FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiSunday, April 20, 2014
ubochit@yahoo.com
Bonn, Germany

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UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA: “GOING THIRSTY IN THE ABUNDANCE OF WATER” (23)


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Continued from Part 22

God gives the nuts but He does not crack them (German Proverb)

Responsibility is a tremendous engine in a free government (Thomas Jefferson)

Give a man a horse he can ride, Give a man a boat he can sail (James Thomson)

It is a shameful and unseemly thing to think one thing and to speak another (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage (Jawaharlal Nehru)

od blessed Nigeria abundantly; but it’s the responsibility of the leaders to convert the blessings, from their potential form, into reality. Suffering Nigerians would be better-off when the leadership of the country put the resources of the country into better use for the good of all. Nigerian officials pay only lip service to issues of national importance, while in reality, they do another thing. Nigeria needs good leadership. And the concept of leadership extends beyond the political realm into civil society and business. According to mpca, leadership means: Management, control, guidance, headship and direction. In every instance, it has something to do with being in charge. Being a head of the flock. Having others follow your lead. Supervising others. And the notion of leadership of Nigeria or any other country touches more than just politicians and goes as far as business, church, school, community and non profit organization leaders; but, it is sad that there is no institution in Nigeria that is dedicated to developing leaders to serve our societies. All the leaders of Nigeria are important; but, it is the political leadership of the country that is of singular importance. And that is because the political leadership determines the kind of country we are or the kind of country we can become. The political leadership of the country is supposed to set the mood and sense of well being of the nation. It shapes the investment climate. It sets the tone of the nation’s pride in itself. It determines the international standing of the country. And most importantly, it is the acceptance or rejection of the political leadership that is the gauge for the general public. In Nigeria, the public is disenchanted with the political leadership because the political leaders of the country are mediocre, undisciplined and irresponsible. There are no strict or compulsory rules for entrance into the political leadership of Nigeria, and there is no obstacle to prevent any one from becoming a political leader here. As a result, the political leadership of the country is filled with deadbeat leaders who do not make good on promises and in many instances ever actually expect to make good on promises. And they do not expect or accept any responsibility or blame for failing to keep the promises they made. In Nigeria, political leaders are not seen to be punished for their excesses. The public can see and hear them enjoying their rewards. While the political leadership is preaching self-control and is forcing the citizens to live in poverty, it is wreaking havoc on the economy, squandering and stealing the country’s resources. And at the same time, the leaders are buying homes in Europe, Asia and other African countries and storing many dollars and Euros in fat accounts in offshore banks. It is this type of flexible and questionable political morality of the political leadership that damages the image of all politicians in Nigeria.

As far as the decongestion of the Lagos ports is concerned, successive governments of Nigeria have been saying one thing and doing a different thing. Government officials would come out to bemoan the suffocating condition of the Lagos ports, promising to do something about it, only to end up leaving the condition as it was. For instance; in 2009, President Yar'Adua ordered the decongestion of the Lagos ports in 60 days. Report by a tabloid had it then that “worried by the perennial congestion that has almost paralyzed business activities in the Lagos ports, President Umar Musa Yar'Adua has directed principal stakeholders to immediately look for a way to decongest the nation's seaport within 60 days”. Before then, the then Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Bio, had on December 24, 2008, issued a two-week ultimatum to the stakeholders to decongest the ports, but the challenge did not yield result. After Yar’Adua’s directive, the minister pretended to be doing his work by convening a meeting where he addressed the terminal operators, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), NIMASA officials, Freight Forwarders, other service providers and key operators in the maritime sector of the economy in the country. Conveying the president’s directive, the minister said that the decongestion exercise must be carried out without further delay. The minister pointed out the seriousness of the issue of congestion, saying that besides oil, the maritime industry is the major revenue earner for the country and as such, the congestion issue should not be treated with kid's glove. At the same forum, the then Minister of Finance, Mansur Muktar, said; "we have serious situation at our hands which might affect the nation's economy negatively, especially at this period of global economic recession." But after all is said, nothing tangible was done to ameliorate the problem, as it became a case of saying a lot and doing a little.

