The Niger Republic will soon start importing and exporting her cargoes through the Nigerian ports again more than a decade after it abandoned the country's seaports due to decaying port infrastructure.
The executive secretary and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, who said this, disclosed that Nigeria expects to handle up to three million metric tons (mt) of Niger's cargoes.
Bello who recently led a trade delegation made up of port concessionaires, port administrators, government officials and other shipping service providers to Niger Republic on the behest of the Federal Ministry of Transport, told Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) on Monday that the two countries would soon formalise their trade agreements.
This has become so significant in view of the huge economic activity being generated in that country that has joined the league of oil producing nations. Major imports into Niger Republic, like Nigeria, are mostly consumer goods while the country exports uranium, sesame seed, Arabic gum, groundnut and skin. The country is now also an oil producing country and it looks up to the ports of neighbouring countries to export its crude oil because it is landlocked.
Bello said, "Niger and Chad were importing through Nigerian ports but its inefficiency prior to the port concession of 2006 led them to move to Ghana, and other countries, where impediments was almost none existent compared to Nigeria.
"Efficiency is a function of competition. No matter how near you are, people want to get their goods in time. Time is money in shipping. So because of the internal impediments and roadblocks - there are more roadblocks from Nigeria to Niger Republic than from Burkina Faso to Niger Republic - they changed. It was an economic decision."
Niger Republic is currently doing about 2.5 million mts in Benin Republic, 1.5 million mts in Togo and close to a million mts in Ghana. But Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) boss said from projections, Nigerian ports can do up to three million mts annually and up to two thousand Niger Republic bound containers monthly.
Meanwhile, about 70 per cent of Niger Republic cargo transited through Nigerian ports until 2006. It is currently zero per cent.
Bello said that the NSC will drive this process to a conclusion and has engaged all the relevant stakeholders including the Nigeriens shippers who are now ready to use ports in Nigeria, especially now that "the federal government returned efficiency to the ports when it concessioned the ports. Niger Republic is now about to transport its cargo through Nigeria."
He said the NSC would rally round the terminal operators because if the country gets such tonnage, it will increase their capacity and it will make them more profitable.
He noted also that the Calabar and Port Harcourt ports currently under patronised, are being considered for the handling of chemicals. "This," Bello said, "will give Nigeria the economic advantage, it will cement the long relationship between Niger and Nigeria, also it is a prestigious thing to see that Niger is now trying to import goods through Nigeria. This will be cemented with the revitalisation of the rail lines.