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Nigerians reeling under the yoke of fuel scarcity

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NMDPRA seals 13 fuel stations, sanctions 3 in Akwa Ibom

With barely 26 days to the end of 2022, and with the busy Yuletide season beckoning, Nigerians have continued to groan over the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, in major cities across the country.

Correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) observed queues at most filling stations in Lagos and its environs, as motorists spent several hours buying petrol.

The situation is unabating in Lagos, particularly in Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu, Agege, Ikotun, Surulere, Ikorodu road, Maryland, Ikeja, Anthony, Bariga, Ilupeju, Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas, as motorists are agitated for spending several hours on queues.

Though many filling stations in Lagos still sell fuel at the official price of 170 per litre, residents continue to lament the frustration experienced in getting the product to buy.

In Badagry, independent marketers sell petrol at between N280 and N300 per litre while some filing stations are under lock and key due to lack of supply.

A NAN correspondent in Badagry said from Mowo to Aradagun along Badagry Expressway, only two filing stations out of 10 stations sold fuel throughout last week.

At Samuel Ekundayo Way, Badagry, Mobil filing station and ENYO filing station sold fuel at between N170 and N175 per litre, but both experienced long queues of motorists.

Mr Ibrahim Opeyemi, a motorist, lamented that he was in the queue for two days without buying fuel.

“I have been in the queue since Wednesday, the price of petroleum here is reasonable, it is N170 and they are selling the product but many independent marketers in Badagry are selling a litre for N300.

“I want to appeal to the government to address the scarcity before 2023,” he said.

Mr Sam Ofade, a resident of Badagry, said illegal bunkering was responsible for the high price of petrol in Badagry.

According to him, over 500,000 litres of petrol are diverted to the Republic of Benin through independent marketers who collude with illegal operators to shortchange the government.

“Many women from Benin Republic cross to Badagry through our borders to buy petrol inside Ragolis bottles and Jerry cans.

“I want the government to investigate the illegal bunkering and high price of petrol in Badagry,” he said.

In Mushin-Isolo, NAN found out that selling in jerrycans was more attractive to attendants at filling stations who charged additional costs.

At G&G filling station along Mushin-Isolo road, a barber, Mr Ismaila Ofolahun, who bought fuel in his keg decried the difficulty in buying fuel.

Ofolahun said he paid N1000 before he was allowed to buy fuel in his 50-litre keg for N5,000, bringing the total cost to N6,000.

“I buy in excess so that my business will not run down,” he said.

In some suburbs of Ikorodu, majority of filling stations of Independent marketers sell petrol between N230 and N250 per litre. 

A visit to Dikram, Bravo limat, Akamok, mallo, Collins, Alaka Happy Days and Dominions Favour filling stations showed that they were all selling at above the regulated price. 

Some of the attendants who spoke to NAN said: “It is only during scarcity vehicles patronise us.

“We cannot sell below N230 per litre because of the high cost of foreign exchange in buying the product from depot owners.”

Motorists in Ikorodu town suffer the same faith, for instance at NIPCO filling station in Omitiro, petrol is sold for N175 per little while ADB filling station at Itamaga sells at N250 per litre, but they are subjected to long hours in queues.

Mr Samson Alejo, a motorist, said he expected the next government to do everything possible to stabilise fuel supply since it had been established that subsidy would be removed totally. 

Another motorist, Mr Femi Alekun, said petrol marketers should not be allowed to put Nigerians in dilemma anymore, and that their unions must be disbanded.

The lingering scarcity has thrown up a thriving “Black Market” in many cities, with hoodlums taking advantage of the situation to hoard products and sell to desperate motorists in jerrycans at exorbitant prices.

A five-litre jerrycan goes for N3,000 and 10 litres for N7,000 in the black market.

It was also observed that many women and youths are making brisk business, taking advantage of the perennial fuel scarcity.

Some homes around Idi-Araba area of Mushin had various litres of petrol displayed on their front porches for sale.

