The House of Representatives Adhoc Committee seeking to determine why the Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Onne and Onitsha Inland Ports Complexes are not being put to maximum use, has blamed the federal government (FG) for enhancing the deliberate plot to thwart business activities in these ports.
The committee at its public hearing on the matter on Thursday noted that the abandonment of the Eastern ports has led to the overwhelming business performances and congestion of the western ports.
Members of the committee who unanimously frowned at the presentations of several federal government’s agencies to support why the ports should not work, were of the opinion that there were underlying ulterior motives to the challenges paraded by the agencies.
Various agencies of government, which spoke had attributed the reason the ports cannot work to insecurities.
Salihu Zakare, Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Transportation in his presentation, had told the committee that there was general insecurity including piracy attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery throughout all the Eastern ports, which were major cause of poor businesses and abandonment of the ports.
He also alleged multiple charges by various agencies, state and local government and communities, as well as lack of synergy by government agencies, which scared investors away from using the ports.
In his own submission, Rear Admiral Abraham Adaji, Chief of Training at the Naval Headquarters, who represented the Nigerian Navy, disagreed with the ministry of transportation, stressing that insecurity alone was not sufficient for the ports not to perform maximumly as it stands today.
Adaji disclosed that the problems of the ports were rather technical and infrastructure in nature, ranging from navigational aid issues to poor infrastructure, unreliable notical charts, long narrow and largely uncharted channels of the ports, all of which make vessels to process at very slow paces.
The Navy Chief disclosed that these problems impede movement and increase costs which discourage investors.
He also cited poor cargo handling infrastructure, problems of evacuation of goods due to poor road infrastructure, lack of connecting road between the East and North East, and long years of neglect, which make the ports uneconomical for ship Ferrers.
Equally, he noted that there were no much business activities around the ports, stressing that ships would only go to ports where they can see goods to evacuate or where they could off load goods.
Summarily, the Naval Chief disclosed that there were no businesses for the Eastern ports, as agriculture was not thriving there.
The Shippers Council in its submission claimed that adequate security, navigational system, safety and interconnectivity were working perfectly in the west, which made shippers to choose Lagos than Eastern ports as their ports of destination, insisting that they cannot be forced to do otherwise.
In view of these, the committee members queried why the ministry of Transport could not see to it that those factors that make Lagos ports to work are replicated at the Eastern ports.
The committee doubted their claims about the insecurities averring that there were equal security challenges in ports elsewhere in Lagos, but business activities are still thriving.
Hon. Yusuf Buba, Chairman of the committee, had expressed dismay that some of the ports could be made to work while others were frustrated out of business.
He urged the stakeholders to get ready to do the proper things insisting that those ports must be made to work to decongest the two Lagos ports complex.
For a better society