The dire situation in the Lagos ports namely: Ro-Ro (Roll in Roll on), Apapa wharf, and Tin Can Island Ports recently called for serious attention. All the roads leading to and from the sea ports which are located in the same axis completely shut down. By shutting down it means that the rest of Lagos state was in a state of anomie. Anyone who understands Lagos network of roads and traffic characteristics knows that anything that upsets the configuration will bring the city-state to a complete breakdown. And when that state is in such a stop, the country will sooner begin to feel the impact.
Fuel distribution around the country has its hub in the same Apapa area of Lagos. The place called Atlas cove is the centre from where majority of petrol and other such products are pumped into tank farms or NNPC depots around the country. Most import and export businesses originate and terminate in Apapa. This is why articulated vehicles have taken over roads leading into Apapa. From roads leading into Apapa, other roads have suffered. This is asides from the very bad roads in Apapa itself which have been like that for the past 12 or more years. As a result, Apapa, a hitherto highbrow area has become a ghost town. Businesses and residents have suffered. People simply ran away from the area.
Something therefore needs to be done and fast too. There are many reasons why our ports have become what they are now. The sorts of reforms that have taken place there have not brought the desired impact. If anything, they have worsened the situation. And our perennial indifference to taking care of the goose that lays the golden eggs whereby we fail to cater for places that give the country revenue is evident in Apapa as it is in the Niger Delta. Also, we failed over time to redevelop and expand the Apapa ports just as we failed woefully to activate other ports in the country.
To ease off the trouble with Apapa, it is important that we move quickly to identify ports in other parts of the country and get them to begin to function optimally immediately. For example, the Port in Calabar currently has three terminals namely; The New Port, The Old Port and The Dockyard and several other crude oil terminals operated by three terminal operators. These are INTELS Nigeria Ltd, ECM Terminal Ltd and Shoreline Logistics Nigeria. We need to find a way to expand and put these terminals to at the shortest possible time.
In Rivers state we have what is called the Rivers Port Complex. This comprises the Port of Port Harcourt and Okrika Refined Petroleum Oil Jetty as well as Haastrup/ Eagle Bulk Cement Jetty, Ibeto Jetty, Kidney Island Jetty, Macobar Jetty and Bitumen Jetty. There is also the Onne Port. Onne Port consists of two major facilities which are the Federal Ocean Terminal and the Federal Lighter Terminal. This port has been designated as an Oil and Gas Free Zone.
In Delta state, there are the ports of Warri, Sapele, Burutu and the petroleum terminals at Escravos and Forcados. With these facilities spread across three states of the South-South, Lagos State has no reason to carry more than 40 percent of the cargo into the country.
With the infrastructural base of Rivers State and her connectivity by rail and air, the two major seaports in the state are supposed to be super-functional.
The ports in Rivers State (Rivers Port and Onne Port) can easily service the South-East, North Central and North-East states. If you add Calabar Port and Delta Ports to these two, the aforementioned three geo-political zones will be effectively covered. That leaves Lagos Ports with South-West and North-West geo-political zones. If these underutilized ports are put to better use, very many jobs will be created as ports are centres of serious economic activity. Port reforms and revitalization around the country is a major job creation initiative. It gives direct, associated and indirect jobs in their millions.
Also, the railway modernization programme, coupled with the very many roads being rehabilitated around the country will benefit and benefit from active ports. We still need to build new sea ports in states like Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom and inland ports in Onitsha, Lokoja among others.
Sea ports are major economic centres and our transportation policy makers must get to work immediately.