To avoid worsening the gridlock in Apapa and escalating the prices of goods in the market, importers and licensed customs agents at the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, have urged the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) not to disrupt container movement in and out of the port with the ongoing rail construction.
The stakeholders warned that any further disruption of container movement at the nation’s busiest seaport would compound the Apapa gridlock and worsen the nation’s inflation.
They had last November lamented their inability to conclude transactions, with loaded trucks unable to exit the port and empty trucks unable to pick up containers at the terminal for delivery to their owners when CCECC mobilised to site, blocked the container terminal exit gate and began demolition of structures.
Kicking against plans to demolish the container terminal exit gate, President of the Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekazi, commended the Federal Government “for the drive to link the port to the rail line,” saying it was in line with their repeated calls for multimodal transportation in the country.
According to him, “the over-dependence on roads for the delivery of goods in and out of the ports is neither economical nor sustainable. We want to see goods come in or leave the ports more by the waterways and railway.
“However, we wish to appeal that the rail project being driven by the government should be done in a manner that does not lead to blockade of the port as we have seen at Tin Can, which is almost totally blocked due to bad roads and rent-seeking on the port access road.
“If government allows Apapa port to be blocked like Tin Can, the Apapa gridlock will become worse and haulage prices will further escalate. In this case, the final consumers will pay more for goods in the market. This will certainly not be in the best interest of our economy.
“Therefore, we appeal to the contractor to execute its task in a way that does not disrupt the inflow and outflow of cargo. This is important to avoid creating a situation where importers will be compelled to pay more in freight costs, haulage, storage and demurrage charges.”
Similarly, a clearing agent at the Apapa port, Monday Ekanem, had raised an alarm about the imminent blockade of the port in November, arguing that CCECC “owes the shipping community and Nigerians an obligation not to make life tougher.
“Please understand that I support the rail project. I raised the alarm at the time to save the port from collapse. We cannot afford a situation whereby cleared goods are not able to exit the port.
“I appeal to the contractor to work with NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority) and terminal operators to plan the rail construction properly. There has to be a balance between the two processes; one should not disturb the other.
“What we want to see is proper coordination between CCECC, NPA, concessionaires and truck drivers to ensure seamless flow of traffic in and around the port, so that importers and agents are not subjected to further hardship in the course of clearing their containers.”