By Shola Fadeyi
Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike, ANLCA President
Despite the calamitous effects of the ongoing COVID 19 Pandemic on Nigeria’a economy, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) is convinced that there are ways the impact of the disease can be used ,as an opportunity to develop the seaports and create more jobs in the sector.
The National President of the Association, Honourable Tony Iju Nwabunike, who identified the fresh measures in a Statement yesterday, said instead of job losses and non payment of salaries of workers in some other sectors of the economy, due to the pandemic, the maritime sector, rather has the potentials to be used to reflate the economy.
He said though, the maritime sector is not completely insulated from effects of the pandemic, but pointed out that it nevertheless holds the potentials to serve as Nigeria’s low hanging fruits for economic growth, stability and survival.
Nwabunike believed that unlike the aviation industry, where government agencies like Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) including airlines are laying off workers ,and thus shrinking in human capital needs, the maritime industry still holds the ace as an indispensable mode for global trade and commerce.
According to him, instead of customs brokers, freight forwarders, truck owners, chandlers and other ancillary service providers in the industry worrying about the likelihood of job losses,they should rather gravitate towards keeping themselves abreast with virtual technological operations should be developed at the ports.
According to him, while ANLCA has always advocated for a modern port regime with lesser amount of persons coming into port areas, the effect of the pandemic has now made it necessary for virtual operations to be fast tracked, as businesses can now be conducted online without customs brokers leaving the comforts of their homes and offices.
Nwabunike specifically recommended for everyone wishing to use ports and other maritime services moving forward, to get acquinated with the Webinars Online Communications Technology for meetings and in business and corporate decisions without traveling.
Beyond this , he said Nigeria as a matter of urgency must develop non oil exports from where it has taken the back stage position in export of commodities like cocoa, palm oil, and many other agricultural products, suggesting that the value chain from the farms through logistics to the ports for outward shipping will generate additional employment.
The ANLCA boss said that the economy should identify products for which Nigeria has comparative advantage, explaining that since locally made electric cables have been known for being of higher quality than most imported ones, Government should be the number one buyer of such quality products ,while encouraging citizens to do same without promoting monopoly and profiteering.
He said urgent steps must be taken by the government to refine crude oil locally and stop the importation of refined petroleum products as well as halt a situation , where a good amount of what should have been earnings for the country from the sales of crude oil has gone into payment for subsidies on imported products.