No fewer than 40 ships laden with rice and scheduled to arrive the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa between February 1 and 28, 2014 were all diverted to the ports of neighbouring countries, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively report.
From the list of vessels expected to arrive the port published by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the 40 ships were expected to berth at ENL Consortium terminal, Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL) and Greenview Development Nigeria Limited (GDNL) terminal.
Checks at the terminals, however, revealed that none of the vessels came in on the dates listed as their Expected Time of Arrival (E.T.A.) under the NPA document.
An officials of ENL Consortium terminal confirmed that they did not handle any rice vessel in February this year.
“What the vessels declared is their intention to come to Nigeria which NPA lists on its schedule of vessels expected but these ships end up not coming in. We did not handle any of the rice vessels so listed in February. The importers assumed that the unfriendly import tariff would be reversed before they get here but once they realise that the reversal is not forthcoming, they divert to the port of Cotonou or any other nearby port outside Nigeria,” an official of ENL Consortium who did not want his name in print told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
The vessels according to investigation were diverted due to the harsh import policy of 100 percent duty and 10 percent levy introduced by the federal government last year.
According to the NPA list of vessels expected, the 40 ships have a combined volume of about 1.1 million metric tonnes of parboiled rice.
Some of the ships listed to arrive LPC in February but which failed to show up include MV Hector, MV Quest, MV Aeolos, MV Lake Hakone and MV Maraki.
The others are MV Atlantic Trade, MV Wariya Naree, MV Aqua Runner, MV Atlantic Trade, MV Lake Hakone and Star Capella, among others.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer, Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Emmanuel Ekpa, said the command did not record any revenue on rice during the month.
“We did not generate anything on rice in February; not even a kobo,” Ekpa told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
Almost all the rice ships destined for Nigerian ports since 2013 have been diverting to the ports of neighbouring countries especially Benin Republic and Cameroun to avoid paying the high import tariff imposed by the Federal Government.
The commodity is then smuggled in bits into Nigeria through the land borders. Import duty on parboiled rice is zero percent in Cameroun and seven percent in Benin Republic. Both countries crashed their duties last year when Nigeria hiked its own.
Analysts believe the move by both countries was aimed at taking advantage of the huge Nigerian market where parboiled rice is a staple food. In the entire West African region, only Nigerians eat parboiled rice. The result of the measures by both countries is the total diversion of all rice vessels meant for Nigeria to these and other neighbouring countries including Togo and Ghana.
Investigation by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that in 2013 when the 110% tariff policy was introduced, only one rice ship berthed in the country as against over 500 in 2012.
The House of Representatives said recently that Nigeria lost over N300 billion last year to rice smuggling.
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