Chairman of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote

The Dangote Group, a fully diversified indigenous corporation has said that the myriads of challenges associated with transportation in Nigeria, especially around her two biggest seaports, the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports, both in Apapa were as a result of over-reliance on one mode of transport, the road.

Recall that there has been massive congestion in and around these seaports as a result of the indiscriminate parking of trucks and tankers that lift cargo from the seaports and tank farms, a development that has negatively affected other businesses in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital.

Group Head, Strategic Supplies of the Dangote Group, Captain Olugbenga Abidoye, who spoke recently in Lagos on the ‘Inland waterways Operations and Logistics’, said that in order to propel the engine of macro-economic growth of any country, over reliance on a single mode of transportation was dangerous and counter-productive.

As a matter of urgency, Abidoye called for the dredging of the Apapa-Ikorodu waterway by the Federal Government to facilitate the movement of cargo through barges and other smaller crafts to relieve both the roads and seaports of the current massive congestion.

He defined the waterways as any of the waters such as lake, canal, rivers, watercourses, inlets and bays within the territory of a nation as contrasted with the open high seas or marginal waters bordering another state subject to various sovereign right of the sovereign state, among others.

According to him, for a nation such as Nigeria to experience true economic growth and development, it needs to develop and harness other modes of transportation, which just as the seaports and inland ports, constitute members of the same body, none of which would be effective and efficient without the collaboration and contribution of the others.

He said: “An additional mode of transportation is imperative for sectoral diversification. We must accept the fact that the seaports and inland ports are members of one body. They are inseparable; each member must do its own part efficiently for the body to be healthy. Failure of one will affect the efficiency of the other members. The earlier we learn to live with this fact, the better for the seaport working systems”.

Abidoye, who was before now, an Executive Director, Marine and Operations at the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, before the port concession programme of 2006, cited the instance of Port of Antwerp, Belgium, which experienced congestion in 2011 such as Nigeria is facing now and adopted some proactive measures to address the challenge.

Some of the recommendations brought forward by a government committee to address the problem was the reorganisation of the fact that cooperation between the seaports and inland ports was the way to strengthen both for them to perform better, the need for terminal operators and inland port operators to adopt best practices and develop complementarily as well as the need for seaport terminal operators to support inland waterways for the development of new logistic platforms as against sitting on the fence.

Others include the need for data on traffic flow as well as the need for seaports to pay attention to the hinterlands, an indication that all hands must be on deck to address the current transport challenges, among others.

He also cautioned the Federal Government on the planned reduction of the truck load, which he said may cause more problems than it is intended to solve.

“Following the degeneration of the road networks across the nation, the Federal Government recently invited stakeholders and set up new maximum truck tonnage for the roads at 30 tonnes from the current 45 tonnes, The implication of this new directive when implemented is that more trucks would be needed, thus further congesting the existing seaports and roads”, he warned.

While making a case for the dredging of the Apapa-Ikorodu waterways, Captain Abidoye recalled that when the NPA established the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, there arose the need to dredge the waterways because barges conveying cargo to the lighter terminal were always running aground.

He however disclosed that while still working with NPA, the authority made efforts to dredge the waterways but had to jettison the project on the discovery that the staggering cost of the project does not rhyme with the expected revenue, a decision he faulted.

The Dangote Group Strategic Supplies –boss however warned that such projects should not be tied to expected revenue alone, as they would also boost other economic activities especially in terms of relieving the seaports and even the road networks of the pressure associated with the use of trucks as the only means of moving cargo in and out of the seaports.