Gridlock on one of the port access roads in Apapa, Lagos

Maritime stakeholders have expressed serious indifference to the recent report of the World Bank on the Ease of Doing Business, which indicates that Nigeria has improved on her former indices, moving up by 24 points.

The World Bank had Tuesday last week, said that Nigeria now ranked 145th position out of 190 countries in the Ease of Doing Business index for 2018.

The global apex bank had stated in its recently released Ease of Doing Business report entitled, “Doing Business 2018: Reforming to create jobs”, that Nigeria had moved up by 24 points from 169th position on the 2017 ranking and also 170th position on the 2016 ranking to 145 in the World Bank’s 2018 report.

Maritime stakeholders, who reacted to this report, expressed indifference, saying that the maritime industry and in fact the entire supply chain in the country, especially in terms of seaport efficiency was completely ruled out of the statistical considerations that led to the arrival of the recent index.

The stakeholders have also argued that leaving out the shipping industry, if that was the case was a serious aberration that may cast doubts on the recent index given that the shipping industry is crucial to the economy through which it exports its crude oil, the mainstay of the economy, export agricultural produce and also import machinery, plants, equipment and medicals, being an import dependent nation.

President of the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria IFFN, Dr. Zeb Ikokide, one of the stakeholders, who spoke in a telephone interview, noted that it has become increasingly difficult to do business in Apapa area of Lagos, which houses the nation’s two biggest cargo seaports, the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex due to the perennial traffic jam.

According to him, many people have relocated their shipping businesses out of Apapa to other destinations in Africa due to poor state of the seaport access roads, which has made transacting businesses in the area a herculean task.

He said: “Many people have been compelled to relocate their businesses and I do not blame them. The government is obviously loosing revenue. It is impossible to schedule a business meeting in Apapa and keep to the time because of the situation on the port access roads”

“Many of us, who are still leaving our business in Apapa are just being patriotic but it does not make any economic or business sense. How can you do business in an area where movement in and out of the area is almost impossible and everyone is keeping quiet as if all is well”.

He blamed this development on the failure of government and its relevant agencies to take proactive steps in addressing challenges, arguing that most of these access roads, built over 40 years ago are being over-stretched due to increased cargo traffic and have not been rehabilitated ever since.

Ikokide, who is also a member of the National Committee on the Implementation of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security ISPS, Code, noted that it took members of the committee time to agree to host its conference being supported by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, and slated for November 8th and 9th to hold the event in Apapa because of the traffic situation.

Another stakeholder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, while reacting to the new World Bank rating, regretted that the government has paid lip service to the issue of enhancing ease of doing business in the maritime industry.

He argued that though enthroning a regime of ease of doing business in the maritime industry is desirable; it is not achievable for now because of obvious reasons that are there for everyone to see.

“You know that effective transportation is crucial to every business. Most advanced economies first developed their transport infrastructure, which led to the development of other segments of the economy but we are here in Nigeria paying lip service to the development of transport system in the country”, he lamented.

Recall that the World Bank report had placed Nigeria alongside El Salvador, India, Malawi, Brunei Darussalam, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Zambia and Djibouti among the top 10 improved countries worldwide, after carrying out numerous reforms to improve their business environments.

“These economies together, implemented 53 business regulation reforms across 10 of the areas measured by doing business. “Overall, the 10 top improvers implemented the most regulatory reforms in the area of getting credit, starting a business, dealing with construction permits and paying taxes,’ the report said.

Details of the report revealed that Nigeria now ranked 130th out of 190 countries from its 138 position in 2017, in terms of starting a business and 147th from 174th in 2017  in terms of getting construction permit, among several other indices.