The Nigerian Seaport Politics
The Seaport Politics – Igwenazor Chinaemerem
In Nigeria, only one Seaport is functional – the Lagos Seaport. The Lagos Seaport is in the Western part of the country. This Seaport controls about 90% of marine traffic of the nation. The businesses of Lagos Seaports – Apapa Quays and Tin Can Island port contributes to the heavy vehicular traffic of Lagos state, the tiniest state by land mass in the country.
There are other Seaports in Nigeria namely – Warri port, Port Harcourt port and Calabar ports. These three Seaports are as empty as a church during the Covid-19 lockdown era. While these Seaports are comatose, the Calabar Seaport can contain more traffic compared to that of Lagos, the cry to decongest the Lagos port has remained a cry to a deaf ear. You may ask but why? The answers are larger than just what the eyes might see.
The non-functional Seaports are in the Eastern command of the Nigerian Maritime services. As they were closed to services, the maritime businesses and its sister companies had to relocate to Lagos. The relocation closed offices and mega warehouses, so also headquarters of many trading companies. As the businesses in the Eastern Nigeria is closing down, they are resurrecting in Lagos and neighboring Ogun state communities. Mega warehouses sprang up in all the nook and crannies of the West. Down East, the erstwhile warehouses commanding big time commerce gradually woke up as Pentecostal churches with churches from the West occupying a greater percentage of these abandoned warehouses.
The democratic administration of Olusegun Obasanjo of 1999 to 2007 supervised the closure of the Seaports in the East. Owing to the fact that all vessels bearing goods are berthing in Lagos, Igbos who are the key players in Commerce in Nigeria are forced to move their major business activities to Lagos, at the same time they moved to their new base with their families. This accounts for the continued burgeoning economic activities in the West – Lagos and Ogun state to be precise while the activities in the East clicked dry.
In the Eastern Nigeria, there are three major towns serving the entire South-South and South-East geo-political zones of the nation and some African countries. They are Nnewi, Aba and Onitsha. The merchants in these irrespective of the hard measures they are meant to face as designed by the government, they still brave the odds to move their containers down to the East. Moving the goods via roads from West to East is a very high risk as the condition of these roads are very poor. Lots of the content of the container do spill as some fell. The long hazardous journey adds to the high cost of goods thereby depleting the expected profit margin. To guard against this, the only option is to rent warehouses in Lagos, offload and store the goods there and move them bit by bit.
As if the set harsh plans are had loopholes, the federal government drafted Customs patrols and checkpoints heavily along the Lagos – Bini – Onitsha – Aba expressway laced by uncountable number of Police and Military search teams. The major targets of all these governmental outfits are heavy duty trucks moving goods and newly cleared automobiles to the East. These peoples pay through their noses to get their goods down Eastern Nigeria.
If there is a functional government institution the South East and South South zones of Nigeria crave for, it is a Seaport. If there is anything that would have been sited and kept functional in that territory, it is the Seaport. In Igboland, trade and commerce has lifted more people out of poverty and created millionaires more than any other sector of Nigerian economy courtesy the highly revered Igbo Apprenticeship system. As many young men are trained and empowered to be on their own, they opt to set up their own businesses in Lagos having considered factors that will keep them on success momentum. Courtesy the port effect.
Why then are the built Seaports of the Eastern command left unused while Lagos Seaport cry for decongestion? Its nothing but Politics! The politics of exclusion. Should the wharfs at Calabar, Port Harcourt and Warri operate at par with that of Lagos, a large chunk of the mega development around Trade Fair complex, Ladipo Mushin, Satelite town and Alaba International would have taken place in the South – South and South – East.
The uninitiated mind is not aware that the booming economy and population growth goes hand in glove. Via the strategic closure of the ports in the South – South and South – East, there is a sustained influx of people into the twin states of Lagos and Ogun. Those that were born there hardly relocate. Meeting the needs of these multitude of people is the real economy. While the East is being depopulated, the West is over populated.
Keeping the Eastern Seaports nonoperational is a well thought after ploy, an extension of the killer policies of post Biafran genocidal war – the paltry #20 [twenty pounds] offer after the war irrespective of your deposit in the bank prelude the war.