High cost pushes N137bn Chad, Niger Republic’s transit cargoes to Republic of Benin

Abiola Seun     |      

The Nigeria economy has lost a whopping N137billion transit cargoes to neighbouring Benin Republic, Cote d’ivoire, Togo over rising port cost at nation’s seaports.

Recall that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), began moves to attract back cargo movement through Nigerian ports so that the country could earn the necessary income.

Niger Republic had imported 2.5 million metric tons of cargoes worth N137billion through Nigeria before it started importing through Benin Republic, Togo and cote d’ivoire because of gridlock and other issues, which have become recurring decimals in the Nigerian maritime transport sector

And, that Niger  Republic shares about 1,500 kilometres of boundary with Nigeria, and with a coastline of about 800 kilometres, Nigerian ports remain the natural gateway for Niger and Chad’s access to the sea.

Nigerian ports are also nearer to Jibiya (a border town between both countries) than Togo, Benin Republic or Ghana; while Ghana to Niger is about 3,400 kilometres, Lagos to Jibiya in Niger is just 1,300 kilometres.

The countries have complained about inefficiencies of the Nigerian Ports and cost of doing business which had earlier made them abandoned Nigerian ports.

They have complained of high container deposit by shipping companies which is eating deep into the profit margins of the shippers, delay at the border and high charges by terminal operators. The delay at the border is another challenge.

But, speaking at the 3rd Maritime Stakeholders Interactive Forun held in Lagos recently , the executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello who said Niger republic now import transit cargoes through Cote d’ivoire and Benin Republic instead of Nigeria as a closer gateway said cost at Nigerian ports is  fuelling cargoes diversion out of the nation’s seaports.

He said, “We are talking to Niger republic for example, how many millions of tons do they import? Look at the proximity between Niger Republic and Nigeria, historical bound that exist but, they get their cargoes through Cote d’ivoire, Benin Republic, and Togo because the port cost in Nigeria while  those countries lower the cost at their ports so that they can attract the transit cargoes from Nigerian Ports.

“But, the council and NPA went to Niger republic to entice the operators there.
” We are still on that but the Minister  of transportation need to have a dialogue with Nigerian Customs at the highest level that is extremely important to us so that we can have sanity. We will look at all these things and we see that it is not actually the revenue that is ultimate but facilitation of trade and ease of doing business,” he said.

“In 2018, NPA has more volume than previous years and the Easten port, i will rather suggest 30 percent reduction and so many other things and agencies in the maritime sector need to start talking to themselves but reforms must be instituted no matter how painful.”

Bello however lamented that the Nigerian ports as a hub in Central and West African seaports was destined to attract so many cargoes but cost is diverting the cargoes out of neighbouring ports.

“Cost is driving cargoes out of Nigerian seaports. We need to have comparative advantage because we are actually competing with the ports in neighbouring countries and this is sometimes lost to many people.

“We have negotiated with the shipping companies and 35 percent of the cost as we know them today will disappear by next month and that is to the shipping lines. Am appealing to Seaport Terminal Operators  Association of Nigeria (STOAN), to also come on board so that we can discuss the cost and see.”

“The government hold responsibility to the private sector to create conducive atmosphere for their operation, the operating atmosphere in Nigeria is a little bit harsh and am being modest about this,  government must improve on the infrastructure.”

“In Apapa for example because so much is being collected but nothing much but for the intervention of Nigerian that created the lilypond park and the call up system so with the task force things has improved because before, from Apapa to Ikeja, freight was N800,000 but now, it has reduced drastically.”

Bello also stated that excesses of government agencies on increasing charges needed to be curtailed to address port cost in the country.

“We need to check excesses of government agencies especially in their charges. NPA has no right to make any charges without coming to the Nigerian Shippers Council but sometime they go to the ministry and it is approved.

“This have direct consequences on port charges that shipping companies or terminals will pay. The Nigerian Railway Corporation should not increase charges unless it is discussed with us and so also NIMASA. I will like as part of concentration, all maritime agencies remove certain distortion,” he advised.

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