In his Democracy Day speech, President Muhammadu Buhari listed his achievements in almost all the sectors of the economy excluding the maritime sector.
In agriculture, he said that he would pursue a strategic food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimisation of import dependency.
In aviation, he noted that Nigerians have witnessed reconstruction of runways, installation of navigational equipment and new international terminals due for commissioning in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Enugu.
Similarly, the president boasted that his administration has given the railway sector a major push.
“The railway sector has also received a tremendous attention as this administration is committed to the goal of linking all state capitals in the federation by rail network to ease the movement of goods and passengers” he said.
This also goes for other sectors of the economy such as education, manufacturing, power, security among others. As good as his scorecard may look, little or no mention was made of the maritime sector which is the nation’s second largest revenue earner to the Federal Government, as it contributes over N3 trillion annually.
In spite of the contribution, the sector has mindlessly been negelected. This neglect is accountable for the deplorable condition of the ports environment where access to the ports has remained the nation’s worst nightmare; the nation’s waterways have been classified as a war zone because of insecurity. This classification makes it to attract the highest insurance premium in the world thus making Nigeria the most difficult place to do business. Also, the drafts are rated the shallowest in the West African subregion. This is why large vessels prefer to berth in Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone and Ghana and the cargoes are smuggled into Nigeria through the porous borders.
Inside the Apapa Wharf, scanners have deliberately been made unworkable because customs officials prefer physical examination of cargoes to machine examination for reasons of corruption and extortion. Nigerian ports are homes for touts, lawlessness and all manner of crimes. Unfortunately, the authorities responsible for finding solution to them have decided to remain aloof to the yearnings of the importers and clearing agents.
Ironically, this neglected sector of the economy is the main revenue earner for the nation.
For instance, in 2017, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) posted a revenue of over N1 trillion; the Tin Can Island Port generated over N365 billion (N1 billion daily) revenue whereas Apapa Wharf generated over N1.10 trillion (N30 billion daily) to the Federal Government. Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) revenue for 2017 fiscal year was N299.56 billion while in 2017, out of the over 800 agencies and departments of government, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) remitted the highest revenue. This was attested to by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun ,and the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Alhaji Ahmed Idris, at a workshop in Abuja on compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility (FRA) Act.
According to Adeosun, NIMASA is one of the agencies doing well in terms of revenue generation and remittances to the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA). With the above testimonies, it is therefore, unthinkable why the maritime sector remains the nation’s most neglected resource. In view of this, stakeholders have scored the maritime sector under Buhari low. Vice president of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto, scored Buhari’s maritime 35 per cent, because of lack of development plan for the industry.
“I score him very low in maritime industry. I score him 35 per cent because a lot of things are going wrong in the industry. There is no roadmap. There is no development plan” he said.
Another stakeholder said that Buhari’s three years has no impact on the maritime sector and so would not like to score him anything.
“Nothing has happened in the maritime sector in the last three years of Buhari administration. The rail he was talking about was a project that was started in Obasanjo’s regime” he said.
The President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, scored the Buhari Government zero for his crass negligence of the nation’s cash cows.
He described the port system as directionless where the authorities perform duties they are not mandated to them by law/act establishing them.
“Our ports are under threat. Our draft is despicable. The one in Ghana is higher than Nigeria’s. The one in Sierra Leone is higher and the one in Camaroon is higher; Togo is higher. And these are our competititors. There are certain vessels that cannot come to Nigeria. Ghana has taken over our transit.
When you talk about port procedure, 80 per cent of our cargo are supposed to have been generated through international trade. Lagos has four ports. You have Tin Can, Apapa, Port Terminal and Multipurpose Limited (PTML) and Brawa. And you cannot access these ports. There are constant gridlocks, bad roads, potholes. In this whole process, you find out that our ports are the most expensive ports. There is no co-ordinating ministry to take care of our procedures. The fixing of the port road is the responsibility of NPA by the provision of section 32 (a) of the port act.
“NPA collects four per cent of the seven per cent for the development of the ports but nobody knows what they are using it for. So, our ports are disadvantaged in terms of dredging, draft, procedure and in terms of our concepts. So, when you look at the maritime sector, Nigerian ports, for instance, is not a revenue-generating sector. Nigerian ports have a core function. If you give Nigerian government N900 billion and the core function is not done, you cannot go into investment. Nigerian ports have three components. These are regulations that are handled by shippers council. The ports operations are handled by terminal operators and the marine services are handled by NPA.
“But now Nigerian ports are not performing ultimally because of poor dredging, channelization and port roads. Our regional competitors don’t have cargo and we have lost transshipment and we are losing domestic cargo” he said, adding that Buhari administration has not scored. “It is zero per cent” he said.