Hon. O.K. Chinda forced the House of Reps to consider this motion (with no tangible result thereafter):

NOTICE OF MOTION

ISSUE: NEED TO DECONGEST NIGERIAN PORTS.

THE HOUSE:

Notes with concern the heavy congestion at major ports across the country.

Appreciates government’s efforts at rehabilitating ports across the country as part of its plan to bring them in tune with present day trend and international best practices.

Aware that the heavy congestion at our ports is caused mainly by overtime cargoes.

Also Aware that for about two years, overtime cargoes at our ports have not been disposed of, thus further congesting the ports and making it difficult for incoming ships to off load containers.

Further Aware that as a result of the above situation, incoming ships are made to berth and wait several days and weeks for space.

Concerned that congestion of our ports is insanitary, portrays a false sense of non-functionality as well as poses very serious safety and environmental problems and same could also lead to waste of time and Resources and delays in cases of emergency response.

Worried that port congestion promotes pilfering of goods, loss of value of goods (and by extension loss of revenue to the country); runs contrary to the laws as well as against international standards and/or best practices.

Also Worried that demurrage is usually charged for such periods that the goods are left at the ports, thus importers are made to bear more cost which burden is ultimately passed on to and borne by the final consumer.

Further Worried that for the above reasons, some ships which ought to berth at our ports are diverted to Cotonou and other neighbouring countries and goods trucked into Nigeria.

Greatly Worried that unless urgent steps are taken to address this matter, Nigerians and importers generally would continue to suffer untold hardship at the ports and the Nation would also continue to lose substantial revenue thereby.

Resolves to:

1. Direct that the House Committees on Finance, customs and Excise and Marine Transport to immediately investigate the matter and report to the House within three (3) weeks for further legislative action.

HON. O.K. CHINDA.

Obio-Akpor Federal Representative

Nigeria has access to the ocean through many fronts which can make many landlocked or semi-landlocked countries green with envy, but, the leaders of Nigeria have not utilized this blessing to make life easier and meaningful for the majority of the citizens. Countries less endowed as Nigeria, are better-off in thousand ways, because the leaders of such countries have utilized the little they have for the good of their citizens. For instance, Germany, the third largest economy in the world, has only one access to the ocean, and that’s through Hamburg area, but, the country have converted one of its rivers, the Rhine, into the busiest inland waterway in the world. The Rhine may not be as big or long as River Niger, but, the Germans dredged it so that small and medium size ships and barges can ply it, and that has opened Germany’s hinterlands while creating many jobs and business opportunities for the citizens. The Rhine starts from Switzerland, cutting through France, Germany and enters the sea in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The Rhine is one of the largest rivers in Europe. From the Swiss Alps to the North Sea, the Rhine has fostered cultural and economic dialogue between the Alpine arc and Northern Europe for over 2000 years. Nigeria has been unable to convert the economic and touristic potentials of Rivers Niger and Benue into reality for the benefit of its citizens. In 2008, this writer wrote this (published by this website): Nigerian leaders should borrow a leaf from Germany. A river in Germany (Rhine River) was turned from nothing hitherto into the busiest inland waterway in the world and it is contributing immensely to the economic development of that country and has opened up the rural areas along its banks. The Rhine River is not as large as River Niger, but, has been turned into an economic wonder; the river connects Germany with more than five other European countries and is enhancing commerce and tourism between Germany and those other countries. If the Nigerian government has the will, it can turn river Niger into a busy inland waterway as that will profit Nigeria greatly. Nigeria is blessed by nature beyond imagination, but, it surpasses all human understanding how a country so richly blessed has been unable to find its bearing in order to use the God given resources to improve the lives of its citizens. If the government officials are not ready to help make life meaningful for every Nigerian citizen, let them "close shop, pack and leave town", "they can't be human beings and demons at the same time".

