A seaport terminal in Lagos (file)

Maritime stakeholders under the aegis of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents NCMDLCA, have lamented that the 14 days of economic lockdown occasioned by the #ENDSARS protests embarked upon by youths are taking huge toll on the nation’s seaport industry, which is trying to recover from similar effects of coronavirus lockdown.

Recall that the nation’s seaports have for a long time been grappling with massive cargo congestion due to poor access roads, refusal of some shipping companies and terminal operators to evacuate empty containers, deployment of obsolete cargo handling equipment and the inability of some importers to take delivery of their cargo as soon as they arrive.

Others include deliberate delays by some terminal operators to position containers for examination so as to attract more rent charges and physical examination of cargo as against use of scanners and other automated mechanisms.

National President of the group, Lucky Amiwero, who spoke in a telephone interview, also noted that yesterday’s burning of the Marina, Lagos headquarters building of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA and other national and private assets in reaction to the shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers was disastrous and senseless.

The president, who declined to put a financial value to the loss, described it as quite huge, saying that the protests were as a result of pent up anger over years of growing youth unemployment due to several years of bad governance and misrule, which has given rise to too many poor and frustrated people living in the Nigerian society.

He said: “There are too many poor people over the years, especially youths in the system. You see a situation whereby people of 70-80 years and above are recycled as governors, senators, Reps members, presidents and ministers etc. year-on-year and the youths are there watching. It is no longer news that graduates, Master’s degree and PhD holders in Nigeria drive commercial motorcycles, called Okada in local parlance and do so many other menial jobs just to survive.

“For over 60 years after her political independence in 1960, Nigeria has not been governed right, go to other African countries that got political independence with Nigeria at the same time, the story is different. Go to neighbouring Ghana and Togo and see things for yourself. More than 60 years after, there is no foundation in Nigeria for creating jobs and the youths have come to the realisation that this narrative has to change and the government failed to handle the agitations properly.”

 Though he declined to put financial cost to the losses, it was gathered that the sector has lost hundreds of billions of naira in terms of man hours, demurrage that would be paid on delayed berthing and discharge of vessels because workers were not on duty due to the protests that crippled economic and social activities and other avoidable charges on import and export consignments, which could not be handled as soon as they arrived the ports.

He however lamented the decision by some miscreants and hoodlums to burn parts of NPA headquarters and other public and private assets, which he said was senseless and misguided, but insists that it was as a result of bottled anger and frustration over the years, adding that the ulterior motives by some criminal elements might not be ruled out completely.

On the way forward, especially for the port industry, Amiwero noted that there has been a disconnect between the government and the governed in policy formulations and implementation, among several others, arguing that the government most of the time churn out policies not minding what effects such policies would have on the port systems.

“Nigeria operates the most expensive port systems not only in Africa but also across the world due to misguided government policies. There are so many ‘strangers’ in the country’s port system. Tell me, what is a retired old military officer doing as the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service who knows next to nothing about customs operations?

“Can you appoint a Customs officer to head the Nigeria Police as Inspector General or as Chief of Army Staff? Because Col. Hameed Ali does not know anything about trade facilitation, he sees the Customs job merely as revenue collection only and same for other agencies, who are headed by ‘’outsiders’. This is where the problems begin”, he also said.