Coup Threatens $180m Nigeria, Niger Republic Cross-border Trade

Export and transit cargoes between Nigeria and its West African neighbour, Republic of Niger, worth $180million are lurching towards a decline due to the sanctions placed on Niger by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), LEADERSHIP Sunday findings have revealed.

ECOWAS had sanctioned Niger Republic after its presidential guards toppled the government of President Mohamed Bazoum and announced Abdrahmane Tchiani as the new president.

Part of the sanctions slammed on that country by the regional body include border closure against Niger Republic and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), with security forces already ensuring strict enforcement of the directive by shutting the Nigerian-Niger Republic borders at the seven Nigeria’s northern states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.

Following the closure of the borders, cargoes bound for Niger Republic as well as those bound for Nigeria are currently trapped at the borders of the two countries.

The acting comptroller general of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, also ordered officers of the Service to stop all transit cargoes heading to Niger Republic through all land borders and seaports across the country.

According to him, following the closure of the Nigerian- Nigerien borders, transit cargoes may be smuggled through other Land border posts in the country.

According to him, all transit cargoes headed for Niger Republic through the other land borders, including Idiroko, must be stopped.

He said, “We are monitoring what is happening in Niger Republic and I can assure you that implementation of that directive given by the ECOWAS head of states is 100 per cent and when that is happening smugglers will want to explore openings in other borders, and may want to use other routes. All transit goods heading for Niger Republic should be stopped.”

LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation has shown that transit cargoes headed for Niger Republic no longer come into Nigerian seaports.

Checks by our correspondent from container terminals during the week showed that Nigeria has no record of handling transit cargoes for the landlocked West Africa country.

Maritime experts, however, argued that Nigeria has been removed from the transit nations by Niger Republic.

But at the leading terminal operator, APM Terminals, Apapa, there is no cargo destined for Niger Republic brought into the terminal.

A source who craved anonymity said cargoes destined for Niger Republic are not in the terminal but it is possible they come and offload the cargoes on trucks at various warehouses and take them to the West African country by road.

Also, Port & Cargo terminal, Tin Can Island, said they have never received Niger Republic-bound cargoes.

The newly commissioned Lekki port also stated that Niger Republic-bound cargoes are not part of transit cargoes received in the port in July.

According to the 2021, Nigeria exported $180 million to Niger Republic. The main products exported from Nigeria to Niger were Electricity ($54.2 million), Rolled Tobacco ($45.1 million) and Cement ($38.3 mliion).

During the last 26 years Nigeria’s exports to Niger have increased at an annualised rate of 6.05 per cent, from $39 million in 1995 to $180 million in 2021.

Also, Nigeria’s trade through Niger in 2020 was $1.3 billion, while trucks from Nigeria account for 40 per cent of the total daily traffic of 104,179 trucks per day along the trans-Saharan road corridor, data compiled by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed.

The trans-Saharan road corridor borders seven northern Nigerian states – Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno. This is a vital trade route for Nigeria, connecting the country to its landlocked neighbours in the Sahel region.

However, the Zamfara/Sokoto command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said over 2.5million metric tonnes of export cargoes have passed through the Illela border, Sokoto State, into Niger Republic in the last six months.

According to data obtained by LEADERSHIP, commodities that are mostly transited through the corridor are Cement, Tobacco and Coal, with each truck usually carrying 1000 tonnes.

Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP Sunday, former executive secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barr Hassan Bello, said 30 percent of Nigerien transit cargoes pass through Nigeria borders to Niger Republic.

According to him, the leadership crisis in the landlocked country will bring a setback to gains recorded by Nigerians to make use of its ports and trade corridors to deliver their cargoes.

Bello further noted that Nigeria is closer to Niger Republic than other African countries, saying Nigerien Shippers’ do incur additional cost by routing their cargoes through other neighbouring country than Nigeria.

He said, “It’s been our hope to have bulk of Niger Republic cargoes and the Nigerien Shippers’ have started believing in Nigeria’s ability to make the process seamless. Niger has its cargoes ship to Cote D’Ivoire, Benin Republic and some other neighbouring ports, and it doesn’t make economic sense because of the proximity and the affinity between Niger Republic and Nigeria.

“As a matter of fact, the Kano-Maradi rail line and the Dala inland dry port were all efforts by Nigeria to capture that transit cargoes, and the Customs are our partners as they have made some trade facilitation concession so that Niger Republic will transport cargoes. But the unfortunate incident may temporarily disrupt that plan. I think in the long run, there will be peace and there will be normal relationship. That is why war is destructive of international trade.”

Speaking on the tonnage, he said, “I know the tonnage is substantial and we ought to have captured all of it but maybe about 30 percent of transit cargoes move from Nigeria to Niger Republic currently”.

Also speaking, president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licenced Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said that the closure of the border has security implications, which he cannot comment on.

“For some time, Nigeria has been removed from the transit nations. We don’t even know if that transit has started. Negotiating transit is not an easy thing because we still have encumbrances when it comes to factors that limit our countries to these landlocked countries. I don’t know if those areas have been rectified,” he added.

He said it is an economic issue because Nigeria has been delisted from the list of transit nations, adding that negotiating for transit status would be an economic avenue to pursue.

“In a real sense of it, if it is done, it is going to affect Nigeria’s place in the transit nation. Transit module is not in persistence yet in the country. Ghana has its transit that is satellite driven while Nigeria’s own is still manual. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have an edge over Nigeria. Becoming a transit hub is more than making noise about it,” he said.