Contrary to claims in a section of the media, Nigeria’s ports are busier and more attractive than those in neighbouring countries, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Services, Leke Oyewole.
Oyewole said this in Lagos while responding to allegations that the cost of cargo clearance at Nigerian ports is higher than what obtains in the ports of adjoining countries, such as Cotonou.
Oyewole also said that because of the size of its market, shipping companies charge a premium to visit Nigerian ports.
He said: “We have the largest population in the sub-region, therefore, more things are likeliy to come here. For instance, if a ship takes a car to Cotonou and another one to Nigeria, the one that comes to Nigeria takes $300 more than the one to Cotonou. That shows it is fertile and it is good for them to continue to blackmail this country to ensure that government stops collecting this money.”
Besides, he said unlike in past when there were security concerns in the Nigerian waters, the government has put the issue of sea piracy under control.
“When last did you hear about piracy in our waters? Two or three times in about five months as against the regular basis, which it occurs before. President Goodluck Jonathan has tried in that regard, so are we not qualified to be removed from such list of high piracy zone. We also need to move against them to remove our name, he added. This position however contradicts reports by global piracy watchdog, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which claims that piracy has surged in Nigeria and in the Gulf of Guinea thus prompting shipping companies to charge war zone rates to visit the country.
Data released by IMB last week showed that Nigeria remained the main source of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region with 29 attacks on vessels recorded in the first nine months of 2013, up from 21 in the same period last year.
Analysts say while Somali gangs have focused on capturing vessels to extract ransom money, criminality in West Africa, including oil theft, poses more complex problems.
In a separate report last week, Denmark-based security firm Risk Intelligence estimated 117,000 metric tons of oil products worth around $100 million had been stolen by pirate gangs in the Gulf of Guinea since 2010.
This includes the diesel known as gas oil.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.