By Chiazo Ogbolu
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Emmanuel Jime, on Thursday listed key issues to be addressed to make Nigeria a maritime hub for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Jime made the recommendations at a sensitisation seminar with the theme, ‘African Continental Free Trade Area: Implementation Strategy for the Maritime Sector,’ organised by the council.
Jime, represented by Mr Cajethan Agu, Director Consumer Affair of the council, noted that there was need to look at some indicators critically so that Nigeria could benefit adequately from AfCFTA.
“The first indicator has to do with the Logistics Performance Index. On the table, the first is South Africa, followed by Egypt and Kenya; Nigeria is number 14, globally we are 110.
“The second indicator is the dwell time of cargo at our ports; this measures the clearance time of cargo at port. The port in Durban, South Africa and Lome port is 4-days, Apapa port is hovering over 20 to 22 days.
“Another is connectivity rating, our closeness to global market. South Africa is first, globally 52; Egypt second and globally 58; Nigeria is 8 and globally 75,” he said.
Jime pointed out that from the above, Nigeria had more work to do in order to position itself as the maritime hub for AfCFTA.
He added that in the Nigerian port sector, road, rails, inland infrastructure, coupled with the perennial and embarrassing gridlock on our port access roads, may not cope with the anticipated increase in economic activities occasioned by AfCFTA.
He said for Nigeria to benefit fully from AfCFTA, and assume the position of maritime hub, there should be conscientious efforts by government and the private sector to carry out some quick intervention measures.
“The first is to fix the road on the major trade corridor connecting Nigeria and West African neighbours. Second is the port automation of processes and procedure with the establishment of a single window.
“There is need to provide scanner at the port, fast track the development of Lekki Deep Sea Port, improve the agricultural value chain,” he said.
He noted that if the indicators were implemented, they would spur economic growth and prosperity and eradicate poverty on the African continent.
He said this would boost job creation, eliminate barrier to trade, facilitate free movement of goods produced by African countries and boost inter-regional trade.
Jime said the scheme would increase the volume of economic activities for African ports including Nigerian ports, at enterprise level.
He added that it would also improve competitiveness by exploiting opportunities, boosting intra-african trade, which would lead to more shipping activities for Nigeria.
He pointed out that NSC had established a trade support project to boost trade such as promoting inland dry ports, vehicle transit areas, border information centre to provide trade information, prevent undue harassment and formalise informal trade in Nigeria.
Mr Francis Anatogu, National Cordinator, Action Committee on AfCFTA, listed some goals to help reap the benefits of AfCFTA such as: to grow productive workforce, engender friendly business environment, grow local demand, among others.
He noted that the committee had developed a strategy with some interventions being inputed but would still seek more inputs from the programme.
Dr Albany Igwe, from the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), called for the need for Nigeria to have a multimodal hub.
According to him, Nigeria has not signed the convention on carriage of goods that will help improve all the services across all modes.
“There is need to address the Logistics Performance Index of the country, create timeline and task lines to enable us achieve things at the right time and know which agency is responsible,” he said.
Mr Emeka Akabogu, Senior Partner, Akabogu and Associates, called for the establishment of a logistics single window to help solve logistics problems.
He also called for prioritising automation of port processes in the scheme of things if the country wanted trade facilitation to grow.
“We need to move from lip service to actual steps that will move us forward,” he said.
Earlier, Ms Funmi Folorunsho, Co-champion on Transportation, said a lot had been done and more was still required to be done but called for more private sector participation for AfCFTA to work.
“This event is part of the many strategies to prepare stakeholders in the transportation sector to take maximum benefit from the agreement with the mission to transform Nigeria into the transportation hub for African Trade.
“We require a resolution from this meeting establishing an industry AfCFTA group/body composed of service providers, container depots, ship owners, ship financiers, managers, crew, marine engineers, seafarers associations, chambers and shippers.
“Each group will nominate one focal person who will be the point of contact with the secretariat,” she said. (NAN)