The Need For An Inland Container Terminal In Onitsha
Due to the dwindling economy, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the National Assembly, and many well-meaning Nigerians have suddenly come to a moment of self realization. We have reached that point in our lives where we are forced to consider where we got it wrong, how we got it wrong, and what we can do to make the cards that we have been dealt - in these dire economic circumstances - work in our favour.
With the current drop in oil prices, Nigeria has experienced a drop in the value of its currency. With the value of the Naira exchanging at $1 to ₦390, €1 to ₦407, and £1 to₦518. Even with these astronomical exchange rates, the Naira keeps dropping on a daily basis.
What is happening in Nigeria can best be described as the ‘Dutch Disease.’ The Dutch disease is the apparent causal relationship between the increase in the economic development of a specific sector (for example natural resources such as oil, natural gas, gold, copper, diamonds or bauxite) and a decline in other sectors (like the manufacturing sector or agriculture).
All these misdemeanours started in Nigeria with the discovery of crude oil. Farming was abandoned. The groundnut pyramids in the northern parts of Nigeria disappeared. Cocoa farming in the South West and Mid-western parts of the country were neglected. Nigeria, a nation that once led the world in the production of palm oil and other vegetable oils, overtime became a net importer of vegetable oil - ceding the leadership to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore
Manufacturing was also abandoned. The textile industry collapsed and millions of jobs were lost. Our iron and steel industries became moribund, our auto industry non-existent, and crude oil, crude oil, and more crude oil, became our primary commodity.
Nigeria has been forcefully brought to a point where she has no choice but to fall back to patronizing her own home made products — “Made in Nigeria” goods. This development, obviously, is as a result of the above mentioned economic challenges that have slowly become the status quo, and forced a social and economic self-evaluation amongst the citizenry.
Legislators have been putting in efforts to fix this huge challenge. Bills have been presented and motions have been sponsored — and are still being sponsored by lawmakers in both the Upper and Lower Chambers. This is all in an effort to proffer solution to ways to save Nigeria from falling deeper into the economic meltdown.
For us to revive our economy, we need to start from somewhere, and if we will really want to start exporting “Made-in-Nigeria” goods in mass out of Nigeria, we need to prepare for it.
In this regard, there is a huge need for the establishment of inland terminals in Onitsha, Anambra State to enhance production and create opportunities for elaborate farming in the South East that will ensure rural economic growth and encourage more export in the face of the dwindling economy.
Also located in Onitsha is the commercial power house of West Africa, the Onitsha Market. This is one of the largest markets in the subregion. Most of the major import merchants from Eastern Nigeria have their head offices in this market. The average traders in the area are known to bring in at least six consignments of 40 tonnes (40-feet containers) of goods annually. Some of the major importers do more than 20 consignments of 40 tones of goods per year. These include jewelry, clothing, household, industrial and office equipment.
The Federal Government needs to take advantage of this commercial hub by creating an inland terminal in that region, owing to the fact that a massive volume of trade goes on in the south East; specifically in Aba and Onitsha. With this, farm produce like tomatoes, okro, pepper and other easily available crops at close proximity should also be incorporated into export products to help boost the economy.
Not forgetting the fact that Onitsha is bounded by the River Niger to the West and the Onitsha Market is massively patronized by merchants in the ECOWAS subregion including Accra, Abidjan, Douala, Niamey and Cotonou to mention a few.
Also, development banks in Nigeria should make provisions to accommodate cottage industries, without these cottage industries we cannot boast of development.
For us as Nigerians to be able revive our economy, we must start thinking within the box and developing its content.
Abang 'Dove' Veronica writes from Abuja and she tweets @abangdove