The lines of aging blue, red and yellow trucks begin almost 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the gates of Nigeria’s main port of Apapa.
Valentine, a 34-year-old driver, has been queuing outside the Lagos site for two weeks. He’s had to deal with policemen demanding bribes and fend off hoodlums known as area boys. “This is the worst I’ve seen it,” he said, changing tires in a grimy orange t-shirt. “Every year, it gets worse.”
The congestion outside and inefficiency within Nigeria’s ports is choking the economy, which vies with South Africa as the continent’s biggest, and causes havoc for businesses that use them to import everything from cars to computers, food and machinery.
Nigeria loses $19 billion annually, or about 5 percent of gross domestic product, from the delays, traffic jams, illegal charges and insecurity that are increasingly prevalent at its ports, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry said in a report this year.
In the World Bank’s Trading Across Borders survey, which measures the time and expense involved with importing and exporting goods, Nigeria ranks 182nd out of 190 countries, below Syria and Afghanistan.
The problems at Apapa and other ports such as Calabar and Port Harcourt have been a headache for successive administrations, which have failed to fix decaying infrastructure, reduce stifling red tape and tackle corruption. Terminal operators, including APM Terminals, a unit of Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk A/S, rely on generators because power cuts are so frequent.
But it’s worsened in recent years, especially at Apapa. Crumbling roads have all but ground trucks to a halt. Once they do manage to enter, drivers and businesses have to contend with a plethora of customs, immigration and security agents before they can pick up containers. It can take 20 days to clear products, compared with 48 hours in neighboring Benin and Ghana, according to the LCCI.
The cost of moving a container from Apapa to other parts of Lagos has soared to as much as 700,000 naira ($1,930) from about 150,000 naira two years ago as trucking firms put up their prices to make up for the delays, according to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
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