The Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA) has appealed to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the contractor handling the construction of the rail line at the Apapa Port, to ensure non-disruption of container movement at the port.
NIIA President Godwin Onyekazi made the appeal in a statement on Sunday in Lagos.
According to him, the disruption of the movement of containers at the nation’s busiest seaport will further increase the prices of goods in the market, worsen inflation in the country and compound the Apapa gridlock.
“In November 2020, importers and clearing agents were unable to conclude their transactions while loaded trucks were unable to exit the port when CCECC mobilised to site, blocked the container terminal truck exit gate and began demolition of structures in the terminal,” he said.
He said the blockade also made it impossible for empty trucks to enter the terminal to pick up containers for delivery to their owners.
He said: “We commend the Federal Government for the drive to link the port to the rail line. This is commendable and you will recall that we have at various times made the case for multimodal transportation in the country.
“The over dependence on roads for the delivery of goods in and out of the port is neither economical nor sustainable. We want to see goods come into the port or leave the port more by the waterways and railway.
“We, however, wish to appeal that the rail project being driven by the government should be done in such a manner that does not lead to a blockade of the port as we have seen at Tin Can, which is almost totally blocked due to bad roads and rent-seeking on the port access road.
“If care is not taken and government allows Apapa port to be blocked like Tin Can, the Apapa gridlock will become worse and the prices of haulage will further escalate.
“n this case, the final consumers will pay more for goods in the market and this will certainly not be in the best interest of our economy.
“We, therefore, appeal to the railway contractor to execute its task in a way that does not disrupt the inflow and outflow of cargo.”
He said this was important to avoid creating a situation where importers would be compelled to pay more in freight costs, haulage, storage and demurrage charges.
Also, Mr Monday Ekanem, a clearing agent at the Apapa port said CCECC owned an obligation to the shipping community and Nigerians not to make life tougher.
“Please understand that I support the rail project. I raised the alarm at the time in November 2020 to save the port from collapse. We cannot afford to have a situation whereby cleared goods will not be able to exit the port.
“I appeal to the contractor to work with NPA and terminal operators to plan the process of the rail construction properly. There has to be a balance between the two processes; one should not disturb the other,” he said.
He noted that they wanted to see proper coordination among CCECC, NPA, concessionaires and truck drivers to ensure seamless flow of traffic in and around the port.
He said with this ,importers and agents would not be subjected to further hardships in the course of clearing their containers at the port. (NAN)