Even Nzuko Igbo, USA has complained about the neglect and utilization of Port Harcourt & Calabar Seaports, and still the government has not shown any will power to tackle this problem. In an article published by Elombah.com, Nzuko Igbo, USA noted that `It is common knowledge that approaching cargo ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nigeria harbor can go in more than one direction: It may go straight into the river Niger banks area comprising Port Harcourt, Wimpey, and Onne deep-water ports, on right toward Calabar port, or on left towards Warri, Sapele and Lagos ports or harbors. Many countries of the world do not have such luxuries, as they are landlocked. Fortunately, Nigeria is blessed with many natural harbors and ports. Nigerian Ports will increase as a result of the Federal Governments inland water-way dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue for development of seaports to accommodate a growing economy. Such expansions and undertakings make good economic sense, especially when ports’ revenue is second to oil in Federal Government earnings. Nevertheless, the existing seaports must be put to optimum use before embarking on the more expensive venture of inland waterway dredging and building of new seaports.

Talking about inland waterways, no one, even the governments, remember dredging of the Azumiri Blue River and the Imo River that empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Iwenga Ndoki historic Seaport. This Seaport has long been forgotten in spite of its historic, commercial and tourist attractions. It also needs to benefit from the recent inland water-way dredging and port development. The blue River needs restoration and the Imo River dredged. Talking about natural deep-water harbors or ports in Nigeria, notable ports like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, Wimpey, Warri, and Calabar ports come to mind. However, Lagos port remains the only all-time active of all these ports. In the normal process of import and export, shipping cargo traffic in Nigeria is a big deal, compounded by thousands of its citizens overseas sending goods back to their homeland, on regular basis. Over the years, frustrations have become the norm for many shippers who sometimes wait for months in vain to have their goods cleared, due to congestions at the Lagos Port that often results in demurrage charges. Some importers even lose their goods due to complicated paper work and several trips from the hinterland to Lagos on dangerous and death-trap roads. The big question, then, becomes, why is economic activity of cargo dispersions and other shipping related activities concentrated or centered at Lagos?

It is inconceivable that a big country like Nigeria blessed with many natural deep-water ports can only maintain one sea port to be functional; or is it an act of regional economic sabotage and favoritism? Could it be that the powers that be favor Lagos metropolis to other metropolitan areas with seaports? If the above are true, why haven’t the political and economic leadership of ports facilities (of the) deprived areas spoken out. We look with nostalgia to the 1970s and early 1980s, when all the seaports in the country were functioning and Port Harcourt and Lagos were put to optimum use. If our port facilities are aging or unable to handle modern shipping vessels why should Lagos alone benefit from ports facilities upgrade. If Port Harcourt and Calabar are upgraded, invariably Lagos will be decongested. Two are always better than one. Other natural seaports in Nigeria should be equipped, upgraded and kept functional.

It is possible that the underutilization of Port Harcourt and Calabar seaports is deliberate since we gathered that duties and other clearing charges are higher at those ports than Lagos, even though they are on the same costal line and in the same country. These seaports have been subjected to the faith of international flights into South-South and South East regions (As for the South East approved Akanu Ibiam International Airport, this may take another century to complete. The airport comes to the attention of the government election years to attract South-East votes). The two regions generate the highest air travel passengers, yet only Port Harcourt international airport, which is often out of commission, services the two regions. We also gathered that aircraft landing fees are higher at Port Harcourt than Lagos hence international airfares to Port Harcourt are higher, thereby discouraging passenger patronage and resulting in fewer flights. Federal Government facilities in these parts of the country are always lacking one thing or the other. The Eastern Railway line is now a thing of the past and East-West Railway line is unthinkable.

