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Key stakeholders in Nigeria’s organized private sector doing business in Eastern Nigeria have once again, sent SOS to the federal government to conclude the concessioning of Onitsha River Port.
The port, situated at the Onitsha end of the iconic River Niger Bridge had been renovated and ready for use in the last six year waiting just for the concessioning to a management consultant.
Business Hilights recalls that last administration under President Goodluck Jonathan was at the verge of concluding the concessioning before he lost election in 2015 and since then, the process had been put on hold while traders and manufacturers in South East continue to suffer untold hardship in importing and exporting their wares from far away Lagos ports.
During all the visits of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the region, he has been regularly reminded of the need to concession the port by the leadership of the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OCCIMA) before the infrastructure rot away again, but nothing has happened or is happening on the multibillion naira scheme.
The very last refurbishment of the port was done at the cost of over N5bn by Jonathan administration, but minor logistics marred the concessioning by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
Already, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has advised the Federal Government to extend the port reform plans of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council to eastern ports and work towards the completion of Onitsha port activation.
The chamber during the unveiling of a report titled ‘Maritime Ports Reform in Nigeria: Feedback from the Organised Private Sector’in Lagos, specifically urged the government to finalise the concession of Onitsha seaport.
According to the LCCI President, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, the members the Organised Private Sector in South East have been suffering untold hardship in either importing wares or exporting their products due to the dormant state of the national asset.
Additionally, Ruwase advised the government to improve the security situation along and within the Warri Port in order to ward off militants and touts.
He noted that stakeholders’ have requested that the government should approve and publicise a bouquet of incentives to importers and exporters that patronise ports outside Lagos, adding that the measures would make ports outside Lagos attractive to importers and exporters and reduce the current pressure on the Lagos port and roads.
LCCI boss made it clear that the traffic situation at the port had resulted in 500 per cent increase in trucks transport over the last two years, longer cargo dwell time, disruption of production schedules of manufacturers as raw materials are not delivered to factories in good time, costs and risks of holding unreasonable level of inventory by companies in the bid to hedge against running out of raw materials arising from difficult access to the ports, increased interest cost on borrowed funds used for import transactions and other costs.
The LCCI president said that the survey which was done by the OPS and the Centre for International Private Enterprise was inspired by the need to call the attention of stakeholders and government to the lingering challenges at the ports with a view to finding solution to them.
Ruwase averred that the unveiled report stands an update of the 2016 report titled ‘Nigeria: Reforming the Maritime Ports’, which highlights the present realities in the ports, outlines the cost of ongoing crises in the ports and highlights gaps in the implementation of policy measures for attention and action of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council and other relevant government agencies.
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