By Tony Iju Nwabunike
We have watched the shocking and ongoing devastating impacts of the Corona Virus Disease on various sectors of the economy leading to massive job loss and general quake in the global economy. Though not completely insulated from effects of the pandemic, the Nigerian Maritime Industry holds potentials to serve as the country’s low hanging fruits for economic growth, stability and survival
Unlike the aviation industry where government agencies like Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria and Nigeria Airspace management Agency including airlines are either mulling salary slash , workers lay off and shrinking in human capital needs, the maritime industry still holds the ace as indispensable mode for global trade and commerce
Rather than worry over likelihood of job loss, customs brokers, freight forwarders, truck owners, chandlers and other ancillary service providers in the industry should gravitate towards keeping themselves abreast with virtual presence and operations in the ports.
At ANLCA we have always advocated for a modern port regime with lesser amount of persons coming into port areas. This will now be a fast track drive because persons and businesses can meet virtually, submit,process and receive documents online without leaving the comforts of our homes and offices.
While the port cannot be virtual, our presence can be. We have been partaking in Webinars where we communicate effectively, take business and corporate decisions without traveling. This is the new curriculum we are recommending as a basic training content for everyone wishing to use ports and other maritime services moving forward.
ANLCA independent research shows that over seventy percent of persons using our ports are yet to understand these things which they need for their professional future and business survival . Over eighty percent of them do not even know the many unused business tools to advance their trade embedded inside the mobile phones they carry about.
Unknown to them, they can set up virtual meetings to discuss all business related issues and perfect related bank transactions without moving around the cities bugged down by snail speed traffic.
The haulage section will always be there. It cannot be taken over virtually, we only foresee a regime of improved rail services
HOW BEST TO HARVEST POST COVID19 BENEFITS FROM THE PORTS
*Exports: Nigeria as a matter of urgency must develop non oil exports to keep jobs up. Much more needed to be done in the agricultural sector.What do we have to give ?
As a country , we took an unfortunate back stage position in export of commodities like cocoa, palm oil, and many other agricultural products. This must resume. The value chain from the farms through logistics to the ports for outward shipping will employ more persons than .
We as a country, should identify products for which we have comparative advantage. Nigerian made electric cables have been noted for being of higher quality than most imported ones. Government should be the number one buyer of quality made in Nigeria products while encouraging citizens to do same without promoting monopoly and profiteering.
*Cutting Unnecessary Imports: Urgent steps must be taken to refine crude oil locally and stop the importation of refined petroleum products. A good amount of what should have been earnings for the country from the sales of crude oil has gone into payment for subsidies on imported products.
It doesn’t make logical and economic sense for Nigeria to be buying what she has from outside simply because she failed to process her crude, could not fix her refineries and suffering shifted deadlines in commencement of operations of expected private refineries.
That we have cotton but still depend on other countries to produce our clothing needs is a result of fall in the local textile industry. The industry is dying partly due to lack of power as it was discovered that it is cheaper to manufacture textiles outside Nigeria than doing it in the country.
Our textile industry alone can produce jobs running into millions for a 200m population and exporting to other countries.Rice self sufficiency is still a struggle even after its removal from forex and ban from importation through land borders.
*Avoiding Waste: A lot of government funds have gone into wasteful and unnecessary spending on foreign trips, bogus seminars and conferences in costly hotels and many other avoidable expenses. Cutting off such expenses will not only save cost for government but will help to get attention to relevant areas.
Agencies of government in the maritime sector are culpable in this regard with most of the conferences being mere talk shops, getting monotonous and repeating the same things over and over again without taking concrete actions to quickly improve the sector
*Need for Private Investment in rail coaches : Whereas the railway is government owned, there is the need to allow private investment in ownership of coaches to move cargoes from dry ports to the seaports and vice versa. This mode of transport if encouraged and open for the private sector, will bring about cheaper and safer mode of cargo movement within the country.
Iju Tony Nwabunike is the