We Need More Ports

States | Akwa ibom
The Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwole, last week, led a delegation of members of his kingdom to Abuja for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. One of the appeals he made to the Federal Government was to hasten action on the rehabilitation of Warri and Koko ports in Delta State so as to minimise the incidence of restiveness and rejuvenate economic activities in the area. He decried the deplorable state of the ports which he said had been abandoned by successive governments. The royal father, no doubt, spoke the minds of many Nigerians who constantly wonder why many seaports in the country had been left to rot away. From Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri, Burutu, the story is the same – collapsed infrastructure, unutilised ports. The resultant effect is little or no economic activities in the once busy areas that were sources of income for many. Many people who had business ventures around these ports have long closed shops as nothing was happening there. With the death of these ports, millions of Nigerians are left with only Apapa and Tin Can ports in Lagos State for their port related businesses. We all know the problem associated with these ports for many years. These ever busy ports are reputable for congestion which seems to have defiled all solutions. Almost on daily basis, heavy duty trailers and other vehicles stuck on the highway for several hours, thereby impeding free flow of traffic, due largely to deplorable state of the roads. Recently, I was in a group going to Badagry for a conference. On getting to Oshodi/ Apapa Road, we met a traffic jam that kept us on the road for almost 10 hours. A sick man in an ambulance on emergency was reported to have died in the traffic not too long ago. Other road users and people who leave and do business in the ports axis had similar ugly stories to tell. These and other unfavourable conditions some believe, have forced many importers and exporters to abandon Lagos ports for Cotonou in Benin Republic. Nigeria, therefore, loses billions in revenue while Benin Republic gains from our loss. In view of all these embarrassing challenges, it is difficult to phantom why the government has not considered rejuvenation of other existing ports and probably opening up new ones as a permanent solution to the problem. Why can’t Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and other seaports in the Niger Delta be made functional so as to reduce the pressure on Lagos ports and also help the economy of these areas to grow? Is it too much to make these ports functional and mop up a lot of idle youths from the streets and thereby minimise restiveness in the area as the royal father suggested? If these ports are not so deep to accommodate bigger ships, why not dredge them, divert ships to them, reduce congestion in Lagos and stimulate the economy of these cities and the country in general? It’s so worrisome that oftentimes our leaders and policy makers know the right things to do to move the nation forward but they will fail to do them due to some selfish, ethnic and greedy considerations. Who among our leaders, both past and present, does not know that it is most unreasonable concentrating all imports and exports in one port? What have they done about it? Sometime ago, we were told of plans to dredge waterways and reinforce riverbanks to increase the capacity of inland waterways in places like Onitsha and others. What has happened to such lofty plans? The fact still remains that we cannot continue to do things wrongly and expect a better result. We cannot continue to concentrate all imports in Lagos and expect less congestion and free roads. A few weeks ago, news report had it that the Lagos State Government, through Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, will end gridlock on Oshodi/Apapa Road by December this year. How can this be achieved with the current state of congestion at the Lagos ports? How can the roads be free if people from all parts of the country continue to throng to Apapa Port to clear their goods? It’s high time the right thing was done. We need to make the idle ports in the Niger Delta fully functional and save the situation. I once read about Ibaka Seaport in Akwa Ibom State. This seaport, if approved and completed, I learnt, can receive super-heavy vessels. It requires no dredging as it opens straight into the ocean and could double as Navy and commercial hub. Why can’t government consider the approval and opening of this and other ports in the South South and South East and save importers in these areas the trouble of constantly travelling to Lagos to transact their businesses? With the proper will and drive, this can be achieved for the benefit of the nation.
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