Concerned Citizens Call for Urgent Action on Nigeria's Ports

In an open letter addressed to President of Nigeria, concerned citizens have drawn attention to the urgent need for action regarding the inefficiencies and leakages at the country's major air, land, and sea ports.

The citizens emphasized that revamping the economy and restoring security at the borders could be undermined if these issues are not addressed.

The citizens highlighted President's commitment to making Nigeria a destination of choice for local and foreign investments, but expressed doubts about the readiness and openness of the country for business due to the current state of the ports.

They urged President to take decisive action to break the limiting chokehold on Nigeria's ports, ensuring smooth movement of goods and attracting more investments.

This call for action comes at a critical time when Nigeria aims to revitalize its industrial sector, boost agricultural production, and increase national productivity. The citizens believe that efficient and secure ports are essential for achieving these goals and setting Nigeria on a path towards national greatness.

Parts of the letter which read in parts " Mr. President sir, we write as concerned citizens to draw your attention to a lingering matter that requires your urgent attention and action. In your speech on New Year’s Day, you said that we the blessed people of the nation Nigeria entrusted our faith in you with a clear mandate to make our country better, to revamp our economy, restore security within our borders, revitalize our floundering industrial sector, boost agricultural production, increase national productivity and set our country on an irreversible path towards national greatness that we and future generations will forever be proud of.

However, revamping our economy and restoring security at our borders may turn out to be nothing but lip service if the country continues to experience gross inefficiencies and leakages at our major air, land and see ports as it relates to movement of goods.

Your Excellency Mr. President sir, you also said in same New Year’s message that “on every foreign trip I have embarked on, my message to investors and other business people has been the same. Nigeria is ready and open for business. I will fight every obstacle that impedes business competitiveness in Nigeria and I will not hesitate to remove any clog hindering our path to making Nigeria a destination of choice for local and foreign investments.”

The question that comes to mind is how is Nigeria “ready and open for business” as the “giant of Africa” when none of its ports is ranked among the top 10 in Africa in terms of Ease of Doing Business, modernization or efficiency? Granted, the Lekki Deep Sea port which is a PPP initiative is poised to be a top-ranking port once fully operational, but why must we be a “12 Cylinder bulldozer firing at 4 cylinders”?

Our independent research and findings have shown that there is a real and dangerous chokehold and obstacle to our port efficiency that dates back to 2019. We are aware that whereas the previous APC government started a rigorous procurement process to implement a customs modernization project which culminated in the successful concession to a consortium comprising some of the best international technology providers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and a local company. Some rent seeking individuals hijacked the process, misguided government by committing intellectual theft in an attempted to convert the project for themselves as a “pension settlement” once they leave government. Your Excellency Mr. President sir, we will refrain from mentioning names in this letter as we are confident that as President and Commander in Chief, information about these unscrupulous individuals would easily be assessable at your fingertips. It is a matter that requires an urgent investigation by our law enforcement agencies sir.

Mr. President sir, the real and present danger is these same individuals are actively ringfencing your administration by compromising members within your team, the Customs Service and Ministry of Finance to ensure they sustain and protect their criminal act of intellectual theft. Sir, our concern is, it would have been better for Nigeria if these individuals really had anything to offer in terms of qualification and technical competence or capacity to implement such a momentous project that has significant economic and security impact on Nigeria; but they do not sir!

Mr. President Sir, from Paris to India, from the UAE to New York, your recurring mantra has been that “Nigeria is open for business” in the past seven months. You also said in your recent speech that “everything I have done in office, every decision I have taken and every trip I have undertaken outside the shores of our land, since I assumed office on 29 May 2023, have been done in the best interest of our country”

Sir, this is another time to take a decision in the best interest of our country. Nigeria is currently losing in excess of USD 5 Billion in addressable annual revenue from her ports due to the activities of these unpatriotic intellectual thieves. Mr. President you need to nip this in the bud and set the customs modernization project back on its course, albeit five years later!

Lastly, you also said in your January 1 speech that “one of those decisions was the removal of fuel subsidy which had become an unsustainable financial burden on our country for more than four decades. Another was the removal of the chokehold of few people on our foreign exchange system that benefited only the rich and the most powerful among us”. Sir, this is another decision that would do well not only for your renewed hope agenda, but for Nigeria and Nigerians at large.

We continue to trust God to grant you the grace and wisdom to Captain the Nigerian ship aright sir. God bless you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Bala Usman Writes from Kaduna

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