Lagos and Abuja — The Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC), an agency under the Ministry of Transportation, yesterday lamented that the federal government's revenue from the seaports has dwindled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which had affected global supply logistics.
The agency also revealed that the country's cargo clearing processes were still primitive compared to other parts of the world where the clearing services in the ports had become automated.
Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, made these revelations while speaking on 'The Morning Show,' a programme of Arise Television, THISDAY Newspapers' broadcast arm.
Bello said COVID-19 had led to the shutdown of factories in China and other parts of the world, which meant that some contracts of carriage could not be optimised.
He maintained that with the pandemic, there would certainly be a drop in business at the ports since some factories are not working and can't fulfill contracts currently.
"Disruption of the logistics is universal. So, some contracts cannot be optimised. Therefore, we have problems even for the revenue to the government. This is the usual thing that happens with these kinds of disruptions. However, we hope that things will pick up" he added.
Bello called on the CBN to intervene in the nation's transport sector stressing that the sector is capable of challenging crude oil as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.
"However, we hope as we have done in Nigeria that things will pick up. The Nigerian economy even though struggling could be made strong especially through the port. We have to spike up the revenue, ensure that the factories are working, generate employment and you will see us out of this. "
He emphasized that the layers and layers of insulation that the federal government has put in place to insulate Nigeria from the spread of COVID-19 have been commended internationally.
"It is a delicate balance, the port must open to fuel our economy, we must maintain the supply of cargo, especially essential cargo like medicine, food and raw material for our factories to maintain employment and of course the general economy of the country. However, we have said that this must be within the limits already prescribed and we have gone around the terminals many time and we have observed that the terminals are up to their responsibilities. They have kept all the pledges to abide by instructions from the government."
NSC: Clearing Methods Still in Primitive Stages
Bello also said that the country's cargo clearing processes were still primitive compared to other parts of the world where the clearing services in the ports had become automated.
The agency has also revealed that the federal government's revenue from the seaports has dwindled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has affected global supply logistics.
He explained that given the right environment, the ports and indeed sea transportation could be major revenue earners for the government.
While calling for synergy among all the agencies in the ports to tackle traffic and congestion in the ports in the country, he maintained that modern ports can actually operate without anyone's "There must be electronic platforms. We cannot do the primitive cargo clearance that we are using now. Cargo can actually be cleared from the port without anybody going there. This is what is giving us problems at this moment.
"We need to clear cargo, automate the ports, enhance electronic handling of clearance of cargo and have a national single window which is very important in the speed of clearance.
"We also need a cargo tracking code which means any cargo coming in is well known even before they arrive. That is why we need the synergy. We must set up the necessary machinery to make sure we are divorced from the primitive clearing of cargo" he said.
Speaking on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bello described the times as challenging, but said with proper and tactful handling, the problems posed by the virus would be surmounted.
"The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has brought in palliatives and that's impressive. It should look at the transport sector because apart from oil which is not a good friend of any economy, the transport sector is the second largest earner of revenue. Transport drives the economy. They should focus on areas of intervention.
"These are quite challenging times from which we have to learn a lesson. Traffic management is important to port operations. So, is the efficiency of the terminals and professionalism of freight forwarders. The port is layers and layers of interests and to have some levels of perfection, there must be unison and uniformity" he said.
On the traffic situation in Apapa port, he explained:"The traffic situation in Apapa must be handled extremely well and we are having the task team as part of our operations where freight forwarders are monitors. We are encouraging the barging of containers, so we don't have only one mode of transportation or exit from the port, because this seems to be the problem.
"We also need rail services to the ports also, so that when we have these together, it will ease the chaos or gridlock at Apapa. However, we are conscious of the fact that we need modern traffic management and we are doing our best to ensure this is achieved within the circumstances".