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FG: Ports to operate 24-hour service

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, has said plans are underway for the ports in Nigeria to operate 24 hours a…

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, has said plans are underway for the ports in Nigeria to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week to facilitate quicker movement of goods.

He this Thursday during the weekly ministerial briefing on the Sugar Backward Integration Program (BIP) organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He was reacting to question that sought to know what the government was doing to tackle the challenges that hinder the clearance of goods at the ports.

The minister said as vice chairman of the Presidential Ease of Doing Business Environment Council (PEBEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, he could confirm that the council had been working to improve the business environment in the country.

“As you are all aware, the government is spending a lot of money on infrastructure, the road to the port. Contracts have been awarded for scanning machines for the Customs to enable them clear goods more efficiently and quicker.

“Before the end of the year, it is believed that the new port at Lekki will be operational. So, plans are already underway to fix the road network to those ports so that there will be quick evacuation of goods from the ports at minimal cost and minimal effort for both imported and exported. So, efforts are being made, the challenges are being addressed with a view to easing that particular challenge,” he said.

On the development of ports, he said apart from Apapa and Tin Can, there are plans for a new port to come up in Badagry after the new port in Lekki.

Adebayo said the government was looking at improving the road network at Port Harcourt and Onne ports so that it can ease the congestion of Lagos.

“At the last PEBEC meeting, we also looked at the possibility of utilization of Warri port, but there are certain issues and problems with it at the moment that are being looked into. I believe the breakwater has collapsed, so, government is looking at how that can be repaired and to see how dredging can be done so that bigger vessels can use that port.

“Calabar port is a problem, apparently there is a court case on that one at the moment with regards to a subcontract for the dredging of that as well,” he said.

On the sugar master plan implementation, he said the millions of dollars expected to finance the project was coming from the private sector major industrialists involved in the backward integration programme.

He expressed optimism that the cultivation of 10,000 hectares for the sugar backward integration programme should be over within 18 months.

The minister said though the investment on sugar production plan would take time to yield return, it has created employment for 15,000 people.

He disclosed that government is not giving out any loans on the sugar backward integration programme but is providing intervention through the provision of infrastructure.

The minister, who declined to open up on the products that Nigeria imported from Russia and Ukraine currently engaged in war, however, dismissed the notion that the country imported raw sugar from Ukraine.

He said trade department in his ministry would produce a policy paper to be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari after a thorough analysis of the current situation between the two warring countries.

“I can assure you that my ministry is looking at all the issues involved. And since the war has come up, the trade department in my ministry is looking at all the things that we import, and that we export to them with a view to coming up with a policy paper, which we will be presenting to the President,” he said when asked to speak on the trade relationship between Nigeria and Ukraine.

On whether the excise duty on soft drinks based on sugar consumption would not have a negative impact on manufacturers of sugar in the country, he said: “In the long term, it might have an effect on sugar producers. But in the short term, it will not.”

“At present, our sugar intake in Nigeria, we import 1.7 billion tons of raw sugar every year. At the present moment, we are only manufacturing less than 5% of that. So, it gives us an opportunity to build up what we are manufacturing,” Adebayo explained.

He said the ministry hopes that Nigeria will be self-sufficient in sugar production in 10 years and be able to export sugar.

Asked whether the ministry had seen the investors who had signified interest in the sugar investment, he said: “We get interest every day, we analyze these interests, and we give support to anybody who is interested in participating in the backward integration program of sugar.”

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