Nigeria’s quest for shipping hub for West and Central Africa sub-region cannot be won on the basis of desire or patriotic aspiration alone until challenges like shallow depth, congested port access roads, inadequate and decaying port infrastructure, low automation, and over dependence on roads for evacuation of cargo among others are frontally addressed by the Federal Government.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Group Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group, stated this while speaking at a seminar on Making Nigerian Ports Preferred Destination in West and Centre Africa Sub-region, organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), in Lagos.
Afolabi, who was represented by Captain Ajetunmobi, Executive Director, Sifax Logistics, said there are a lot of leadership potentials embedded in Nigeria that naturally confer the status on the country and which other countries that are jostling for the hub do not have.
The potentials, according to Afolabi, include a long coastline, unique location of the country in the Bight of Benin, rich vast asset base of natural maritime resources and oil and gas deposit, and large and growing population.
External factors militating against Nigeria, as he stated, were piracy, multiplicity of government agencies, and decaying supportive national infrastructure like power, smooth road network.
For the country to attain the status, the Sifax boss advised government to sustain progress in the development of deep seaport, enhance deployment of ICT, encourage use of all modes of transportation (rail, waterways and road) and curb all corrupt practices.
Others are improving cargo handling equipment, address high level of insecurity, institute a competitive port tariff regime and guarantee availability of cargo.
On a parting note, Afolabi said, “Nigeria still has a lot to do to improve upon our regional competitiveness rating if her dreams to emerge as the region’s maritime power house or hub port are to be realised. One thing is certain, the revolution of the matter will, at the end of the day, be a technical and objective assessment based on the imperatives of the dynamics of trade and business profit.”