| Code: 87309 |

TIN news:   Activities at the Lagos ports have gradually come to a grinding halt as the foreign exchange restrictions announced last year by the Federal Government takes a heavy toll on the nation’s economy.
This situation has left many who depend on Africa’s hitherto busiest ports for living to idle away.
The Nigerian Ports Authority recently released a report of its performance, with the Managing Director, Habib Abdullahi, saying the number of ocean-going vessels that called at the ports had declined by 8.1 per cent.
He said a total of 5,090 vessels “called at the ports in 2015, which is a decrease of 8.1 per cent when compared to the 5,541 recorded in 2014.”
This drop has also affected the NPA’s revenue as it generated N11.9bn in 2015, indicating a drop of 1.7 per cent from the N12.1bn generated the previous year.
In its latest report on the issue, the National Bureau of Statistics said that Nigeria’s imports decreased by 24.7 per cent in December 2015.
The report entitled: ‘Nigeria Imports from 1981 to 2016’, stated, “In the last quarter of the year (2015), purchases declined by 22.4 per cent. Imports in Nigeria averaged N164.26bn from 1981 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of N1.5tn in March of 2011.”
The forex restrictions, aimed at boosting local manufacturing industries and agriculture, have instead forced local manufacturers to cut operations and lay off workers due to their inability to import raw materials.
Licensed customs agents lamented the lull in port activities occasioned by the continued decline in imports.
The President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero, said many customs agents had lost their jobs and relocated to their home towns.
Amiwero, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Wednesday, said, “Many offices have closed down. Those who have not relocated cannot even afford the transport fares to come down to the ports anymore.
“This is an import-dependent country; so, the restriction of forex for the importation of 41 items by the central bank has really affected port activities. We hope the government eventually reviews the restriction. This quarter has not been impressive.”
The Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria, Mr. Val Usifo, was quoted in a report by the Financial Times as saying that members of the group were feeling the pressure of low imports.
“All aspects of the economy are interrelated and these heavy restrictions are causing more uncertainty,” he said.
The association represents the international companies handling container trade in Nigeria, including the Danish shipping giant, Maersk, and France’s CMA CGM.
A senior manager at a port operator told the FT that arrival of vessels importing steel was down by about 60 per cent.
“The ports are nearly empty and Customs revenue is nowhere close to where it should be,” the manager stated.
Only last week, the Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service reported a shortfall in revenue of N2.7bn for the first quarter of 2016.
The Public Relations Officer of the command, Chris Osunkwo, said, “About N58.9bn was generated in the first quarter of 2016, whereas N61.6bn was generated for the corresponding period of 2015.”
The Comptroller-General, NCS, Hameed Ali, recently attributed the shortfall in the Customs’ revenue to foreign exchange policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which barred importers of 41 select items from accessing the official forex window.
He said that the service, as a whole, had a revenue shortfall of N230bn in the last quarter of 2015.
Despite these challenges, the NCS announced plans to make N1tn in revenue this year.
Usifoh confirmed a slight increase in the volume of exports in recent months in his interview with the FT.

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