On Ikorodu road, black market activities are more pronounced as many youths sell petrol in jerrycans in front of filling stations. 

NAN found out that only filling stations owned by Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) sell at the regulated price of N170 per litre, while those owned by Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) sell between N220 and N260 respective petroleum marketers have blamed private depot owners for the lingering fuel scarcity, while some stakeholders blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. (NNPCL) for not explaining to Nigerians the cause of the current fuel scarcity in the country.

Some marketers who preferred not to be mentioned attributed the current scarcity of fuel to three major factors. 

One is that the NNPC is broke and has no money to finance the importation of fuel into the country.  

To attest to the fact that NNPC is broke, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently said the NNPC, which used to remit 3 billion dollars into CBN account some years ago is now unable to do so.

The company is said to be highly indebted to some of its contractors/suppliers who are no longer ready to take the risk of supplying petrol to NNPC on credit.

The second point is crude oil theft, which was allowed to fester for too long, which has reduced Nigeria’s production capacity to below one million barrels per day.

This is considered a major blow to NNPCL’s ability to continue with its Direct Sales of Crude Oil and Direct Purchase of Petroleum Products (DSDP) programme.

NNPCL currently has no crude oil to facilitate the DSDP programme as many of the contractors no longer have access to crude oil proceeds to finance the purchase of refined products for use in the country.

NAN learnt that there were products in vessels on the high seas but the owners of the products were unwilling to take the risk of supplying them to NNPCL on credit.

The situation is compounded by the fact that other players that could have helped to import fuel to ease the fuel scarcity cannot do so due to scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) or its high cost.

Marketers access forex from the black market at an average rate of between N700 and N800 to the dollar, which is considered a disincentive.

The petroleum marketers themselves have attributed the current fuel scarcity to the unavailability of petroleum products and difficulty in accessing forex.

According to the marketers, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) are struggling to get products from NNPCL, the sole supplier.

Mr Mike Osatuyi, the Operations Controller of lPMAN, alleged that NNPCL had stopped importing enough petrol to meet demand in the country.

Osatuyi was emphatic that marketers could no longer sell at the regulated price because the unsteady supply of petrol had resulted in higher prices at depots.

“We are experiencing scarcity because the product is not available.

“The price of a litre of petrol at private depots is currently between N205 and N210 as against N162.50.

“The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd., is the sole importer of refined petroleum products, which are not readily available to marketers,” he said.

The oil marketers and petroleum depot operators have, however, called for quick intervention by the Federal Government.

The Chairperson of DAPPMAN, Mrs Winifred Akpani, urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to comply with the Federal Government’s directive to end payment of port charges in dollars for petroleum products brought into the country.

Akpani maintained that accessing forex through the CBN window would enhance their capacity, facilitate a seamless supply of petrol, and birth a regime of sustainability in terms of storage, distribution and supply across the nation.

Stakeholders have also flayed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) for not protecting consumers of petrol from greedy marketers.

They blamed NMDPRA, which they said had continued to look away, leaving consumers to their fate.

“When the authority was operating as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), it monitored and ensured that retail outlets that hoarded fuel were penalised and forced to sell.

“Likewise retail outlets that sold above the regulated price were penalised,” said a source who declined to be mentioned.

The source added that the management of NMDPRA had become a toothless bulldog that could not even bark.

The source urged NMDPRA to wake up to its responsibilities or let Nigerians know if the federal government had fully deregulated the price of petrol through the back door and saved the consumers untold hardship.

Meanwhile, the Group Executive Director, Downstream, NNPCL, Mr Adeyemi Adetunji, said the company was making efforts to end the lingering supply crisis, adding that about 2 billion litres of petrol sufficient to last for 30 days was available in its depots.

He said: “The NNPCL assures Nigerians of fuel sufficiency of over 2 billion litres availability. The company has enough stock in its depots to last for at least one month.”

