Transport Minister, Idris Umar
United States-based organisation, Nzuko Igbo, USA (NI-USA) has called on the Federal Government to make more the seaports in Nigeria viable for business rather than focus all attention on Lagos seaports alone.
In a statement signed by its president, Mr. Vincent Erondu, the group said it remembers with nostalgia the 1970s and early 1980s, when all the seaports in the country were functioning and Port Harcourt and Lagos were put to optimum use.
“If our port facilities are aging or unable to handle modern shipping vessels why should Lagos alone benefit from ports facilities upgrade. If Port Harcourt and Calabar are upgraded, invariably Lagos will be decongested.” Nzuko Igbo said stressing that two are always better than one. “Other natural seaports in Nigeria should be equipped, upgraded and kept functional” the group’s statement added.
Making an illustration of what the group seeks from the government, NI-USA said that approaching cargo ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nigeria harbour can go in more than one direction either straight into the river Niger banks area comprising Port Harcourt, Wimpey, and Onne deep-water ports, on right toward Calabar port, or on left towards Warri, Sapele and Lagos ports or harbours.
“Many countries of the world do not have such luxuries, as they are landlocked. Fortunately, Nigeria is blessed with many natural harbors and ports.” the organisation said enthusing that Nigerian Ports will increase as a result of the Federal Governments inland water-way dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue for development of seaports to accommodate a growing economy.
“Such expansions and undertakings make good economic sense, especially when ports’ revenue is second to oil in Federal Government earnings.” NI-USA added.
The group lamented that no one, even the governments, remembers dredging of the Azumiri Blue River and the Imo River that empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Iwenga Ndoki historic Seaport.
“This Seaport has long been forgotten in spite of its historic, commercial and tourist attractions. It also needs to benefit from the recent inland water-way dredging and port development. The blue River needs restoration and the Imo River dredged.” said NI-USA.
NI-USA wondered why Lagos port remains the only all-time active of all these ports stressing that in the normal process of import and export, shipping cargo traffic in Nigeria is a big deal, compounded by thousands of its citizens overseas sending goods back to their homeland, on regular basis.
“Over the years, frustrations have become the norm for many shippers who sometimes wait for months in vain to have their goods cleared, due to congestions at the Lagos Port that often results in demurrage charges.” the statement continued noting that some importers even lose their goods due to complicated paper work and several trips from the hinterland to Lagos on dangerous and death-trap roads.
In conclusion, Nzuko Igbo, USA called on the Federal Government to end favoritism in the provision of facilities in the country underscoring the fact that rfforts should be geared toward modernizing Port Harcourt and Calabar seaports to attract more shipping activities.
“ Government owes it as a duty to provide equal economic growth policies and economic enabling environment to all regions of the country. The federal character provision enshrined in our constitution should and must be extended to infrastructure development” the group concluded.