By Stehen Ubanna
Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, NSC, has a big task at hand: to win back the over 3000 yearly Containerized cargoes import of the land locked Niger Republic and the imports of Republic of Chad lost to Cotonou port in the Republic of Benin and other neighbouring ports in the West African sub-region. This is because of the improved efficiency at Nigeria ports and the aggressive work on Nigeria bad roads to ease logistics move Containers across the border.
Bello has every reason to do so because of the closeness of the two two land locked West African countries to Nigeria. The NSC boss may have been encouraged to step up the tempo of discussion with the two countries to transit their cargoes through Nigeria ports because of the overtures made to him by representatives of the Niger Republic at the recent Conference of the United African Shippers Council, UASC, held in AAccra, Ghana. The NSC Executive Secretary was said to have told the Nigeriens and Chadians at the Conference that there was nothing to worry about Nigeria ports any longer as they would be given the best of services and affordable charges.
He could not understand why importers and exports from Niger Republic and Republic of Chad could go all the way to Cotonou , Tema and Abidjan ports in Benin, Ghana and Coted’Ivoire respectively to take delivery of their transit cargoes when Nigeria is closer to them. Worried at the loss of the loss of the economic operators of these two neighbouring countries to Republic of Benin, Ghana and Coted’Ivoire , Bello, according to sources was forced to constitute a study group to find out why these landlocked countries transit cargoes go through these other West African ports instead of Nigeria ports which are closer to them.
The findings of the study group , according to sources showed that that the outrageous charges of the terminal operators and the shipping Companies operating in Nigeria played a major part in discouraging the two land locked economic operators from patronizing Nigeria ports.
Aware that terminal operators charges and Shipping charges are high in Nigeria, the Lawyer ,turned Administrator said there is need for them to bring down their charges in order to bring back the cargoes lost to Cotonou port and other ports in the West African -region.
The study group had cited that in Nigeria ports, the dwell time for cargoes was between 19 and 25 days but in Cotonou port, it is between 12-14 days. More worrisome , was that after three days of discharging of cargoes at the Nigeria port, both the terminal operator and the shipping companies will start charging the importer .
But this is not the case in Cotonou , Ghana, Coted’Ivoire or Cameroun ports, a source told the Magazine. In Cotonou port , it was confirmed that an importer’s cargo could enjoy seven days at the port before the daily charges could start reading, Ghana and Cameroun,11 days, each. The Handling charges of these countries also differ. The handling charges at the Nigeria ports was said to have been fixed at N67,500.00, Republic of Benin, 24,000.00 and Ghana, N9,000.00.
It is not surprising why the land locked countries economic operators could easily take their cargoes where the economics of scale are favourable to them. The NSC boss who was not ready to tolerate Nigeria continuous losing of the economic operators of Niger and Chad to Republic of Benin, Ghana, and Coted’Ivore was said to have urged the terminal operators and the shipping companies to reduce their charges as the Nigeria ports are in competition with the other ports in the bub-region. He believes it is the only Nigeria ports could attract cargoes to from the land locked countries.
Nothwistanding , the economics of scale of Republic of Benin and these other West African countries against Nigeria ports, the NSC Chief Executive, was said to have taken advantage of the Nigeria-Niger joint Commission to push for the return of the Niger economic operators back to Nigeria ports. He is also urging Chadian importers and exporters, to utilize Nigeria transit corridor for their imports and exports. He may have won the heart of importers and exporters of these two countries, going by the assurance from them to transit their cargoes through Nigeria ports.
That much was confirmed by Bello who said that Nigeria had entered into a strategic partnership with Niger and Chad to ensure that their cargoes deserted to Cotonou and other ports in the West African Sub-region are transited through the Nigeria ports.
Perhaps the assurance from the two landlocked countries to transit their cargoes through Nigeria ports may have facilitated the completion and Commissioning of the Kaduna in theNorth West and Jos, North Central , Inland Container depots to take delivery of their cargoes with ease.
Ignatius Nweke, Director Special Duties, NSC, disclosed that the Kaduna and Jos deports was designed to handle 29, 000m/t of cargoes each at the this first phase of operation. the depots are expected to be supplied with Containerized cargoes form Apapa port in Lagos the railway or by road and also export goods through same channel.
The completion and commissioning of the Kaduna depot, analyst said would improve the market and exportation of ginger and other agricultural Commodities such as Hibiscus, Sesame seed andShea Butter, to the Asian countries of Singapore and China, United States , US and the European market.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the service level of the depots may be low, as the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, may not be supplying Containers to them as at when do. But Bello, the NSC boss says there is nothing to worry about it that it as the Council had entered into agreement with the NPA and the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, so that ”cargo bound for the Dry port should not be delayed unnecessarily. Hadiza Usman, Managing Director of NPA, was said to have given her words that cargoes earmarked for the dry ports would not be delayed at the regular ports to enhance trade facilitation.
At present , NPA was said to have earmarked about 20 Containerized cargoes to the Kaduna depot which would be processed at the area. Already, the NSC, a source confirmed had begun talks with the Lagos based shipping Companies and Freight Forwarders to open offices at the Dry port areas as the services would be fully automated to reduce Corruption, which is the bane of Nigeria.
The enthusiasm that had been shown by Bawa larry Peters, Managing Director of Duncan Group of Companies ,Concessioner for Jos depot is encouraging.” The Jos depot would save importers and exporters from the north central geo-political Zone , the cost and troubles of travelling to Lagos ports to clear and take delivery of their cargoes. Bello, the NSC, helmsman is optimistic that the other depots in the South west, South east , south-south and north east geo-political regions would soon become operation with the level of works done.