A maritime expert, who is also the Managing Director, Micura Stevedoring Services, Michael Ubogu has complained about the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, regulations denying importers of some select items, access to foreign exchange in order to shore up the value of the naira.
Ubogu said the restriction of foreign exchange on about 41 commodities has adversely affected the maritime industry, especially stevedoring companies.
According to him, “41 commodities restricted from the forex is definitely affecting our business especially rice importation.
“Rice is basically the commodity that importers bring in big tonnages because we are paid according to tonnages discharged. If the policy is pursued with human face, it will be nice because we cannot win all the time. We win some and lose some.
“I hope the government pursues the policy to a logical conclusion without benefit to certain individuals but if it is for the general well being of everyone, we support it.”
Ubogu also said the industry had been experiencing downturn due to the forex restrictions and lack of policy direction by the government.
“Obviously, from January till now, if there is any sector that is worst hit, I will tell you it is the maritime sector. There was down time and this was because a lot of people were waiting for the general election and after the election, people were waiting to see the handover and what is contained in the handover notes and after that there were no Ministers.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has not made appointments into strategic positions yet and no one knows what is in the mind of the government.
“Subsequently, because the budget has not been fully implemented and because no one will want to import into the country and want it to be placed on restrictions list, imports have ceased. So, there is a whole lot of fundamental issues that need to be addressed because it is affecting businesses generally. This is not exclusive to maritime alone but other key areas of the economy,” Ubogu said.
On his expectation of the current administration, he said, “If I meet with the President today, I will tell him that all major roads should be rehabilitated because that is affecting major operations. Huge man hours are lost to traffic congestion. The road is bad on both sides especially from Tin Can to First Gate.
“The government should be able to look for where they can ask most of these articulated vehicles to stay because most of them have turned the road to a parking lot but if there is a parking lot and they are forced to use it, then the traffic problem will be half solved.
“Whenever I go to London, Liverpool for instance, there are a whole lot of goods coming in and going out but there is a dedicated lane for smaller vehicles and this does not affect operation of other road users but today, one cannot come in through the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
“It is difficult to come in because containers and tankers block the road and for us who do businesses that we are being paid in containers brought into the port, it is affecting us because the time in which containers should go inside the port will be affected.
“Government should be able to address the issue of bad road congestion, articulated vehicles and also try to reduce corruption at the port.”
He also asked the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, to clarify who bears the costs of the proposed Cargo Tracking Note,CTN.
Ojadi, who is the Head, Operations Management Department of the prestigious Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University, made the assertion in a statement made available to newsmen.
According to him, the CTN was abolished almost immediately it was introduced about five years ago due to the high cost it imposed on shippers (importers and exporters) and the strong opposition to it. He said that the reasons adduced by the NSC for the re-introduction of the CTN were not convincing, adding that the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, had the skills to monitor risks associated with imports.
“Curiously, the NSC has been silent on who bears the cost of this scheme and economic regulation of port operations does not cover issues of this nature. How would the introduction of CTN improve port efficiency? This appears to me to be another taxation which points to increasing the high cost of doing business in Nigeria,” Ojadi said.
“The organisation to issue the CTN has to be present at the ports of embarkation which are scattered all over the world. Who will pay for this worldwide service? Or are we going to restrict all imports to Nigeria to specific ports abroad? If the exporter abroad has to incur any expenses in getting the CTN, you can be sure it will be passed on to the importer. And how will the NSC prevent this?”
The university don also sought to know the point at which the issuing agent would verify that the contents of the container tallied with the CTN to be issued.
“Is at the embarkation port or at the factory? Shipping companies are generally protected by the clause `said to contain’ when they hand out containers stuffed with the export cargo. How does the NSC intend to deal with this? How will this CTN deal with corruption at the Nigerian end as claimed by the NSC?” he queried.
Ojadi said there were many questions to be addressed, adding that “it does not seem that the NSC has taken time to look at these issues before pushing for the CTN.”
He also said that it would be wrong for the NSC to reintroduce the CTN without approval of the Federal Executive Council,FEC, as such move would amount to “usurping the powers of the FEC.”

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