Chances are that the present government may not be aware of the intensity of these problems and the need to remedy the situation. However, Nzuko-Igbo, USA view it as a civil responsibility to echo the prevalence of these unaddressed problems that require urgent attention from President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Assembly; especially members from the South-South and South-East Regions of the country, the Governors of the South-South and South -East Regions , the business community and the Nigeria public in general. The issue of Lagos port being the only active of all the ports in the country, while the rest of the ports have little or no traffic is no longer acceptable and must be addressed forthwith. For a start, decongesting and re-directing of ships to other ports by creating attractive incentives for patronizing those ports such as; provision of adequate security for importers and goods, reduced import duties and other clearing charges, including provision of port facilities capable of handling ships and containers of all sizes. These must commence immediately to alleviate the frustration of shippers. If these other ports require expansions, work must begin immediately to solve such problems and bring them to Lagos Seaport standard. A healthy competition among these ports will result in decongestion of Lagos port, shorten clearing time, reduce or eradicate demurrages and make prices of goods and services more affordable to the public. It will also stimulate the local economies of those other port areas, by creating the much-needed local employments. It will ease transportation of goods to the interior, reduce road hazards and increase the durability of our poorly constructed roads.

Nzuko Igbo, USA calls on the Federal Government to end favoritism in the provision of facilities in the country. Efforts should be geared toward modernizing Port Harcourt and Calabar seaports to attract more shipping activities. Government owes it as a duty to provide equal economic growth policies and economic enabling environment to all regions of the country. The federal character provision enshrined in our constitution should and must be extended to infrastructure development`.

Not too long ago, Governor Chibuike Amaechi said this:

“…You may wonder why the seaports in the Niger-delta are not functional. We have two in Rivers State, added to the Calabar and Warri seaports. But…importation into the country will be done through the Cotonou or Ghana seaports when the Lagos wharf is over congested…”

Ways to actually de-congest and de-emphasize Lagos Ports

Clement Udegbe, according to NigerianEye, said amongst other things that “seaports of the size of Tin can Island port, or bigger ones should be built in Onitsha, Oguta, Bayelsa, Port Harcourt, and Oron areas where closeness to the ocean becomes an advantage. If the United Arab Emirates could build an ultramodern seaport in their terrain, Nigeria should be able to build at least six ultramodern seaports of 36 berths each within our regions. Finally, more international airports of the size of the one in Abuja should be built in Imo, Benue and Sokoto states, such that an average Nigerian will be able to engage in any international type of enterprise in any zone without having to come to or visit Lagos, except he or she so chooses”.

Many have suggested that dry ports can help decongest the seaports and create many jobs. For instance Dr. Isa Umar Faruk, a lecturer in the Department of Geography of Bayero University Kano (BUK) said that for Nigeria to realise its economic vision, the country has to give serious attention to integrated transportation system where commuters or goods can use two or three means of transportation in a single journey. For instance, when cargos meant for Kano are moved through the seaports in Port-Harcourt or Lagos, they should be connected with railways to be moved to Kano and from Kano, small lorries can move them to different parts of Kano, neighbouring states or warehouses. This is what we call multi-modal system of transportation. Same thing applies if it is through the airports. The government has to make efforts to integrate our transport sector. Dry port is also very important. This will reduce ports congestion in Nigeria where goods stay in sea ports for months or even years. A dry port has all the facilities of a sea port except water. It's meant to reduce congestion in ports. Owners of goods can clear their goods at those ports because all clearing agencies like Customs are there. Cargos offloaded at sea ports are usually moved to dry ports through rail, air or land. By this therefore, immediately goods meant for Maiduguri arrived Lagos for example, they are moved to Kano Dry Port and the owner or owners don't have to go to Lagos but Kano to clear their goods. In academics, we say dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected to a seaport with high capacity traffic modes where customers can collect their goods in intermodal loading units as if directly at the seaport. We can have dry ports in different parts of the country. If that happens, traders may not need to go to Lagos or Port-Harcourt for their goods. Those goods can be delivered at Kano, Kaduna or any other place in the north where we don't have sea ports. This will help in reducing inflation, which is essential for the economy and the people of the country.

To be continued!

TIT BITS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My8DY633ReY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-73LH8RwPQg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRnnergPEmI

THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!

Continued from Part 22

WISHING YOU A WONDERFUL EASTER!!!!

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