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AfCFTA: Nigeria faces dilemma over export terminal ‘conversion’

As the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) takes off in earnest, there are fears that one of Nigeria’s export port terminals, Ikorodu Lighter Terminal,may be out of use for the purpose it was built for a long time. Findings by New Telegraph revealed that the port, built specifically to boost the Federal Government’s N2.5 trillion revenue from export, has been turned into a platform for overtime cargoes. The situation has been made worse by the congestion at both Lagos and Tin Can Island ports, a situation that has necessitated abandoned cargoes being moved to the terminal. With the takeoff of the trade pact, Nigeria is expected to play a leading role where it is expected to gross at least $50 billion annually, according to the Federal Government. Investigation revealed that as at 2020, more than 5,000 containers were abandoned in some terminals in Lagos and Tincan Island ports, occupying space meant for cargoes, thereby impeding government from realising more revenue from non-oil export.

In the same year, no fewer than 1,300 overtime containers and used vehicles were transferred to the terminal as part of efforts to free the Lagos port terminals for incoming cargoes. Despite using the terminal to warehouse new imports and overtime cargoes because of the volume of export containers left at the Apapa port access roads, the move by the government to decongest the ports has not yielded fruit. While calling for understanding over the situation, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s Assistant General Manager, Strategic and Corporate Communication, Mr. Ibrahim Nasiru, said that the terminal was being used temporarily to decongest the mother ports, Tincan Island and Lagos ports, of overtime cargoes. He stressed the need to make the port conducive for trade facilitation for importers, exporters and other port users. Nasiru said that the option to make use of ILT was to ensure free access to the port, saying that the step taken so far was to decongest Apapa port access roads of gridlock.

He noted: “As soon as everything is normal, the terminal would be used for the purpose it was designed for. Ikorodu Lighter Terminal has not changed from its status.” However, importers said they had been facing harrowing experiences going to Ikorodu to clear their cargoes at the terminal. Because of poor stacking and lack of equipment, the Managing Director of Otokpo Logistics Limited, Mr Sam Elem, explained that it was difficult to locate consignments at the terminal, saying that clearing procedure was very poor at the terminal.

The managing director noted that some containers were shipped to the terminal without importers’ consent. He added that some of them had lost their goods completely to poor transportation. Elem noted that some of the containers ferried by barges fell inside the lagoon and were not accounted for till date. He advised NPA and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to improve trade facilitation in the area, saying that moving consignments to the area had further increased the amount spent on transportation.

He explained that the current electronic call-up system would lead to serious chaos and congestion in the area if NPA and Customs failed to address the teething problems at the terminal. Last year, NCS’s Head of Ikorodu Terminal Command, Assistant Controller H. Kidda, said that the terminal had so far received no fewer than 700 overtime containers, including 1,000 abandoned used vehicles transferred from the various port terminals in Lagos.

 

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