The NNPCL attributed the long queues at filling stations across the country in recent times to the ongoing road infrastructure development project around Apapa, which is being complicated by the access road and challenges in parts of Lagos depots.

Adetunji said Abuja was equally impacted by the challenges experienced in Lagos, although he promised massive product load out including 24 hours operations in selected depots and extended hours of operations at strategic stations to ensure product supply sufficiency nationwide.

He said vessels had been programmed and massive load out from depots to various states were closely monitored.

He reassured consumers that NNPC was prepared to significantly increase products loading from depots to different parts of the country.

Also, NMDPRA in a statement on Nov. 30 assured there were no plans to hike the price of petrol.

The statement said: “The Authority wishes to inform the general public that the Federal Government has no intention of increasing the price of PMS during this period.

“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) has imported PMS with current stock levels sufficient for 34 days.

“Consequently, products Marketers and the general public are advised to avoid panic buying, diversion of products, and hoarding.”

The Authority said in keeping with its responsibilities as outlined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the Authority assures the public that it would continue to monitor the supply and distribution of all petroleum products nationwide, especially during this holiday season.

Amid all these challenges, stakeholders insist deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas sector remains the best solution to ending fuel scarcity in Nigeria. 

By Yunus Yusuf

– News Agency of Nigeria 

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Features

Ekweremadu’s fall: A test of Nigeria’s diplomatic dexterity?

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FG, Ohanaeze Worldwide, others condemn attack on Ekweremadu in Germany

In what some analysts have described as a “`fall from grace to grass”, former Deputy Senate President of Nigeria, Ike Ekweremadu was on May 5, sentenced to nine years and eight months in jail after a United Kingdom (UK) court found him, his wife, and his doctor culpable in a case of organ trafficking.

The Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court also sentenced his wife, Beatrice, to four years six months in prison while the medical doctor Dr Obinna Obeta, who acted as a ‘middleman’ in the plot was sentenced to 10 years and his medical licence suspended.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Ekweremadus were convicted of trafficking a street trader from Lagos to Britain to illegally harvest his kidney for a transplant on their sick daughter, thus violating British laws on kidney donation and transplant

The conviction came on the heels of pleas by the Nigerian Senate, the Federal House of Representatives, the ECOWAS Parliament, government officials, and notable Nigerians, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo who had written to the court to tamper justice with mercy.

The Nigerian Senate had urged the court for clemency in delivering judgment against the Ekweremadus as first offenders and considering the former senator’s contributions to humanity.

“Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu served for 12 years as Deputy Senate President and he put in so much effort to the development of the Parliament across Africa, and in the world.

“He was not found wanting and so what has happened is very unfortunate.

“I have written a letter to the British judicial authorities about three weeks ago on behalf of the Senate seeking Clemency, given the history of Senator Ekweremadu.

“We are now using this particular intervention to seek clemency in the sentencing.

“The conviction has been done, but we are seeking clemency because this is the first time, our colleague, a patriot, a leader, a great leader, a very peaceful man is getting involved in this kind of thing.

“Had we all known that this would be the case, certainly we would not have gone into that kind of situation because we are law-abiding citizens and we respect our country and its laws and laws of other countries,” Ahmad Lawan, President of the Senate said.

The Federal House of Representatives had also written a similar letter to the court for lenience.

A member of the House, Mr Toby Okechukwu had moved a motion for clemency on the floor of the parliament based on the long-standing history and cordial ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

The House highlighted Ekweremadu’s contributions to the Commonwealth of Nations and his innocent intention to save the life of his sick daughter, Sonia, while calling for back channels for diplomatic interventions.

Group Lauds Obasanjo's Advocacy on Power Shift to Youths; 661,783 PVCs remain uncollected in Edo

*Chief Obasanjo

Obasanjo in his letter pleaded for mercy and profiled Ekweremadu with a sense of responsibility, stressing that though he recognised the act as illegitimate, the UK court should be magnanimous in mercy.

