of Representatives has mandated its committees to investigate the gaps and loss opportunities in the maritime sector.

The decision of the lawmakers arose from the significant economic loss estimated at about $7 billion annually, which is traced to poor management and inefficiencies and the under-utilisation of the seaports which can increase the nation’s revenue and indeed the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Dismayed by the huge loss, the lawmakers adopted the motion moved by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere to investigate the loss of opportunities in the maritime sector, having been seconded by Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim.

Consequently, the House at plenary on Tuesday instructed its Committees on Ports and Harbours, National Planning and Economic Development, Maritime Safety Education and Administration, and Nigerian Shippers’ Council to investigate the gaps affecting the full realisation of the economic advantage of Ports and Harbours and other Blue Economy in Nigeria.

There has been concern that most ships bringing goods to Nigeria prefer to go to other ports to Nigerian ports like Benin Republic which has benefited immensely from this loss of opportunities to Nigeria’s large market, making Cotonou a popular importer’s haven. Also, huge trade cargoes are lost to Togo and other neighbouring countries from where they are offloaded and transshipped to Nigeria due to poor shipping connectivity and shallow drafts of the port channels which led to trade cargo losses, estimated to be N250 billion in 2016 alone

The lawmakers are worried that the nation is unable to provide adequate infrastructure and reduce pressure on Lagos ports and raise concerns about why the Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri, and Koko ports cannot be developed to become a haven for importers in the region.

Julius Ihonvbere is also worried that the lack of adequate infrastructure and capacity in the growing cargo and maritime business is a significant issue that has led the Port of Lome to overtake Nigeria’s Apapa Port from its ranking as West Africa’s leading port due to congestion and poor quality services to shippers.

Port of Lomé, hitherto with a capacity of 1.1 million twenty-foot containers, overtook Lagos Port due to modernization reforms which tripled its capacity from 311,500 containers to 3.1 million, thus, making ‘Togo’s Port of Lomé the regional transit hub.

Nigeria’s Apapa Port, Lagos, which handles about 1 million TEU annually, lost 30 percent of its container traffic over five years due to several factors bedevilling its inability to deliver efficient services to cargo owners, making Nigerian ports inefficient over the years.

Another huge concern to the lawmakers is that Nigeria’s major seaports in Lagos do not have deep draughts to handle bigger vessels, while modern seaports in Port of Lomé have a depth of 16.60 meters and capacity to accommodate third-generation ships. Apapa port operates with a 13,5 meters draught that can only allow vessels with about 4,000 TEUs of containers to call the port;

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