09 March 2013, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Efforts are currently on, on the part of the Nigerian government to woo the country’s northern neighbours, the Republic of Niger, to import goods and ship out its newly discovered crude oil through Nigerian ports.
The task is being undertaken by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, and the efforts are already yielding fruit.
“Before now, Niger was importing goods through Nigerian ports. Before privatisation, all the inefficiencies in the ports made them to move to what they called ‘saner jurisdictions’ like Ghana and so on,” said Barrister Hassan Bello, the Acting Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the NSC, who headed a team of maritime operators that visited the French-speaking country recently.
The move is part of efforts by the new leaders of the NSC to woo back Nigeria’s landlocked neighbouring nations, which allegedly abandoned doing business at Nigerian ports in the last decade due to unfriendly nature of the ports.
Barrister Bello said his team got assurances from the authorities in Niger Republic that the country would be returning to Nigerian ports for business.
According to him, many of the landlocked countries around Nigeria, were about nine years ago, conducting their businesses through Nigeria before the business environment in Nigeria depreciated, forcing those nations to explore other countries as options.
He maintained that efficiency has now returned to the ports as a result of the reform efforts of the Federal Government and the NSC.
“It does not make any economic sense for Niger leaving Nigeria that is closer and going to Ghana or Burkina Faso to bring in goods. What the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has said is efficiency is a function of competition; no matter how near you are, people like to take their goods in time.
“Time is money in shipping. So because of the internal impediments like roadblocks, they abandoned Nigerian ports. There are more roadblocks from Nigeria to Niger than there are from Burkina Faso to Niger and so many things.
“It is an economic decision; but when the Federal Government privatised the ports, efficiency is back only one or two things are yet to be resolved. So, Niger is now about to transport its cargo through Nigeria. Nigerian Shippers’ Council rallied round terminal operators for this big one.
“This is because if the country returns to Nigeria, it will increase the terminal operators’ capacity, it will make it more profitable if you have such tonnage,” Bello stated.
Speaking further on the impending return of Niger Republic to the Nigerian ports, he said: “Niger is now an oil exporting country. It is unlike before when you talk about Niger as a dry region. They are generating so much economic activities.
“They have been meeting with the terminal operators first, in Nigeria before we went to Niger. In all this, they showcased what they have to Nigerien business men. They also got details from Nigerien shippers.
“We are about to formalise that and very soon Niger will be importing and exporting their products through Nigerian ports.”
He also revealed that the Nigerien authorities are planning the use of Calabar and Port Harcourt ports for importation of chemicals, thus returning the two dormant ports to full business.
“For chemicals, they (Nigeriens) are thinking of Calabar and Port Harcourt ports, which are redundant as they are not well patronised.
This will give Nigeria an economic advantage; it will also cement the long-standing relationship between Niger and Nigeria and it is also a prestigious thing to see that Niger is trying to export and import through Nigeria,” the Acting Executive Secretary stated.