“Ekweremadu’s conferment with the coveted national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) is further testimony to his selfless service to our country, Nigeria.

“Mr Chief Clerk, I am very much aware of the current travails and conviction of Ike Ekweremadu and his wife in the United Kingdom resulting from their being charged with conspiring to arrange the travel of a 21-year-old from Nigeria to the UK in order to harvest organs for their daughter.

“I do realise the implications of their action and I dare say, it is unpleasant and condemnable and cannot be tolerated in any sane or civilised society.

“However, it is my fervent desire for very warm relations between the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Nigeria; for his position as one of the distinguished senators in the Nigerian Parliament, and also for the sake of their daughter in question whose current health condition is in danger and requires urgent medical attention, you will use your good offices to intervene and appeal to the court and the government of the United Kingdom to be magnanimous enough to temper justice with mercy and let punishment that may have to come to take their good character and parental instinct and care into consideration,’’ the letter read in part.

In spite of all the pleas for clemency from various quarters including diplomatic contacts, the Court gave what many have described as a harsh sentence. Is this then a test of Nigeria’s diplomatic dexterity?

Constitutional Lawyer, Kayode Ajulo while reacting to the sentence, urged the Federal Government to explore diplomatic means to get a pardon for the senator.

He said he had written to King Charles III, pleading for a Prerogative of Mercy for the Ekweremadus.

“Your Majesty, though invigorated by your coronation, I witnessed the same with mixed emotions.

“Ekweremadu and his wife have been convicted and sentenced accordingly and I plead that you graciously and mercifully invoke the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in favour of the couple,” he said.

Mr Frank Tietie, a Human Rights lawyer described the judgement as harsh, insisting that more diplomatic channels could have been explored by the Nigerian government to get a shorter sentence for the Ekweremadus.

Lawyers and analysts like Ajulo and Tietie are of the opinion that while not condoning crime in any form, the Federal Government’s citizen diplomacy policy thrust should be re-activated regardless of the status of Nigerians across the world.

The citizen diplomacy policy places priority on the protection of the interest of Nigerian citizens both at home and abroad.

It also seeks to protect the rights, dignity, and privileges of Nigerian citizens in their countries of residence abroad.

Experts say the policy implies that individual citizens are not just the centre-piece of state policies but also have the right and even the responsibility to help realise the country’s national interests through their interactions to complement official diplomatic activity.

-By Muhyideen Jimoh

(NAN Features)

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Book – The Iconic Bola Ahmed Tinubu – for launch March 25

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Book – The Iconic Bola Ahmed Tinubu – for launch March 25

Mentorship

By Oluwatope Lawanson

Co-authors of the book, The Iconic Bola Ahmed Tinubu: An Inspiration to African Youths –  on Tuesday called for effective mentoring of the youth toward nation-building.

The co-authors, Messrs Oki Samson and Abayomi Oyelami made the call at a press conference held on Victoria Island, Lagos State.

Samson said that nation-building would require citizens to align themselves with leaders with the interest of the country at heart.

“They see their efforts, sacrifices and paths laid for the progress of the society. For instance, in South Africa, we have had people such as Nelson Mandela and others who the citizens looked up to.

“In Nigeria, we have exceptional leaders of thought and deeds, who we can align ourselves within the area of mentorship, to have a better society.

“One of the leaders or rather exceptional leaders our youths can look up to for nation-building is Tinubu, who stands to be counted as a hero of democracy,” he said.

Samson noted that the struggle for democracy by Sen. Bola Tinubu, the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, and some others facilitated Nigeria’s democratic growth.

He said that Tinubu, a two-term  Governor of Lagos State, had shown a passion for Nigeria’s progress.

“Right from 1999, Tinubu has yet to look back in ensuring that our democracy is well-nurtured, he has been on tour of many states in the country for this cause.

“Tinubu was not bothered whenever he got any negative criticism from any quarters; instead, he used the criticism to build on his strong points,” he said.

