Nigerian Ports To Achieve Hub Status As Nigerien Shippers Return

After 11 years of dumping Nigerian ports for neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic, shippers and importers from Niger Republic have resumed movement of transit cargoes through Nigerian ports.
Transit cargoes are consignments of landlocked countries passing through the corridors of maritime nations to another landlocked countries.
We, had earlier reported that Nigeria was set to reclaim over N136 billion it is losing to neigbouring countries’ through diversion of transit cargoes originally meant for the nation’s ports.
Nigerian ports that used to be transit corridors for Chad, Niger republic, Burkina Faso and Northern Cameroon handled 10 million metric tonnes of Nigerien cargoes between 1998 to 2006.
But since 2006, about 70 per cent of  cargoes belonging to Niger Republic that  were usually transited through Nigerian seaports have been lost to neighbouring Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast.
To this effect, the representative of Niger Shippers’ Council in Nigeria, Alhaji Idi Homissou, said immediately after ports concessioning in 2006, the landlocked countries stopped using Nigerian corridors because the concession enjoyed from Nigerian Ports Authority vanished under terminal operators.
The Niger Shippers’ Council representative said Nigerien Shippers have returned to begin movement of their cargoes because of Nigeria’s proximity to Niger Republic.
Niger shares about 1,500 kilometres of boundary with Nigeria and with a coastline of about 800 kilometres, Nigerian ports remain the natural gateway for Niger’s access to the sea.
Besides, Nigerian ports are also nearer to Jibiya, a border town between both countries, than Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana. While Ghana to Niger is about 3,400 kilometres, Lagos to Jibiya in Niger is just 1,300 kilometres.
Homissou said, “One of our shippers want to bring a ship load of 30,000 metric tonnes of cargo next week but they will first discharge 5,000MT in Nigeria before going to Benin Republic because they want to test the corridor”.
He assured that if encumbrances are removed and concessions enjoyed are returned, Nigerien shippers will discharge at least 60,000MT in a month.
“If it is possible, our shippers would be bringing two ships of 30,000MT every month. In fact, 15 containers of spare parts for Niger refineries is on its way and the shipper whose containers were delivered earlier in the year called me to say he is bringing another 10 containers from Dubai”, he hinted.
Homissou also stated that 2017 will be a year of business for Niger shippers and that Nigerian ports will benefit it. “2017 is a year of business for our shippers and they are bringing in cargoes to check the experience compared to Cotonou and Togo and Ghana ports”, he noted.
Speaking on the challenges encountered by Niger Shippers in Nigeria, the Republic of Niger representative asked for quick release of consignments from the border post, even as he complained about container deposit by shipping companies which, he said, is eating deep into the profit margins of the shippers.
He said, “The delay at the border is one of our challenges. If a consignment is at the border, the same day at least 24 hours, the goods should be allowed to cross the border since it is under Custom escort. Also, everything has been done here in Nigeria and Federal Operations Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service escorted the goods; so Customs command at the border should not delay the exit of the goods.
“Also, Customs escort should be physical because some officers come by air and if there is special goods in container, it requires physical escorts. We have problem with the escort because we want them to charge by numbers of officers and not by the number of trucks. If you will say 20 trucks, there can be 20 officers and on each consignment we pay N25,000. This is too much for shippers to afford”, he lamented.
Homissou added that even though in Benin Republic they pay N5000, they can’t compare Benin standard of living to Nigeria. “Therefore, we accept N25,000 but by number of convoys and not by trucks and I believe three officers are enough for 10 trucks”, he stated.
Also speaking on Friday, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, said transiting cargoes through Nigerian seaports will transform Nigeria into a hub centre.
According to him, this will mean more revenue to more terminal and shipping charges as well as levies vessels paid to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
His words: “Transiting cargoes through Nigerian ports will have added advantage of turning Nigeria into a hub centre and it is Nigerians that will transport these containers to border of Niger Republic.
“There will be employment and more throughput means more revenue for Nigerian government this is apart from the prestige”.
Bello who confirmed that the Nigerien Shippers were testing ground to prepare for their full return to Nigerian seaports noted that the Council, Customs and NPA are doing everything to retain the trade.
He said, “They are testing the ground, but we have created excellent cooperation and this was led by the Nigerian Ports Authority. NPA led us to Niger republic and they are doing everything with the terminals to ensure that everything is good and Nigeria Customs Services are also at the forefront of catching this transit trade.
“Customs has decentralised the transeer, before it was only issued in Abuja but can also be gotten in Lagos now. Customs  acccepts insurance bond instead of bank bond; they also provide escorts. There are still issues and we are still talking. Shippers Council is meeting with NPA to set up a transit committee among  NPA, Nigeria Customs Service and Niger Shippers’ Council”.
Bello also stated that the the Council on both sides were working with the concessionares and shipping companies on how to make the corridor more  attractive for landlocked countries.
“The concessionaires went to Niger Republic to sell their terminals to the shippers. We also took terminal operators to Niger and they also came to Nigeria and visit many places. they even went to port Harcourt up to the western port. They said they want to use Port Harcourt ports in other to drive traffic to the Eastern port”, he stated.

