Nigeria: FG Orders 24-Hour Ports Operations
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 | 00:00
Concerned by the increasing cost of doing business in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered 24 hours operations at the Nigerian ports in a bid to reduce the number of days for clearing goods as well as make the ports more competitive.
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dropped the hint, yesterday, in Washington at the just concluded Spring meeting of the IMF/World Bank
The minster, who addressed the Nigerian press alongside the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; the Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi and Dr. Mansur Murthar, Executive Director, World Bank, also said her bid for the President of the World Bank was well received by the international community and has boosted the profile of not just Nigeria but Africa as a whole.
Lamenting that Nigeria is the only country whose ports do not operate 24 hours, the Finance Minister said the country was losing out in terms of revenue as goods were being shipped to neighbouring countries that are very efficient in the management of their ports.
She said: "We are the only port working from 9.am to 5 p.m. in the world. Other ports operate 24 hours and that is why their ports are cheap because importers do not have to pay for demurrage. Apart from reducing the number of agencies in the port, which we have done, we also need to remove the bureaucratic requirements.
Noting that 60 per cent of goods shipped into West Africa are meant for Nigeria, he said it was cheaper to ship goods to Ghana than Nigeria.
The minister said the Nigeria delegation to the Spring meeting was besieged by delegates from Africa and other emerging markets with congratulatory messages, saying her bid for the position of World Bank has altered the way the multilateral institution was dealing with the developing countries.
She said her participation had boosted Nigeria's image and had been very beneficial to the country since the Nigeria delegation arrived Washington.
On what Nigeria stands to benefit from the Spring meeting, the minister said the Nigerian team came to the meeting to rob minds with others, to share idea and knowledge of what is happening at the global economy to help in planning and preparing for what others are forecasting about the global economy.
She said: "It is vital for us, Nigeria does not exist in isolation. About 60 per cent of Nigeria export goes to Europe and America. So we need to hear what is happening in other economies to be able to calibrate how we might be imparted.
"What we are taking away from this meeting is that there is fragile recovery of the US economy, though the recovery is fragile, unemployment is still high above eight per cent, the Euro zone is even being more fragile, the sovereign debt crisis is still overhanging."
In addition, Spain is now joining the whole configuration of countries that are having problem with sovereign debts. As you know things are very tough in Spain, unemployment is about 23 per cent and youth unemployment is 50 per cent, so one of the big economies in Europe is having problem in addition to Greece,Island and Portugal.
"So when you hear that that the global economy is fragile, US is recovering but still very difficult, that gives you information with which to calibrate what you need to do," she said.
The minster stressed the need for Nigeria to continue the diversification of the economy; the structural reforms on power; the ports reforms; development of sources of growth in agriculture, housing as well as improving our exports of other products.
"We do not need to depend on oil only, which is sent to these economies. We need to diversify trade to Africa countries; to growing economies like India, China and Brazil and other emerging markets. These are the key message. It just reinforces the part we are already on," she said.
Sanusi reiterated the need for structural reforms to be put in place.
"We need to protect ourselves and hedge because of the vulnerability of our economy because of oil price. This reinforces the need to save at the time when oil prices are high because if these dark clouds translate to fall in oil prices Nigeria is going to have major problems.
"The whole idea of saying let us look at the excess crude account, let us save now when prices are over $100, is basically not because we have a problem now.
But if something happens and something may happened based on what we beginning to see, we are going to have problems in both the fiscal and the exchange rate sides.
"We have seen oil fall to $37 per barrel and we all know what the country went through. We will continue engaging until all the tiers of government agree that we have to safe," he said.