Samson said that while some people might disagree with Tinubu’s line of thought, his achievement as one of the defenders of democracy would continue to stand him out.

“Some may disagree with Tinubu’s style, but one thing is sure: he remains a hero of democracy. He fought for it and stood by it.

“The energy and passion that Tinubu puts into his programmes are what the youths can learn from, his never-die spirit and resoluteness are virtues to consider,” Samson said.

He implored the youth to read the book without political sentiments to be able to gain from it.

On his part, Oyelami said that it would be beneficial to learn from outstanding people.

“We need to appreciate the leaders we have, they have paid their dues in giving us a better society.

“At this critical time of elections, we need to ask ourselves what type of leaders we want.

“For the subject of discussion, Tinubu has a character that youths can emulate to build a stronger Nigeria.

“He is a role model to the youth, he has allowed them to have their say even in his government because he ran an all-inclusive government,” he said.

He said that the book would be launched on March 25.

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FG Must fulfill Obligation to Reap Benefits of Port Concession

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Nunc Dimittis: Buhari Advocates Regular Gulf of Guinea Summit To Ensure Peace, Security

When the Federal Government embarked on port reform in 2006, culminating in the concession of cargo handling operations to private terminal operators, there were expectations of massive transformation in port operations, and aptly so.

With the concession, 25 terminals were handed over to private companies in Lagos, Rivers, Calabar, Delta and Onne, with the port authority retaining ownership of the ports.

The private companies were required to provide and maintain their own superstructure, including buildings and cargo-handling equipment at the terminals.

The objective of the port concession was to increase efficiency in port operation, decrease the cost of port services to stakeholders as well as decrease cost of running the ports by the government.

However, 16 years after the port concession, stakeholders insist the country is yet to reap its full benefits.

The general belief is that the port authority has not lived up to expectations with regards to provision of the enabling environment, and has not fulfilled some of its obligations in the concession agreement.

Maritime stakeholders postulate that the private operators have done their own part and it’s left for the government to fulfill its obligations for the country to reap the full benefits of the port concession.

Dr. Kayode Farinto, acting president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), urged government to live up to its responsibility by providing 24-hour electricity.

He said even though the government had awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the road leading to the seaport, the work had been very slow. 

He said the government should prevail on the contractor to fast-track the implementation of its intermodal transport system as many of the cargoes that transited the port in terms of import and export solely relied on the road. 

“On the rail system, we have been hearing stories about the rail being bought, the rail system has gone beyond what we are having here,” he said.

He noted that the payment in dollars by concessionaires should be reviewed by the government so that it could add value and strengthen the naira.

He also called for the review of the port concession agreement, adding that a concessionaire unable to add value should be suspended.

“Port concession has brought another era of port operations into cargo clearance. It has added value and I can score port concession 60 percent, at least now, the custodian of the goods can deliver.

“Also, we have one or two indigenous companies that have a lot of success stories, likewise some foreign companies, in terms of handling equipment.

“Port concession is not a total failure, there has been a success story in one part and in some parts there is a need for the federal government to review it,” he said.

The ANLCA boss said there were new handling equipment that could handle thousands of containers in an hour, noting that any concessionaire with obsolete equipment was taking the country back to the medieval period.

“Fifteen years ago I visited the Antwerp Port, they are talking about Port Development Plan viz-a-viz 2035, we don’t even have port development plan, we don’t have a consistent policy. 

“We need to have a Ministry of Maritime Affairs so that we can use that opportunity to develop our port industry and more revenue can be generated by the federal government, and all these things have not been harnessed,” he said.

Before the concession, the entire operations of the ports were manually conducted, and bureaucracy worsened the situation making the entire port environment chaotic, Mrs. Joy Monije, a freight forwarder, said.

Monije noted that the concession brought improvement and innovations, with operations being done digitally.

“But before the COVID-19 pandemic, there had not been much improvement. It was as a result of COVID that so many things changed.

“COVID-19 helped to reduce human interface and introduced technology in port operations.

