Eugene Nweke is a former President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). In this interview with MMS Plus, he bares his mind on the feasibility of the recent executive orders on port operations, the controversy surrounding Apapa port road repairs and the place of Inland Container Depots (ICDs) in the nation’s transport development.
What is your appraisal of the recent executive order on ports operations by the Vice President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo especially the 24 hours cargo clearance?
The Acting President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo has good intentions but I belong to the school of thought that believe that before you make all this indications, security level of the state should be put into consideration because a forwarder like me or my client cannot just wake up at night, go to the ports and start transacting business at night when I know anything can happen in less than a kilometre outside the ports.
In my own assessment, I think the Acting President only wants to show a direction that this is what the government is thinking about because the security arrangement isn’t in Lagos State. The port access road is nothing to write home about and if you are asking us to observe 24 hours cargo clearance, and officers who are supposed to be in the ports aren’t there because of bad road network and traffic jam, how then do we achieve it?
It appears that the government is saying as we progress, this is what we want to do. Several years ago, the government introduced the 48hours cargo clearance but it didn’t work. Policies should be articulated and given out only after considering the variables because when you roll out policies and it is not been obeyed, then it brings down the confidence of the people in the government.
Dangote and Flour Mills is giving N4 billion to construct Apapa access road, but I asked a question, is that contained in the original port development plan? To me that is senior palliative measure because it is not in the original port development plan. It must be integrated in the port development plan. There must be a plan for the expansion of the Apapa road, the government should come out and tell us the truth. The question is; what is the port development plan of Apapa all about? We can still utilize this measure but something is properly planned, after it has been constructed it will disappoint again.
Dangote and Flour Mills came out to announce that they would release N4.8billion for the reconstruction of the road. The Minister of Works, Mr. BabatundeFashola announced that it would take N100 billion and he said it would last for 30 years. The MoU is 4.8 billion and you are talking of expansion how do you reconcile the variables?
That’s why from nowhere, they expanded the Truck Transit Park (TTP) opposite Tin-Can. Was that part of port development plan? That is one of the places causing problems because it is not used and it is affecting the ports. Until we sit down to have projections and plan ahead of time on what we want, that is the only time we would be able to address these issues.
You can go and askNPA how much the government has spent from 2006 to date under the so-called palliative measure. What has been going on the port roads overtime is what they call palliative measure and at the end of the day once it rains everything gets destroyed.You know Lagos is a water logged environment, for you to be able to construct roads that will stand the test of time at least for fifteen years without any problem, you must plump the road very well with nylon.
This means that the government should look at the structure of Apapa under the development plan. They ought to be thinking about how to relocate tank-farms andhow to get the infrastructure that will solve the traffic challenge. The vehicular activity of this road is something that has to be taken into cognizance as Apapa seems to have the highest volume of traffic in Nigeria (and probably in West Africa). So, the government should be thinking of how to get the infrastructure that would suit it. If you spend N4.8 billion or more while the Minister is saying it is N100 billion for thirty years, it simply implies that the N4 billion is for two months. That is the interpretation, because if you divide 100billion by 4.8 what you will get is probably ‘two months life-span’ of the road.
We can suspend cargo influx into Apapa and operate in some other ports for proper infrastructure expansion. Certain cargo can be gazetted to order ports to reduce the traffic while work begins on the road. The whole thing right now still looks like deliberately planned problems and people are now using the border stations for importation into Nigeria.
As member of the implementation committee, what can you say about the problem of rail linkage in Apapa that should connect all other parts of the country?
There is rail linkage from Lagos to Kaduna but we have to talk about the gauge and the usage. Before now, I worked with a Transport company that was doing business with the Nigerian breweries and we used trains to convey NigerianBreweries products from Lagos to Kaduna here. What the Minister is trying to do is to improve on the rail-gauge. Once that is done, cargo movement from Lagos to Kaduna is express. We only have to strengthen the existing ones, then go into partnership with possibly private individuals for them to come with their wagons in order to lift cargoes from Lagos and any other port because NRC is also open to partnership. So it’s a process. To us this is just a litmus test of what government is trying to do and when we get it right, we can look at some other places including Aba and other areas for regional development.
In essence, there is rail linkage from Apapa to this place?
Yes, I was the Transport Manager of Green Light Transport Limited – Kaduna, and Greenlights Transport Ltd was one of the registered contracted Third Party
Transport Logistics providers for the Nigerian Breweries. .
Nigerian Breweries.So we were using the railway to move our products from Lagos to Kaduna especially when there was scarcity.