Nigeria has concluded plans to handle the imports and exports of one of its neighbours, Niger Republic. Following the development, the landlocked country will soon start importing and exporting their cargoes through Nigerian ports again after so many years.
Acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC), Alhaji Hassan Bello, who dropped the hint in a chat with the leadership of Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos, said the move was expected to increase cargoes being handled by Nigerian ports by about three million metric tonnes.
He disclosed that details of the plan were discussed during the recent visit of a trade delegation comprising port concessionaires, port administrators, government officials and other shipping service providers to the landlocked country.
An initiative of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Bello revealed that the two countries would soon formalise their trade agreements.
According to him, "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."
It was gathered that Niger Republic is currently doing about 2.5 million metric tonnes in the Republic of Benin, 1.5 million metric tonnes in Togo and close to a million metric tonnes in Ghana. However, Bello said from projections, Nigerian ports can do up to three million metric tonnes annually and up to 2,000 Niger Republic-bound containers monthly.
THISDAY checks revealed about 70 per cent of Niger Republic cargo transited through Nigerian ports until 2006. It is currently at zero per cent.
Bello said that 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."
According to NSC helmsman, the council 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.
"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 were almost non-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."
He noted also that 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 and 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."
President of MARAN, Bolaji Akinola, had in his remarks called on the Federal Government not to politicise the appointment of a chief executive officer for NSC, saying that merit should prevail in their consideration.
He lauded the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, for appointing Bello from within the NCS as its Acting Executive Secretary following the completion of Captain Adamu Biu's tenure in December 2012.