“People now know that it’s not compulsory to come together at the ports to achieve their aim. If it’s implemented more, by 2023, I believe things will be much better.

“In the area of costing, we are paying through our nose. Before now, we don’t pay demurrage and even on weekends when they don’t work, we don’t pay anything.

“But now things are done in stages, if one does not complete a stage, you cannot move to the next line and this distorts things, making us to pay demurrage,” she said.

The spokesman for Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Dr. Bolaji Akinola, said without a doubt, the economy had benefitted from the port concession. 

He listed the benefits of port concession including injection of private capital into port development, elimination of port congestion, modernisation of ports and better cargo handling equipment.

Others, he said, were competition among terminal operators, improved welfare and training of port workers and the institution of the condition of service for dockworkers. 

“Recall that prior to port concession, dockworkers were casualised; they did not have employers and did not have condition of service. 

“The narrative has since changed with the introduction of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which created a condition of service for them and also created room for review of their remuneration every two years,” he said.

Akinola said the drawbacks at the ports were a result of the cumbersome cargo clearing process and physical examination of cargo by the Nigeria Customs Service.

He added that the over-dependence on roads for cargo delivery, as well as bad roads leading into and out of the ports, were some of the reasons the country was not reaping the full benefits of port concession.

“I believe that once these challenges are addressed by the government, Nigerians will reap more gains from port concession,” he said.

Similarly, Mr. Hassan Bello, former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said there had been gains in port reform; palpable yet limited.

He said the reform was short of being revolutionary, changing radically the dynamics of the port operation such as efficiency in port operation – largely because of the private sector participation, increased port revenue and others.

Bello said, unfortunately, the vestiges of the pre-reform era still remained, as efficiency was not optimal – port operation characterised by delays, inertia, lack of transparency, primitive and tedious cargo clearance procedures.

“The port is still being run as mostly a manual port even though some terminals are operating digitally. Thus, the port is still plagued by human contacts and having 21 days cargo dwell time – very long,” he said.

He said the reforms were not comprehensive and had gaps like multi-model access to rail, road, inland waterways; an absence of clarity and inclusiveness in the regulatory and legal framework.

“There seems, therefore, a lack of effort by the government to carry out structural reforms in related sectors, such as enhancing inland connectivity. 

“There is no deliberate linkage or integration of transport infrastructure, ports were haphazardly cited without regard to logistic dynamism,” he said.

In addressing the present state of the ports, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, noted that there were options for the rehabilitation of the country’s ports. 

He said what led to defects in infrastructure at the ports was the reduction in the ability of the ports to generate revenue to invest in the rehabilitation of the ports and other off-dock locations and provide equipment for maritime service.

Bello-Koko noted that one of the options was for NPA to totally fund the port rehabilitation, but to do that, government needed to give concession and not ask NPA to transfer revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

“This year alone, we have transferred over N100 billion to the CRF and imagine if the amount is allowed back for the reconstruction of the port.

“To say NPA should fund it holistically, we know it’s impossible, reason being that normal construction period for such infrastructure is three years and there is no revenue to pay any contractor,” he said.

Bello-Koko noted that the second option was to go for a hybrid finance model where the NPA and the federal government would provide part of the money, while a multilateral lending agency would provide the balance.

He said another option was for terminal operators to reconstruct the ports but at a high cost.

“The decision taken by the ministry of transportation, NPA and probably with the federal government is to allow NPA to use 50 percent of the amount transferred to CRF in the next four to five years.

“If on average NPA transfers N80 million to CRF and is allowed to use 50 percent to reconstruct the port, it will go a long way and we hope we get the approval,” he said.

From the prevailing views, long after the Federal Government carried out its port reform, particularly the port concession, the country is far from benefiting maximally from the reforms.

And for that to happen, it is believed that the government must fulfill its part of the port concession agreements by proving key infrastructure and an overall enabling environment.

– An analysis by Chiazo Ogbolu

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