The idea to truly make Nigeria a hub of cargo export has been set in motion as the country jostles to claim the first spot from Kenya which is the leading export nation on the African continent.
The Aviacargo Road Map Committee headed by Mr. Ikechi Uko said there was a need to make Nigeria a top cargo export nation because of the huge potential that could make that possible.
Uko stated this when the AviaCargo Committee paid a courtesy visit at the weekend to the Customs Area Controller, Nigeria Customs Export Command, LillyPond, Mohammed Babandede.
He said, ‘Nigeria should be number one. We need to move Nigeria from number five position to number one. Why is Kenya doing better than the rest of Africa? Nigeria should be number one and that is the strategy. Over the years, we have not put a system that will sustain the export of our goods.”.
The poor performance of Africa’s most populous country in the cargo export and allied value chain contradicts the huge revenue potential from the sector.
According to statistics from the global airports’ regulator, Airports Council International (ACI), the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, with 204, 649 tonnes of cargo ranks fifth in Africa.
Nigeria is behind Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with 363, 204 tonnes of cargo.
Egypt’s Cairo International Airport ranks second with 333,536 tonnes, South Africa’s Oliver Reginald International Airport ranks third with 304, 018, while Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, ranks fourth with 226, 417 tonnes of cargo.
Worried over the trend, the committee said Nigeria needs to scale up measures to increase the volume of cargo exports at the over 13 airports designated for cargo across the country.
The cargo terminals are in MMIA Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, (SMICA), Owerri, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Makurdi Airport, Minna Airport, Jos Airport, Ilorin Airport, Yola Airport and Kebbi Airport.
Besides these cargo terminals, some state governments, including Ogun, Ekiti, and Yobe states have invested huge funds to drive the cargo export value chain.
Babandede noted that the NCS had moved to tackle some of the challenges that had slowed down the process of export of cargo such as cancellation of contracts, adding that he was mandated by the Comptroller of NCS to ensure that all bottlenecks, all stumbling blocks were dismantled.
He said, “Let me give you an example. You are harvesting Hibiscus flowers from Kano, it will get to Lagos within five days but from Ogere to get to Apapa or Tincan, it will take 35 or 40 days. By then, this produce would have gotten spoilt by the time it gets to its destination, it will be rejected. What we did was, we came, we invited all the relevant agencies, and an office was given to them to do a joint examination once.
“These places are designed to be pre-gated for the containers that were examined and treated and released can access the mother port within 24 hours. Therefore, the voyage can sail within that time, therefore rejection was tackled and minimized mostly exporters came here to testify, came here to thank us for what we have done. That is a very good achievement”.
“There are challenges that we will own up to. The challenges as you know, at times, obeying the regulation is another thing. When you are not supposed to export your cocoa without inspection by the Federal Produce buys, and issuance of country certificate by Quarantine, you decided to go and fumigate your cocoa at the backside and ship it, the FAD of that country will carry out the test and will find out that it has not conformed, therefore, it will be rejected.”
Babandede further disclosed that within the first quarter of 2023, the NCS made a huge difference in revenue generation as the agency treated cargo worth over $200 million, a report he said came from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
.He further stated that in the same quarter, his quarter, Nigeria was able to repatriate $1.7 billion; the first in 42 years.
“These are some of the remarkable achievements of our men and officers. That is why we are here and I am assuring you that a container of export, once it is treated and once the voyage is there, can be loaded within 24 hours. The issue of delay, rejection, and contract cancellation is now a thing of the past. We have handled that. We keep telling the agents to promote the business of export”, he added.