By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Shipping companies in Niger Republic are to return to Nigerian ports in October for cargo clearance, 10 years after they pulled out of Nigeria, says the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
A Representative of the national shipping council of Niger Republic, Mr Idi Hamissou, told NAN in an in an interview on Sunday in Lagos that the companies are making the move following the latest reforms being implemented by the Nigerian Shipping Council (NSC).
“We had used Nigerian ports since 1958 but the concessioning of the ports drove our shipping companies out of Nigeria in 2006.
“But going to Togo, Ghana and even Cameroon has not been easy for our shipping companies, so we’re returning to Nigerian ports next month, to be fully on ground in October,” he said.
Mr Hamissou, spoke to NAN on the sidelines of a forum with media executives, hosted by the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, to announce the unveiling of reforms at Nigerian ports.
Hamissou said that Niger Republic and Nigeria shared a strategic land border, spanning some 1,600 km, making it imperative for the two nations to take advantage of business opportunities existing between them.
Nigerian ports have for years, been notorious for imposing a regime of taxations and sustaining a legacy of under-hand activities.
The development forced many shipping companies to relocate to neighbouring countries, especially Benin Republic, which now handles over 40 per cent of cargo meant for Nigeria, analysts say.
But Mr Bello said the NSC had spent about one billion naira in the past one on ICT infrastructure to ease the stress of doing business at the ports, noting that agencies at the ports would eventually be pruned from 10 to two.
He said the trucking system at the ports had also been overhauled, explaining that every truck operator would have no fewer than six trucks to be allowed to operate at the ports.
“We’re working with the National Automotive Council on the matter because having 7,000 trucks daily on the Apapa-Lagos axis is unimaginable.
“We have to increase the efficiency of the ports to boost business at Nigerian ports; we are asking for a review of the Act establishing the NSC to give us teeth to bite,’’ Bello stated.
The executive secretary disclosed that the NSC was also working with the governments of Kogi, Kaduna and Enugu States for the development of parks for trucks conveying cargo as part of efforts to remove articulated vehicles from highways.
He expressed his optimism that the port reforms would boost businesses in Nigeria and make various agencies at the ports to increase their revenue targets.