By Francis Ogwo
About 1.09 million tonnes or 36.3 percent of Niger Republic’s three million tonnes of transit cargoes lost to Cotonou Port, Benin Republic will be reclaimed by Nigeria.
This development is coming after it had lost 45 million tonnes of the goods to it competitors in the last 14 years. Transit cargoes are consignments going to landlocked countries from the seaports of other landlocked countries.
The Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) had also said that the country was losing N1trillion to neighbouring ports annually over inability to move transit cargoes to landlocked countries.
Reports revealed that Nigeria had been losing three million tonnes of transit cargoes annually since 2006 till date due to high charges, lengthy cargo dwell time and poor infrastructure.
Apart from Niger, other landlocked countries trading with the country in the past are Chad and Bukina Faso, but they left Nigerian seaports because of gridlock, sluggish delivery of transit cargoes and other issues, which have become recurrent in the Nigerian maritime transport sector.
It was also revealed that Niger shifted to Cotonou Port in Benin Republic and Lome Port in Togo for trans-shipment of its cargoes, leading to loss of 1.5million tonnes each to the two neighbouring ports.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, during the ground breaking of the 284 kilometres Nigeria-Niger rail line last week said that Nigerian railway would begin to convey 3,000 metric tonnes of cargo daily or 1.09 million tonnes yearly to the neighbouring country when the rail project is completed.
He said: “There is no doubt that this route when linked with the on-going Lagos-Kano railway project on completion will generate higher traffic volume and revenue.” The project is being handled by Mota-Engil with a completion period of 38 months.
The minister added that with the ongoing Lagos-Kano project, the nation was positioned to deepen railway transportation to boost the socio-economic development.
Also, the Minister of Transportation in Niger Republic, Sadou Seydou, said the project was important for both countries in strengthening transportation, economic development and peace and security.
He said the project would help Niger Republic in the development of transport infrastructure and facilitate movement of transit goods and services across the border.
Before the latest move, Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) had raised the alarm that the Nigeria was losing N1trillion from import duties and other charges annually to Lome and other neighbouring ports in West Africa.
President of the association, Rev Jonathan Nicol, complained that the bad roads leading to Lagos ports had added to the losses. He noted that importers were diverting their cargoes because of demurrage, terminal charges, dwell time and storage fees charged by shipping companies and terminal operators.
In 2016, the Nigerien shippers and NSC struck a bilateral trade agreement to return to Nigerian ports after several persuasions and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) but the shippers cancelled the MoU over failure to take delivery of their sea-borne cargo at Lagos and Tincan seaports. Their reason was that it took several weeks to clear cargoes in Nigeria as against few days in Cotonou Port.
The Executive Secretary of the council, Mr. Hassan Bello, explained that he was not comfortable with the way Niger Republic would go all the way to the neighbouring ports to transit its cargoes when Nigeria was closer to the land-locked country.
However, trouble started when the Nigerien businessmen further called for a closer partnership with Ghana after their meeting in order to capture the opportunities that abound in the Ghanaian seaports.
Recall that for over ten years, more than three million metric tons of Chad and Niger’s cargoes, which were formerly handled by Nigeria, were taken and shared among Togo, Benin and Ghana ports yearly due to high charges, dwell time, corruption, extortion, congestion levy and poor infrastructure.