The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has said that the year 2017 was without any significant milestone as it relates to the maritime sector in Nigeria.
The National President of the association, Chief increase Uche who spoke to Primetime Reporters on the achievements of the industry in the outgone year however acknowledged that there were events that took place in 2017 that stakeholders would always remember which he said were so critical to the development of the nation’s economy, particularly the ease of doing business reform policy of the federal government.
“We knew that before 2017, the ranking of Nigeria among 190 countries on the ease of doing business of which Nigeria ranked 170. Fortunately for us, as PEBEC swung into action, factored in the process of reviving the economy, taking up the agencies involved, carrying out sensitization seminars and all that particularly at the ports, that we saw NPA organizing their own seminar, we saw Nigerian Shippers’ Council, if you are talking of SON, the same issue and the whole thing paid off towards the end of the year, that sometime in October 2017, Nigeria’s World Bank ranking for 2018 moved from 170 to 145 out of 190 countries.
“It is a good development. What that means is that our environment is gradually improving, it’s now conducive for investors, even foreign direct investments can now be attracted. So, the manufacturing sector too, we expected that very soon, they will start picking up”, he said.
Uche further said that one other significant event of the outgone year was in the the area of the new import and export guidelines, which was unveiled towards the end of the same year.
“The Ministry of Finance issued a revised import and export guidelines and procedures, which is billed to commence this January 1st. Though it was a good development that we saw some value addition, we saw some modernization in what they brought in, one of them is the issue of palletization of ladened containers, which is okay”, he added.
He continued,” Again, you look at the port congestion of 2017, it really affected business even up till now to the extent that the port was gradually becoming unattractive to the importers even as we speak. Apart from the exchange rate, monetary and fiscal policies of the government favoured the customs last year because of the volume of cargo that came in. Why they raked in more than their yearly target was because of the exchange rate in place and this current year also, we have discovered that they have beefed up duties on imports. They have done this thing secretly.
“That last year, so many other events like SON, Shippers’ Council, their drive in trying to sensitize the general public based on the ease of doing business policy of the federal government, they tried, we must give them kudos. We are expecting some other agencies of government to follow suit because one of the plagues that have actually eaten deep into the port system is non-compliance attitude of the pot users, non-enforcement of regulations. So, if all those areas are fine-tuned, that we can always look at how we can address those issues, then, we will be looking at a port system that is friendly.
“Again, we saw Shippers’ Council’s drive in trying to open up ICDs which is good for the ports because if those ICDs are put in proper working condition, they become efficient and adequate for what they are meant for, then the ICDs are linked properly by rail to the seaports, that is the only thing that will give the required impact, that will now help that we will no longer have much congestion at the ports. But again, it is dependent on three things; are they ready to support because before they will agree to sign MoU and all these other ones, they will like to be part owners of the ICDs.
“I don’t want to go into NIMASA issues with their seafarers and all that, I don’t want to talk about issues that have to do with the tank farms or port access roads that actually crippled almost every activity in the port that people cannot access the ports”.
He therefore advised the federal government to go back to the drawing board and revisit the port structure arguing that if they don’t do that so as to get an ideal port system in place, there was no way the port can operate efficiently even as he said that, “the problem of this port is from the foundation because it was wrongly laid”.
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