Economy In Gradual Recovery
 – PMB
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that the Nigerian economy is gradually reviving and is on its way out of recession.
According to a statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, the president stated this while receiving the outgoing Ambassador of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Fahad Bin Abdullah Sefyan, in a farewell audience at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Noting that the last farming season was quite good and the Nigerian economy was gradually reviving, President Buhari said the two countries would have more areas to collaborate in future.
He said the relationship between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia was a mutually beneficial one, which should grow stronger in the years to come.
He observed that the relationship between the two countries was strong, adding that apart from visiting Mecca and Medina for religious reasons, a lot of Nigerians are in Saudi Arabian universities.
“I quite appreciate the relationship between the two countries”, the president stressed.
Ambassador Sefyan, who spent 20 months on tour of duty, said he loved it in Nigeria and would have wanted to stay longer if not that he was now due for retirement.
He commended President Buhari’s visit to Saudi Arabia in February last year, urging that there should be reciprocal visits between the leaders of both countries.
On the security situation in Nigeria, the outgoing Ambassador told the President: “I think you are doing very well, Your Excellency. We know what you have done with Boko Haram and we applaud you”.

IMF Calls For Stronger Policies To Meet Target, Commends CBN On Forex Policy
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the President Buhari-led government needs stronger policies in order to deliver on the objectives set by its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The IMF, which just concluded its Article IV consultation with Nigeria, said Buhari’s recovery plan was a welcome development for Nigeria, but stated the need to raise taxes, and eliminate subsidies.
“Executive Directors recognized that the Nigerian economy has been negatively impacted by low oil prices and production,” IMF said in a statement.
The IMF also commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for recent foreign exchange policy actions, saying that directors underscored that external adjustment is necessary to protect foreign currency buffers and reduce vulnerabilities.
The directors also commended the recent easing of some exchange restrictions and urged the authorities to remove the remaining restrictions and multiple currency practices, thus unifying the foreign exchange market and helping regain investor confidence.
The statement reads: “Directors commended the efforts already made by the authorities to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance resilience, including by increasing fuel prices, raising the monetary policy rate, and allowing the exchange rate to depreciate.
“However, in light of the persisting internal and external challenges, they emphasized that stronger macroeconomic policies are urgently needed to rebuild confidence and foster an economic recovery”.
“Directors welcomed the authorities’ Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which focuses on economic diversification driven by the private sector, and government initiatives to strengthen infrastructure—including the recently adopted power sector recovery plan. However, they underlined that without stronger policies these objectives may not be achieved”.
Highlighting what Buhari’s government must do to hit recovery targets, IMF said taxes should be raised, subsidies should be eliminated, and leakages in the system should be blocked.
“Directors generally emphasized the need for a front-loaded, revenue-based fiscal consolidation starting in 2017, to reduce the federal government interest payments-to-revenue ratio to sustainable levels.
“They underscored that priority should be given to increasing non-oil revenue, including through raising VAT and excise rates, strengthening compliance, and closing loopholes and exemptions.
“Administering an independent fuel price-setting mechanism to eliminate fuel subsidies, strengthening public financial management, and developing a well-targeted social safety net would also support the adjustment. Directors stressed the need to contain the fiscal deficit of state and local governments, including through improved transparency and monitoring.
Continuing on the CBN’s efforts to strengthen the naira, IMF said: “Directors emphasised that these policies should be supported by tighter monetary policy and fiscal consolidation to anchor inflation expectations and to limit the risk of exchange rate overshooting, as well as structural reforms to improve competitiveness.
“Directors welcomed the steps to strengthen banking sector resilience through stronger prudential requirements. With asset quality declining, they recommended further intensifying bank monitoring, enhancing contingency planning, and strengthening resolution frameworks. Directors encouraged quickly increasing the capital of undercapitalized banks and putting a time limit on regulatory forbearance.
“Directors emphasized that ambitious structural reforms are key to achieving a competitive, investment-driven economy that is less dependent on oil. Priority should be given to improving infrastructure, enhancing the business environment, improving access to financing for small enterprises, and strengthening governance and anti-corruption efforts.
“Timely and effective implementation of these measures would promote sustainable and inclusive growth. Directors welcomed progress in improving the quality and availability of economic statistics and encouraged further efforts to compile subnational fiscal accounts”.

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