Home OPINION The shameful, agonising state of Apapa seaport and the business community
The shameful, agonising state of Apapa seaport and the business community

The shameful, agonising state of Apapa seaport and the business community

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BBy Anayo M. Nwosu

A tuberculosis patient was once asked how he was faring and he answered that he did not know. But when pushed to further explain his condition, he said that “today is worse than yesterday”. That, I suppose, captures the feelings of the inhabitants of Apapa, its environs and all those whose lives and businesses depend on exports and imports through the Nigeria’s foremost and important seaports.

The painful aspect is that the problem seems intractable like an advanced tuberculosis. Is it not part of those things that are supposed to be changed by Buhari’s Federal Government? For how long would a child blame his parents or ancestors for his present condition?

Where is creativity or prioritization skill in governance? Is solving the existing and emerging problems not part of governance?

Can’t our government see the crippling effects of not solving the Apapa problem on our imports dependent economy? Even our much needed non-oil exporters are lamenting to everyone but no one seems able to help. Most clearing and forwarding, logistics and haulage companies can no longer service their short and long time financial commitments. Clearing agents are more like those farmers displaced my herdsmen or Boko Haram. Even the prostitutes in Apapa have relocated to the mainland causing a serious glut in already saturated market. It’s scary.

The agony of a Nigerian cocoa exporter speaks to the pains of the business people. The exporter who received an inward letter of credit from his buyer abroad, obtained a local bank loan to finance procurement of cocoa seeds from farmers, a loan that would be repaid upon successfully shipping the consignment as agreed with his overseas counter-party.

The Nigeria exporter did everything right by obtaining the agreed quality cocoa seeds, packaged them in containers and loaded same on a truck to Apapa for shipment, a journey that normally would take less than one day. Due to congestion on the route to Apapa, the consignment for export could not reach the ports to be laden on to a ship within the expected period. After a couple of weeks still on queue on Apapa road , the cocoa seeds inside the container began to germinate and spoil. Of course, the off takers would not accept the degraded consignment. They wouldn’t pay on the LC and the local bank would get its loan back. Surely , the bank will move against the innocent exporter and sell his collateral to replace depositors funds used to create his loan. This experience could finish a business man.

The real estate owners in Apapa and environs are the worst hit. There have been a massive loss of capital value of their investments. The valuation of choice property in Apapa has been greatly downgraded by more than 50%. The rental income is fast disappearing as the usual tenants, mostly expatriates, are escaping the Apapa “prison” in droves. How can the landlords repay their mortgages? Can banks actually find buyers for foreclosed property seized from loan defaulters? Only a foolish bank will use an Apapa property as collateral for a new loan.

Do you know that by this time last year, it used to cost about N60,000 to transport a container from an Apapa port to Jibowu Lagos but now, it costs between N500,000 and N850,000? This cost excludes the facilitation fees paid to officials who help clear traffic for someone who can afford “express” passage. Sadly enough, these costs are transferred to already sapped consumers scattered all over Nigeria.

Until this madness stops, the following categories of businesses may find it difficult to obtain both foreign or local bank loans: Haulage Companies, Clearing & Forwarding, Exporters, Importers of Small Margin Goods, Hotels and Hospitality Businesses in Apapa etc.

The happenings in Apapa will definitely affect bank borrowers’ capacity to generate enough cash flows needed to service their loans. You can imagine the loan performance capabilities of those bank customers in the afore listed categories who had already taken bank loans before this madness worsened to a naked level.

Don’t our government know that manufacturers are closing down due to inability to timely receive raw materials from the ports and the increased cost of logistics of both imported raw materials and finished goods? Many of them are laying off their staff as they can hardly borrow or service matured obligations.

Solving the problems in Apapa would go a long way to help the business community and sustain employment.

If the situation continues as is, those who depend on Apapa for sustenance would soon depend on crime for survival. At that time, no one is safe; not even the politicians and their cheerleaders who are presently blaming Lord Lugard and those after him for the Apapa problem while urging for the continuation of our suffering. Do you blame them? They have no real businesses or own factories. All they do is to have their mouths connected to the pulmonary veins of our oil revenues. As far as they can travel abroad to fix their health and to extend their lives, we could go to hell or shout our voices hoarse.

The dangerous and selfish politics of not developing other ports other than those in Lagos has caught up with us. The snake and what it has greedily swallowed are now lying prostrate to everyone’s discomfort.

The current but worsened state of Apapa is another proof that capacity to deliver ranks higher than exhibition of personal integrity.

Apapa embarrassment is obviously being mismanaged and solution seems elusive.The madness is being externalized to Satellite Town, Amuwo Odofin, Orile and Ajegunle. Nobody wants to hear the cries of the residents.

Something tells me that the currently serious situation in Apapa has not been brought to the attention of our dear president. Yes, his Vice President has been there but doubt if he was able to see everything since he went by helicopter. Like the other promises before now, the ones the VP made on his last visit to Apapa have been sabotaged by some PDP elements in civil service.

I guess that the enemies of this government don’t want the President Buhari to win votes in Apapa, Ojo, Surulere and Alimosho LGAs of Lagos and those of business people and their employees in 2019. The electorates may be forced to vote for a former Customs officer who claims an experience in ports matters.

It is becoming more evident that no matter anybody’s level of integrity or wish, brilliance or intelligence, a very bad stammerer may never become an effective attorney or Senior Advocate of Nigeria and never a good Chief Justice of the Federation.

The whole Nigeria cannot continue to move with the speed of a snail. We need to change something or someone. A Jonah must be thrown overboard lest we all sink.

When the discussion is about marrying a wife for an only son and on how to ensure the continuation of a lineage, a younger corrupt lady or fertile prostitute who could easily get pregnant ranks higher than a fifty years old virgin. Of what use is a lamb in a war front?

Apapa is a national shame and must be treated as an emergency. Or is it like ”you guys are not seeing what I am seeing?” like Zebrudaya would ask.
Or abi we dey craze?

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