The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr Mohammed Bello- Koko has urged the British government to address the negative labelling and rejection of exports from Nigeria by the United Kingdom as it is borne of a preconceived hostile perception of Nigeria and not the quality of those exports.
Bello-Koko made this call while receiving the UK Minister for Export, Mr Mike Freer MP who was in Nigeria last week on trade facilitation and visited the Lagos Port Complex (LPC).
The MD who was represented by the Executive Director- Operations, Hon. Onari Brown said that Nigeria expects commitment to the tenets of trade facilitation and so reports of goods being rejected because of their Nigerian origin is unpleasant.
He said that the Nigerian government is on an export drive and has recently licensed 10 export terminals for swift transactions.
“We handle imports and exports. Now we are diversifying our economy from oil and we are glad to receive you at this time when we are looking in that direction. As partners in progress, we expect a lot from you. We are open to knowing areas we are supposed to improve upon to improve our export drive.
“We have made some strides in the area of exports, we just licensed about 10 export terminals, a kind of one-stop centre where all documentations from relevant agencies take place and the consignment is good to go”, he said.
Taking the Minister and his team through a rundown of operations at the premier port, the Port Manager, Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu stated that NPA has mapped out a portion of the Lilypond Transit Park as an Export Consolidation bay for the port and provided structures and systems to shorten trade process and ensure goods arrive their ports of destination in the best shape.
“Post Brexit at your end, post COVID globally, the visit is quite timely. We already have in place structures and systems for goods leaving Nigeria to arrive other places in topmost conditions but like my MD highlighted in his speech, we are beginning to have situations where our exporters need to remove our national brand and identity as Nigerians to take on the identity of a fellow West African country for our goods to be accepted in the UK.
“NPA Management has earmarked Lilypond as an export consolidation bay. We are working on minimising export processes along the trade value chain”, the Port Manager stated.
Olotu advocated that exports from Nigeria should not be treated with any reputational bias, to enable the country earn due recognition and value for her trade initiatives in the UK.
The Customs Zone ‘A’ Coordinator of the Nigeria Customs Service, ACG Adeyanju Modupe Aremu who was also present at the meeting explained that the ongoing automation of trade processes by the Service would address issues of delays and place more accurate timelines on activities leading to the clearing of cargoes at the ports.
She disclosed that the Service would be installing a scanner at the Lagos Port Complex before the end of the year.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Commander at the port, Mr Inalegwu Ameh assured the Minister of the readiness of the organisation to support and share intelligence where the need arises.
Addressing stakeholders, Minister Freer said he takes away from the visit “the real drive for modernisation to ensure the ports in Nigeria are amongst the best in the world, in global economy. That is investment in modernisation both for the customer and also to ensure revenue protection is captured is absolutely crucial and I am taking away the level of commitment and energy from the government here is real quite outstanding. The UK will do all we can to assist the government meet their objectives.”
He described the port as a thriving port stating that “ across the globe basically in all the ports, the real pressure points is getting container ships in, getting them offloaded, getting them out and I think the government drive at digitalisation will make sure that Nigerian ports really are world leaders at getting goods in and out as fast as possible but also speaking as a government minister, making sure to capture the right revenue that the government is entitled to.”