Congestion, delays at ports cost Nigeria $19 billion a year

A report by Bloomberg indicates that Nigeria is losing $19 billion a year because of bribes, beatings, and gridlock at its ports.

According to the report, congestion outside and inefficiency within Nigeria’s ports is choking the economy.

It also revealed that the congestion causes havoc for businesses that use them to import everything from cars to computers, food and machinery.

Nigeria loses $19 billion annually, or about 5 percent of gross domestic product, from the delays, traffic jams, illegal charges and insecurity that are increasingly prevalent at its ports, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry said in a report this year.

In the World Bank’s Trading Across Borders survey, which measures the time and expense involved with importing and exporting goods, Nigeria ranks 182nd out of 190 countries, below Syria and Afghanistan.

The report noted that put of 190 countries, Nigeria is one of the toughest to trade in

The survey measures time and cost involved with importing or exporting goods, with the country where it’s the easiest at number 1.

The problems at Apapa and other ports such as Calabar and Port Harcourt have been a headache for successive administrations, which have failed to fix decaying infrastructure, reduce stifling red tape and tackle corruption.

Terminal operators, including APM Terminals, a unit of Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk A/S, rely on generators because power cuts are so frequent.

But it’s worsened in recent years, especially at Apapa. Crumbling roads have all but ground trucks to a halt.

Once they do manage to enter, drivers and businesses have to contend with a plethora of customs, immigration and security agents before they can pick up containers, it can take 20 days to clear products, compared with 48 hours in neighboring Benin and Ghana, according to the LCCI.

The cost of moving a container from Apapa to other parts of Lagos has soared to as much as 700,000 naira ($1,930) from about 150,000 naira two years ago as trucking firms put up their prices to make up for the delays, according to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

“We have to pay the area boys and the police also want money,” said David, a 40-year-old driver who’s been traveling to Apapa for almost 20 years.

“We can pay 80,000 naira in bribes per trip. If you don’t, it can take weeks to get in. Sometimes they will beat you if you don’t give them money,” he added.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Apapa in May 2017 and directed officials to start working around the clock and all agencies to locate their operations in one place to ease delays, but it’s been to little avail.

Many people prefer to use more efficient ports in Benin, Ghana and Togo, according to Mike Onulide, who runs a business exporting food including noodles and garri, a cassava-based staple popular in West Africa.

“You don’t face the same kinds of frustration there that you do in Nigeria,” he said, recalling how a fellow businessman still hasn’t received compensation after one of his containers was dropped into the sea early this year.

That can’t come soon enough for the weary drivers who bear the brunt of the chaos.

“I haven’t had a bath in over a week,” said Akinola Kabiru, waiting to get into Apapa and who says he may have to pay 75,000 naira in bribes to keep his place in the queue.

“I pee under the truck. I sleep under the truck. If my boss sends the money, may be I can enter,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, General Electric (GE) said it’s giving up a Nigerian railway concession and handing it over to Transnet SOC Limited in line with its strategy to exit the transportation business.

Agreements GE reached with the Nigerian government “are now being negotiated by Transnet and its consortium partners” including SinoHydro of China and APM Terminals, the Boston, company said in an email.

According to the report, GE says it will focus on infrastructure development in Nigeria in areas such as health care and power.

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