By Seun Ibiyemi
The Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin, has said the nation’s Port corridor should be restricted only for economic usage, over the alarming degree of traffic congestion that characterizes Lagos ports and neighbouring environs.
Speaking at an event in Lagos, he revealed that he has worked on the issue of port corridor for over 16 years, yet he is not happy that his predictions on the port corridor were correct.
Otunba Folarin predicted a more horrendous congestion as a result of projected increase in volume of port activities in the near future and the haphazard port management system in the country.
Before now, according to experts had said the federal government’s efforts to fix the Apapa and Tin Can port access roads to address the problem of port congestion may only see the problem dissipate for about four or five years but the menace would return worse than the current state.
Otunba Folarin speaking at the maiden quarter business roundtable tagged ‘Economic Outlook: Quarterly Verdict’ with the theme; “Post Election Economy: Exploring Strategies for Growth” stressed that the port corridor must be reserved and restricted as an exclusive economic zone.
In his words, ”The port corridor should be a restricted economic zone. It is a place that should be exclusive for port operations. However, in Nigeria we have several residential houses surrounding the ports. Some of them are 10 meters from the port, so it is no longer a port corridor. Another issue is that a port is a transit area, a holding bay but not a storage area. It should be an area where ships discharge cargoes and the cargoes should leave the ports just as the ships also leave the ports. It is a transit area not supposed to hold onto a cargo or ship beyond a certain time” he said.
He noted that the mechanism for port operations is multi-modal, adding that the transit nature of the ports explains why demurrage is placed on ships and the containers bringing in cargoes and the containers stored in the ports also pay ground rent.
“Until we install a multi-modal concept and infrastructure at the ports, we would continue to have a recurring decimal of congestion at the ports. Within the port environment up to 4km should be only warehouses for cargoes, roads for movement of port cargoes by trucks or railway. There should also be a ring road exclusive for port operations” he said.
According to him, when the Oshodi-Apapa expressway was constructed, it was perceived that the road would only service Tin Can Island Port but it has become a municipal transport area and not just for port traffic.
”In a day, one million vehicles transit around Apapa, Oshodi and Ebute-Metta at the peak time. If the nation continues to prosper and the volume of cargo traffic increases, then Nigeria would discover that it is much difficult to manage prosperity than poverty” he added.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Quiet Dimensions Limited, Mr. Ime Udoma admonished the federal government to strengthen the commercial banks by allowing some public sector funds to be domiciled in such banks.
Although the introduction of the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA) has allegedly curbed reckless spending and corruption at most government parastatals, Udoma, who is an ex-banker, lamented that commercial banks have lost the capacity to disburse long term loans which was necessary to grow the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the nation’s economy in general.
“Banks can’t give loans anymore because the bulk of the money they receive is short term deposits. They can’t lend such short term deposits because at any point in time the depositors could demand the money. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) creates money by printing it but commercial banks create money by giving loans. The government would have to return public sector funds to banks so that they could use it to expand the economy,” he said.