Event: Post-civil war, 1975

In 1975, the Port of Lagos faced a severe disruption. While the situation improved with the port reforms introduced in the early 2000s, it continued to face ongoing congestion (UNCTAD, 2014). The port congestion reported during the COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point (UNCTAD, 2020).

Causes and impact19

The Nigerian civil war (1967–1970) caused damage to most the country’s ports and port infrastructure. After the war, improved economic conditions resulted in more trade and port activity, resulting in severe port congestion (Oguche H., 2018). Among the factors amplifying the disruption were: (i) ineffective cargo handling operations; (ii) lengthy procedures and documentation work; (iii) unskilled dock workers; (iv) lack of cargo handling equipment; and (v) lack of proper hinterland transportation systems (Raballand G. et al, 2012).

Response and mitigation measures

Extensive port rehabilitation efforts were made in the post-war period. By the mid-2000s, the Nigerian government introduced private port concession as part of the port reform model. It retained ownership of the infrastructure and, for a specified period, contracted out facility operations to the private sector, such as terminal operators. These reforms resulted in the Port of Lagos achieving operational efficiency gains owing to the concession, with vessel turnaround time falling by more than half between 2006 and 2017. Infrastructure modernization, process optimization, and simplification of administrative procedures largely contributed to improving port performance and minimizing congestion risk.

Lessons learned and good practice

  • Ports must obtain the strategic tools to identify the causes of recurrent congestion and determine relevant actions to tackle these causes, including from a governance and infrastructure perspectives.
  • Address (i) infrastructural deficiency; (ii) undeveloped intermodal facilities; and (iii) poor hinterland connection.
  • Establishing standards to benchmark operational performance and productivity.
  • Consider Port reforms and port governance aspects, including the landlord model that incorporates public-private partnership schemes that attract investors, know-how, and modern port management practices (Ogochukwu U. & Kayode O., 2021).
  • Strengthen cooperation among port community stakeholders and partners across the transport chain when aiming to address bottlenecks and manage risks (Ogochukwu U. & Kayode O. Ibid).
  • Promote efficient hinterland connections and diversify modal options to alleviate inland transport bottlenecks.
  • Invest in digital solutions to improve operational efficiency, and simplify administrative and regulatory procedures and documentation.



19 This section also draws upon Bogale S. (2021).