By Stephen Ubanna
Between 2019 and now, economic activities at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, PortMultiservice Terminal Limited, PTML and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, including the south eastern ports of Onne, and Rivers port, amd Murtal Muhammed Airport Command, MMAC, which handles Air freight cargoes, appear to have been getting cargoes in bits and fits.
This is because of the outbreak of coronavirus in the Asian country of China, popular, Covid 19 pandemic, and which was quickly followed up with the closure of the country’s borders for foreign travelers by the Chinese government.The fallout was that many foreign travelers including Nigerians were forced to abandon their cargoes which were due for shipment into Nigeria .
The Chinese government may have taken the bold initiative to close its borders for foreign travellers on March 28, 2019, to forestall the continued spread of the disease into the country from other parts of the world. Note that the Asian country is a significant supplier of raw materials for manufacturing firms in the African Continent and Nigerian travelers, who are the major Customers of the many of the manufacturing companies who were encouraged to reduce their patronage of the Chinese goods may have forced the Chinese Companies to reduce their production capacity over the last three years Pandemic.
The drop in importation of good from China, into the Nigerian market may have been made worse in the recent time because of the Presidential and National Assembly elections that conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under the close watch of Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor in Nigeria, on February 25, 2023.
There is no gain saying the fact that Nigeria imports more Chinese goods, including electronics, machinery and clothes, than any other African nation from China prior to the outbreak of the Covid 19, Pandemic. Aware of the implications of the border closure on the Chinese economy, the Asian country government was said to have enjoined foreign nationals, including Nigerian travellers, seeking entry to China for necessary economic, trade, and technological activities, amongst other things, to apply at its embassies and Consulates to be issued VISAs, that will still be honoured but that was how far it could go.
For more than a decade, China has remained Nigeria’s largest trading partner. This may have informed why Guangzhou city, known for its trade deals and manufacturing hub, became a home to many Nigerians.
Until the Pandemic struck in China, in 2019, thousands of Nigerians, according to informed sources, at the Chinese Consulate , in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, and the Embassy in Abuja , the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, he regularly travel to the city of Guangzhou, to strike business deals . It was not surprising why over 100 million worth of goods that belong to Computer and Phone vendors in Nigeria are still lying in China, due to the border closure for foreign travellers.
More worrisome was the fact that some critical original equipment manufacturers, OEM, in the Asian country, which could not cope with the drop in the patronage of its manufactured products were forced to stop production, causing shortage of products to buy in the country by Customers, particular, Nigerians.
. The OEM, a source in the Chinese Consulate, in Lagos, had said is a company that produces non-aftermarket parts and equipment, that are marketed by another manufacturer both within and outside the country. The source disclosed that it is a common industry term recognised by such Organisations as SAE International, International Organisation for Standardisation, ISO and others.
With the Chinese government decision to reopen the closed borders after a three –year wait, for foreign travelers to come in and transact their businesses, the story may change for good in Nigeria ports as more cargoes are expected to be shipped into the Nigerian market from the country, expected to keep the importers with their clearing agents busy.
In taking the decisions to reopen its closed borders after three years wait, the Chinese government la February had declared a ‘’major and decisive victory’’ in their handling of the deadly disease that had swept the country following the abrupt relaxation of Beijing’s ‘’zero Covid in late 2022.
The Chinese Authorities decision to reopen its border for foreign travelers is coming on the heels of the Xi Jinping’s government’s plan ‘’to revive the world’s second largest economy and its domestic tourist industry aftr a year of tepid growth and exacerbated by Pandemic measures.
Going by reports from the country’s ministry of Foreign Affairs, from Wednesday, March 15, 2023, ‘’anyone with a valid VISA, including VISAs , applied before March 8, 2020, can still enter the country to do their business without needing to apply for a new one’’. This is good for many Nigerian Computers and phone vendors, who will not hesistate to take advantage of the reopened Chinese borders to make proper arrangement for the shipment of the over$100 million Computers and phones belonging to Nigerian vendors trapped in many companies Guangzhou city and other major cities in China over the last there years.
There are indications that all types of VISA applications have also been resumed and VISA –free policies were said to have also been reinstated by the government to encourage more tourists and business men and women into China.
Going by a recent reports by the state owned China Global Television Nettwork, CGTN, the first set of Passengers to arrive the country under the new rules landed at the airports in the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen on Sunday, March 12, 2023.
The 387 Passengers on board flights from the Asian country of ingapore and the North American country of Canada were not subjected to COVID 9 tests, according to an informed source, on arrival and were not made to undergo the five of quarantine at its centralized government facilities.
In easing the curbs on foreign travellers by the Chinese government, many believe that it marks the final unravelling of China’s Strict ‘’ zero-COVID 19’’ policy. The reopening of the Chinese borders after three years wait by Xi Jinping , the country’s Leader , who had won his re-election bid, for a third term , last December, may have provided another opportunity for Nigerian travelers to flood the Lagos ports of Apapa, particular, with made in China products after the governorship and state Assembly elections on March 18, 2023.
While there may be a surge of Nigerian travellers to China, particular, businessmen, many believe that it will not translate immediately to improved revenue generation at Apapa, Tincan Island, PTML, KLT, PortHarcourt Area II, Onne, Port Area I, and Murtala MMA, Commands.
For now, virtually all the Customs Commands, across the country, are complaining of sharp drop in its revenue generation over the last two months. From Apapa, where Comptroller Auwal Mohammed, calls the shot, Tincan Island, under the management of Compt. Kunle Oloyede, to PTML, where Compt. Ibrahim, was said to have tightened up security to ensure that the right thing is done by importers with their agents.
The situation is not different from MMAC, where Compt. Mohammed Yusuf directs operations,: drop in revenue generation, despite all the measures that had been put in place Area Controllers in their respective Commands to block areas of revenue Leakage like Wrong declarations, wrong classifications, Concealment, to underpayment, as directed by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Customs, Comptroller, General.
An insider informed The Value News that the Customs Formations revenue generation was worse in the month of February, 2023, the month that Nigerians went to the polls to elect the next President and the members of the 10th national Assembly Lawmakers, leading to the drop in importation of foreign products into Nigerian market and the reluctance of the importers with their agents to take delivery of cargoes at the port due to financial constraints .