Perishable cargoes/vegetables exporters have counted their losses over the recent shut down of export sheds at the cargo areas of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos by the Nigeria Customs Service without considering its effect on delicate exports.
The exporters expressed worry that such interruptions portend grave danger for the economy’s agro-allied produce, adding that as a country that is encouraging exports, Customs and other government agencies at the airport should provide them incentives rather than discourage such efforts.
The exporters said they were concerned that such uncharitable actions could send wrong signals to the comity of international agro-allied supply chain, adding that they were still counting losses from the closure of export warehouses of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL).
The Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) last week closed the export shed for days over allegation that prohibited items meant for export were hidden in the sheds.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, the CEO of ABX World, a major agro-allied exporter, Captain John Okakpu said that the agro-allied exporters numbering over 100 were hurt by the decision of Customs to shut down the sheds although the facilities were re-opened two days later.
Captain Okakpu, who said the exporters lost over N100 million worth of goods within 48-hours the export warehouses were shut, called on the federal government through the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to urgently commence full-scale investigations into the immediate and remote causes of the warehouses closure to avoid future occurrences.
He said that with government’s focus on agriculture as one of the panaceas to the rising inflation, restrictions in capital flows and depleting forex reserves, agro-allied exporters deserve protection as partners.
“The truth is, we have made fundamental mistakes in the past as a nation by becoming a mono-economy. But, we cannot continue to lick the wounds. We have to reverse the case and agriculture provides us with a better option to grow. That is why as agro-allied exporters, we are seriously worried over the actions of some government officials, who seem not to underestimate the peculiarities of perishable items for export.
“Shutting down the warehouses was actually an indictment on Customs, as its officials ought to have carried out surveillance before shutting down all export businesses at the Lagos Airport. If such act is not checkmated in future it will compound issues and create a logjam in the system. Or, do we prefer to ship our cargos to countries like Ghana or Cameroun before they can be shipped to Europe and other markets? Presently, the yam sold in Europe as Ghana yams are actually from Nigeria,” Okakpu said.
He remarked that any action contradicting federal government’s agricultural road map, which was launched by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo recently should not be treated with levity.
“We made efforts to reach relevant authorities. For instance, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council was outraged because they understand the bad image the incidence will create at the international market. The agricultural road map by the government is a step in the right direction hence we are in full support of the programme. However, we pray for its implementation and not, like in the past after drafting tiger-paper legislations, conferences and researches, they end up in the shelves,” he said.