By Gboyega Oni
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been advised to set up a committee of all ports stakeholders – public and private – to look at all the infrasturctural deficits and other problems plaguing the maritime industry and come up with workable solutions that can lead to uptimal utilisation of the abundant resources lying fallow in the industry.
The advice was given by a seasoned ship captain, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho while addressing journalists at a media round-table organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos, Nigeria last week.
Captain Iheanacho, who is the Chairman of Genesis worldwide Shipping Company and Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, said the existing port infrastructures particularly roads and rail are inadequate for transportation of the large volumes of cargo and human traffic coming in and going out of the ports presently.
This, he said, is responsible for the frequent heavy vehicular traffic on the port access roads, noting that the port environs have been choked by auxiliary companies and many old and obsolete buildings thus hindering possible expansion of the existing port infrastructure – roads, rails and holding bays for trucks – and construction of new ones. He therefore encouraged government to acquire all the existing old and obsolete buildings built 100 years ago in and around the ports and pull them down for the purpose.
Speaking on the dream of Nigeria becoming the port hub for West and Central Africa, the Captain said this cannot be achieved when the industry is still overburdened by poor and shortage of infrastructure.
“Why do we need to be a port hub when our infrastructure are totally collapsed? We can only be when we have efficient port facilities like roads and railway that can take cargo and right economic policy. Government must take a look at all the old buildings that have been around for 100 years, buy them and pull them down for expansion of port infrastructure. We need to enpanel a committee to fashion solutions for the problems affecting the industry,” he said.
Taking a look at the carriage of the Nigerian petroleum crude and other cargo on Freight on Board (FOB), Iheanacho said the nation is losing heavily financially while creating jobs abroad and creating unemployment at home under the regime of FOB.
He said the nation would make more money and create job opportunities when all her cargo are carried on Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis as more local shipping companies will evolve and create employment opportunities for Nigerians.
“We will continue to campaign against carriage of our crude and other cargo on FOB while we can consider CIF. We should be able to create jobs for our people in our shipping industry,” said Iheanacho who is a one time Minister of Internal Affairs.
Speaking further, the oil magnate decried the high interest rate of bank loans in the country noting that it is killing local shipping companies which is why they are not thriving.
According to Iheanacho, “it (shipping) is not an easy business to manage; it requires a lot of patience and investments for it to mature. Borrowing at 25 percent to run a shipping company is killing.”