Traffic: Nigerian yam labeled Product of Ghana abroad – Exporters’ Association

Dr. Bunmi Olumekun


NPA’s Call –Up System has improved exports

PTT has done well

By Adegboyega Oni

Yam produced in Nigeria but diverted and shipped stress-free through the Ghanaian seaports because of traffic gridlock on port access roads in Lagos by frustrated exporters is being labeled in Canada as the product of Ghana.

The President of the Association of West African Exporters and Maritime Professionals (AWAEMAP), Dr. Bunmi Olumekun disclosed this to PortNews in an exclusive interview in Apapa, Lagos last week. He said what Nigeria lost in the international market during the traffic gridlock was unthinkable as many export cargoes that were time-bound were trapped in the gridlock for days, weeks, and months before accessing the ports.

According to Olumekun, the situation however has improved with the Call-Up System and the Two-Day Window for Movement created by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to facilitate free movement of exports into the port for shipments. He also attributed this to the clean-up of traffic gridlock on the port access roads by the Presidential Task Team on Traffic Gridlock on Apapa Road led by Comrade Kayode Opeifa.

‘’To my amazement, I called a consignee in Canada who told me that all the yam supplies in Canada come from Ghana. How is it possible for Ghana to produce all the yam supplies in Canada? We discovered that many yam consignments during the traffic gridlock were diverted to seaports in Ghana for quick shipments. It is very expensive to ship a container of yam out of Nigeria. The traffic gridlock did a lot of unthinkable damages to Nigerian produces in the international market in terms of prices and recognition. We are still going to do our findings on what is going on. We need to wake up as a nation and do the right thing as regard traffic and transportation. Export is a very competitive market; buyers abroad would leave you and go for other sellers from another country who can meet up with supply,’’ said Olumekun.

The exporters’ leader debunked the claim that the association controls the call-up system. He said the system is fully controlled by the NPA management who only engages the association in the facilitation as regards the distribution of tallies to its members.    

‘’The management of NPA has tapped into the export initiative of the present government; it has given export a priority in terms of shipment with the creation of a call-up system and a two-day window movement opportunity. It engages our members in the implementation of the call-up system for a flow of cargo in and out of the ports. We do not control it; NPA only gives us tallies for easy distribution to our members. It is the responsibility of the Nigerian Ports Authority and we have tapped into these initiatives. We really commend the present management of the NPA for this step as we have experienced tremendous growth in our business.

‘’The Presidential Task Team (PTT) has also done very well in bringing sanity to the Lagos port access roads. The team has worked very hard although there are saboteurs who are trying to frustrate the PTT because they are benefitting from the gridlock. They don’t want the system put in place by the PTT to work. The assignment given to the team is a big task to clean up the traffic mess and has done well to flush out the mess. The roads are over-used and are not designed for the volume of cargo they are presently carrying,’’ said Dr. Bunmi Olumekun.

Speaking on the abuse of the system as being alleged that the association pushed more trucks into the roads causing traffic and that some exporters forged the tallies, Olumekun never ruled out abuse of the system but said many a frustrated exporter could have forged the tally so as to get his or her cargo into the port to meet up with the demand of the consignee has been in the traffic for days.

‘’It is a known fact that every new initiative or opportunity is susceptible to abuse. You can imagine a situation an export cargo that is supposed to get to the buyer abroad a month after loading but is trapped in traffic gridlock for several days, weeks, and months. This causes frustration, and everyone would try to do all he can to move the cargo into the port for shipment which may still have to spend some days in the terminal before the final shipment,’’ he said.

Olumekun, who appealed to all involved in the call-up system to exercise caution and come on board to save the system, said the association has set up an enforcement unit to monitor the system to stop abuse to ensure a free flow of cargo not only export but also import.   

‘’There is an enforcement unit in place to monitor the system. We are appealing to our members and others who are involved in cargo movement to come on board to work together to ensure that the system is not corrupt. This is a system that we have to protect. It is everybody’s project,’’ said he.

Speaking on the recurrent demurrage issue, Olumekun noted that the fight over space between empties and export/import in the port terminals is responsible for traffic and which shipping companies and terminals take advantage of it to slam heavy demurrage on cargo. He said that ports are not designed to warehouse empties but cargo for exports and imports and advised that empties should not be warehoused in the ports but be moved into the ports from private jetties through barges and be loaded directly into vessels.

‘’What we have now is a contradiction as space which should be used for imports and exports are being converted for empties in the ports by terminal operators.  It is unfortunate that many bonded terminals have been converted to storage for empties. These are bonded terminals which should be housing imports and exports to save the port of congestion but abandoned.

‘’A large numbers of containers on trucks in the traffic are empties. They are the ones causing traffic while trying to access the ports. We need to ensure that holding bays are working and stop littering our roads with empties.  Empties can be loaded at various underutilized jetties into the port or directly to the ships rather than roads. This will stop empties from taking large space in the ports.    

‘’Railway and barge have given us some measures of relief. That is why there is some increase in exports. The politicization of the barge system has done harm but we are pushing through. I can assure our members that there will be a great relief as soon as the reconstruction of railways and road is over as well as the full barge operation.  Our prayer is that the reconstruction is done fast because the season of export will commence in September; and during this period, more export cargoes will come into the ports.  We are in the off-season now and that is why traffic is low.  We are fully preparing for the period,’’ said he.

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