Nigeria has lost an estimated N650 billion due to cargo diversion to neighbouring countries in the last five years, LEADERSHIP learnt.
This translates to an annual loss of N130 billion between 2015 and 2020, cumulatively amounting to N650 billion in the last five years.
Findings revealed that long dwell time of cargoes at the ports as well as the terrible state of port access roads are responsible for this as land locked countries such as Chad and Niger Republic, which, before now, were using the country’s ports as transit points have diverted to Nigeria’s neighbouring countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic.
The choice of these neighbouring countries, according to investigation, was as a result of their efficiency in the cargo clearing process, which takes a few hours, unlike Nigeria which takes weeks to clear cargoes.
To this end, Nigeria is losing maritime businesses to the aforementioned countries.
Although, Nigeria Ports still record the highest cargo throughput among its contemporaries in West and Central Africa, with 78.4million metric tonnes of cargo volume imported into the country in 2020, the absence of cargo scanners, high port cost, inefficiencies and low channel draft have stunted the growth of its seaports and denied it hub status in the West and Central Africa.
Though the statistics of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) showed that Nigerian ports recorded 78.4 million metric tonnes of cargo volume imported into the country in 2020, the nation’s seaports still lose transit cargoes of landlocked countries to neighbouring ports of Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
The loss of such transit cargoes to neighbouring ports is evident with the increment in cargo throughput of neighbouring ports as Togo ports recorded 12 per cent increment from about 22.7 million metric tonnes to about 25.5 million metric tonnes between 2019-2020, according to provisional data provided by Togo port authorities.
Similarly, the port of Cotonou in 2019 processed an annual freight volume of 12 million tonnes, according to Port of Antwerp International (PAI) while the port of Lome between 2019 and 2020 processed 25.5 million metric tonnes of cargo.
According to statistics from www.togofirst.com, investors’ guide website for economic news, on the Republic of Togo, the overall traffic of the Port of Lomé increased by about 12 percent, from about 22.7 metric million tonnes to about 25.5 million metric tonnes, according to provisional data provided by the port authorities.
Also, the two ports in Ghana – Tema and Takoradi – recorded 25,512,289 metric tonnes, 27,700,343 metric tonnes and 26,385,923 metric tonnes (MT) respectively as cargo throughput for both ports in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The statistics showed that 16,594,685 MT, 17,316,276 MT and 18,909,586MT of cargo were recorded in Tema Port while Takoradi Port recorded 8,917,604MT in 2018, 10,384,067MT in 2019 and 7,476,337MT in 2020 of seaborne trade respectively.
However, despite recording more throughput than its comptemporaries, Nigeria recorded a decrease in the number of cargo throughput and vessels that called into the nation’s ports in 2020.
According to the NPA report, the number of ships that sailed into the nation’s port (vessel call) fell by 6.6 per cent year-on-year (y/y) to 3,972MT in 2020 from 4,251MT in 2019.
Similarly, the volume of goods imported into the country, or cargo throughput, fell by 2.2 per cent y/y to 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020 from 80.2 million metric tonnes in 2019.
The report reads: “In 2019, we had a total of 4,251 vessels that called into our ports, according to the ship traffic data. In 2020, we had 3,972. So we had a drop. In terms of cargo throughput, we had 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020 while in 2019 the nation recorded 80.2 million metric tonnes in 2019.”
Stakeholders, however, attributed the decrease in cargo throughput in 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic which reduced the importation of cargo due to global lockdown.
Chukwuma Onyema, a clearing agent at Apapa Port, said the pandemic forced global shutdown of businesses and factories across the world.
He said: “To prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many countries around the world went into lockdown and imposed unprecedented containment measures. These restrictions progressively produced changes to global mobility patterns, evidently disrupting social and economic activities.”
“Overall, world trade fell by between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted normal economic activity, trade and life globally. So, it’s a global phenomenon and we all paid dearly for it.”
Another clearing agent, Felix Nwafor, said the low throughput is still evident in the seaport as importation is still low.
According to him, unlike three years ago when import was high during ‘ember’ months, this year’s cargo volume has gone down drastically.
“Low import is as a result of the pandemic but as vaccination is ongoing and major economies are opening up, we should expect a better 2022. But the crisis is a global crisis and it’s not a Nigerian issue or problem,” he said.