Editorial
9

NEGLECT AND UNDER UTILIZATION OF PORT HARCOURT & CALABAR SEAPORTS BY NNANNA B. UMA, PHD

NEGLECT AND UNDER UTILIZATION OF PORT HARCOURT & CALABAR SEAPORTS BY NNANNA B. UMA, PHD 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 […]

seaport

NEGLECT AND UNDER UTILIZATION OF PORT HARCOURT & CALABAR SEAPORTS BY NNANNA B. UMA, PHD

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 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.

Maazi Nnanna Black Uma, PhD, CPCM (Published under Nzuko-Igbo, USA)

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