A powerful trade delegation from Nigeria will tomorrow in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, be pulling out all the stops in a sales pitch, as Nigeria struggles to convince her landlocked immediate northerly neighbour to patronise the nation’s seaports, rather than those of other West African countries with access to the sea, including Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
At the instance of the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) is leading the trade delegation, which comprise port concessionaires, port administrators, government officials and other shipping service providers to Niger Republic.
Acting Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello, who disclosed this, said that the essence of the trade mission is to strengthen trade agreements between Nigeria and Niger Republic, to enable Nigerian seaports handle more of the landlocked country’s import and export cargoes.
“What we are doing is part of efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of Niger Republic to discharge their international law obligations as Coastal/Transit State and Landlocked State respectively,” Bello stated.
He explained that the meeting between the Nigerian maritime industry operators and the Niger Republic business community is facilitated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Development.
The NSC boss stated that the Council aims to attract up to three million metric tonnes of Niger Republic’s consignments to Nigerian ports annually.
“At present, Niger Republic is doing about 2.5 million metric tonnes in Benin Republic, 1.5 million metric tonnes in Togo, and close to a million metric tonnes in Ghana. Nigerian ports can do up to three million metric tonnes annually, and up to two thousand Niger Republic-bound containers monthly from our projection. Don’t forget also that Nigeria has strong diplomatic relations with Niger Republic, and an international obligation to landlocked countries around it. We believe the visit will open up a bundle of business opportunities for our ports.
“It may interest you to know that, until the year 2006, about 70 percent of Niger Republic cargo transited through Nigerian ports, as against the current zero percent. So, the mission is aimed at attracting back Niger Republic’s cargo to Nigerian ports and ensuring access of their cargo to Nigerian seaports,” Bello stated.
Major imports into Niger Republic, like Nigeria, are mostly consumer goods, while the country exports uranium, sesame seed, Arabic gum, groundnut and skin.
Niger Republic is now an oil producing country, and looks up to the ports of neighbouring countries to export crude.
Bello, who assumed the mantle of leadership at the NSC in December 2012, said that his major preoccupation at the moment is to reinvigorate the Council to play its role of trade facilitation.
“We have started the process of reinvigorating the shippers’ associations all over the country. We are the secretariat of all the shippers in Nigeria – importers and exporters – and we must now begin to really protect their interests,” he stated.
Bello said that, under his leadership, service delivery will become the watchword for all NSC staff.
“Service delivery is important. We are here to serve the shippers. We have been solving their problems and attending to their complaints but now we need to automate the process. We’ll acquire toll-free numbers where they can call in and lodge their complaints and receive prompt attention from our staff,” he stated.
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