After Otunba Kunle Folarin’s Death, NPCC Elects Bolaji Sunmola as Chairman

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Bolaji Sunmola

…Queries How Customs Met its Target Despite Dwindling Cargo Importation

By DAPO OLAWUNI

The NIgerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) at its Quarterly Meeting at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday 25th January, 2024 unanimously elected Mr. Bolaji Sunmola as its Chairman to replace Otunba Kunle Folarin who passed on to glory on November 8, 2022.

The NPCC has also observed in its port performance report for January to December 2023, that there has been a reduction in level of cargo importation. It raised questions on how the Nigeria Customs Service was able to meet its 2023 revenue target.

According to highlights issued at the end of the quarterly meeting by PCC member, Mr Okechukwu Vincent, deliberation on port Operations reports was submitted by the General Manager, Security; General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Planning, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Commissioner of Police, Western Ports; Chairman, National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria and the Chairman, Port Operations and Logistics Committee of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu.

These reports delved into the challenges of the NIgerian Port Industry with recommendations on the way out.

Ports Performance Report:

January to December, 2023 caught the attention and interest of stakeholders the most.

1. A total of 3,778 ships berthed at all NIgerian Ports in 2023 as against 3,957 that berthed in 2022, showing a decrease of 4.5%. The gross tonnage of ships completed was 122,873,684 as against 120,368,153 gross tonnage in 2022, showing an increase of 2.1%.

2. Inward cargo throughput (excluding oil) in the year under review stood at 70,475,671metric tons as against 75,274,843 metric tons in 2022, indicating a decline of 6.4 percent.

3. Inward cargo traffic stood at 46,378,186 metric tons representing 65.8% of cargo throughput in 2023. Outward cargo traffic was 24,097,485 metric tons representing 34.2% of total cargo traffic.

4. Container traffic during the period under review stood at 1,566,162 TEUs, showing a decrease of 6.8% from 1,681,328 TEUs handled in 2022. Import container traffic accounted for 55.85% with 874,683 TEUs while export container traffic stood at 684,586 TEUs representing 43.71% of total container traffic. Empty Containers accounted for about 80% of total export container traffic.

5. A total of 132,296 units of vehicles were handled during the period under review, indicating a decrease of 32% from 194,550 units in 2022.

5. Average turn-around time of vessels was 4.0 days compared with 5.2 days in 2022. This was made possible by the impact of the Lekki Deep Seaport which achieved average turn-around time of only one day.

6. Berth Occupancy Rate stood at 32.0% as against 36.6% in 2022.

The Commissioner of Police report dwelt extensively on the challenges of a recalcitrant set of drivers and motorboys. Two drivers were said to have killed two motor boys during the period under review.

7. The Chairman, National Industrial Safety Council dwelt on the need for special training and licensing of truck drivers to ensure port Industry safety. He compared drivers of expensive trucks to pilots of expensive airplanes to emphasize the need for special training of port truck drivers.

8. The report submitted by the Chairman, Port Operations and Logistics Committee, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council identified the need to redesign the port perimeter limits of Apapa and Tincan Island Ports to ameliorate the operational problems encountered within the maritime sector.

He dealt in details with the issues of the railway crossing at Dockyard, the terrible shape of the roads leading to and out of Ijora and the need to fix them urgently for operational and safety demands.

He drew the attention of the Quarterly Meeting to the impassable state of Mile Two Apapa Oshodi Expressway now turned to private truck parks, the dirt generated by commercial food sellers and the consequences, damage to the metal sheet wires barricading the Expressway, influx of non-state actors who sell all manner of fuel along the road,

He emphasized the need for Port Planning, Strategic Port Land Planning, Port Master Plan, Port Maritime Logistics Ring, Port Rehabilitation and Modernization, and the need for Electoral, Administrative, and Constitutional Reform of the NIgerian Ports Consultative Council in line with global best practices. He also emphasized the need for budgetary provisions to strengthen the Council.

The summary as it affects the Nigerian Port Industry stakeholders is that there has been continuous decline of cargo import and export due mainly to global economic recession, COVID-19 pandemic, anti-trade policies of the NIgerian Government, human factors, etc. For example, the NIgerian Ports received a total of more than 14,000,000 ton equivalent units in 2014. In 2023, it nosedived to 1,566,162 TEUs.

Another curious question is how does the Nigeria Customs Service continue to generate more revenues and exceed their targets in the face of apparent continuous decline in import and export?

The year 2024 holds out little hope for international trade in Nigeria. But the Federal Government can assuage the stakeholders’ fears through deliberate fiscal policies aimed at reviving the NIgerian trade Industry. Unless this is done, the NIgerian Port Industry can only start recovering from 2026, all things being equal.

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