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There are strong signals that several reforms and policy refining processes going on since late last year in the nation’s maritime sector are set to turn around the hitherto frustrating fortunes of the ports.
Since last decade when it was clear that several Nigerian ports are better called relics of shipping facility following the sustained drop in cargo throughout, the country had been losing over N140bn to neighbouring nation’s ports through diversion of transit cargoses originally meant for Nigeria.
Transit cargoes are cargoes meant for landlocked countries like Chad and Niger Republic which have no access to the sea.
The fund according to industry experts would have accrued to the economy through import duty, terminal and shipping charges and levies vessels paid to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but lost due to high duty rate and other associated port costs.
But the series of reforms and critical policy regulations are set to change the story.
This is coming from the assurance given by the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) boss, barr. Hassan Bello who said moves to attract back cargo movement through Nigerian ports so that the country will earn the necessary income are underway.
Geographical statistics show that Nigeria shares about 1,500 kilometres of boundary with Niger, and with a coastline of about 800 kilometres, Nigerian ports remain the natural gateway for Niger and Chad’s access to the sea.
Ports in Niger Repare 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.
Since 2006, about 70 per cent of Niger Republic’s cargoes, which were transited through Nigerian seaports, have been lost to neighbouring Ghana, Togo, and Ivory Coast. Before the diversion, Nigeria handled 10 million metric tonnes of Nigerien cargoes, but, presently, 4.3 million metric tonnes of the 10 million metric tonnes of transit cargo are taken to Benin Republic.
More facts also showed that Nigerien importers also moved 2.5 million metric tonnes of their transit cargo to Togo. 1.8 million metric tonnes and 400,000 metric tonnes went to Ghana and Ivory Coast respectively. Nigeria is left with a paltry 200,000 metric tonnes of transit cargoes from Niger Republic.
But to drive further the return of the transit cargo businesses to Nigerian ports, Bello, recently lobbied foremost shipping company, Maerskline to route transit cargoes of these neighbouring countries through Nigeria. The message is also given to other shipping companies.
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