To boost the economy and consolidate its dominance in the West and Central Africa sub-regions, Nigeria has started making inroad into the cargoes coming into countries close to her borders.
To this end, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) will be leading a trade delegation to neighbouring countries, especially the Republic of Benin and Niger Republic.
In order to ensure that the trade delegation made the desired impact, it will comprise the concessionaires of the nation’s seaports, port administrators, government officials, shipping firms and other services providers.
THISDAY gathered that the idea of the visit, which is meant to corner the over 3 million tonnes of cargoes coming to those countries, was at the instance of the Federal Ministry of Transport.
Confirming the development, the Acting Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the essence of the trade mission was to strengthen trade agreements between Nigeria and Niger Republic to enable Nigerian ports handle more of the import and export cargo of the landlocked country.
His words: “What we are doing is part of efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of Niger Republic to discharge their international law obligations as Coastal /Transit State and Landlocked State respectively”.
Bello revealed that the meeting between the Nigerian maritime industry operators and the Niger Republic business community was facilitated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Development (NNJCD).
He stated that the council aims to attract up to three million metric tonnes of Niger Republic cargo to Nigerian ports annually.
“At present, Niger Republic is doing about 2.5 million metric tonnes in Benin Republic, 1.5 million metric tonnes in Togo and close to a million metric tonnes in Ghana. Nigerian ports can do up to three million metric tonnes annually and up to two thousand Niger Republic bound containers monthly from our projection. Don’t forget also that Nigeria has strong diplomatic relations with Niger Republic and an international obligation to landlocked countries around it.
“We believe the visit will open up a bundle of business opportunities for our ports. It may interest you to know that until the year 2006 about 70 per cent of Niger Republic cargo transited through Nigerian ports as against the current zero per cent. So the mission is aimed at attracting back Niger Republic's cargo to Nigerian ports and ensuring access of their cargo to Nigerian seaports”, he stated.
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.
Bello, who assumed the mantle of leadership at NSC last month, said that his major pre-occupation at the moment is to reinvigorate the Council to play its role of trade facilitation.
“We have started the process of reinvigorating the Shippers’ Associations all over the country. We are the secretariat of all the shippers in Nigeria - importers and exporters - and we must now begin to really protect their interests”, he stated.
He said under his leadership, service delivery will become the watchword for all NSC staff. “Service delivery is important. We are here to serve the shippers. We have been solving their problems and attending to their complaints but now we need to automate the process. We’ll acquire toll-free numbers where they can call in and lodge their complaints and receive prompt attention from our staff”, he added.