By Godfrey Bivbere
FOLLOWING the closure of the nation’s border since last year, Nigerians in Ghana have resorted to direct delivery of their importations to other West African countries instead of routing such imports through Nigeria, a measure that will result in loss of import revenue to the nation.
Hitherto, traders usually get their goods from markets in Lagos and moved them by road to West African countries, but with the closure of the border however, moving cargo from Nigeria became impossible resulting in the traders seeking alternatives.
The first effort as reported by Vanguard Maritime Report late last year was groupage shipment from Nigeria to Ghana by sea which did not work out as a result of the time frame for the goods to arrive at destination.
A source also told Vanguard Maritime Report that the delay then was deliberate as the Ghanaian authorities ensured that the goods did not leave the port as early as other consignments.
This, Vanguard Maritime Report gathered, led to the direct importation into the West African countries from China. The source said this is the desire of the Ghanaian government as the direct importation benefits the country more.
One of the traders stated: “We are now importing directly from Ghana. We gathered ourselves, import our goods directly from China into any of the African countries. Sometimes, three to five people import their goods and ship them in one container like we were doing then in Nigeria.
“Since our government has refused to open the borders, what do they want us to do? We must survive. In the past I had two homes, one in Ghana and one in Lagos. I shuttle between both countries, coming to Lagos to buy goods when my stock reduces and move back to Ghana after the transaction.
“Now I am forced to give out my accommodation in Lagos, coming to Nigeria only at the end of the year and I simply move straight to the village. It is Nigeria that will lose at the end of the day.”
Confirming this development, the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Tony Iju Nwabunike, explained that some Nigerian traders based in Ghana had contacted him to provide them links with Chinese manufacturers.
The ANLCA President noted that unless the Federal Government quickly reviewed the border closure policy, Nigeria will not only lose revenue but would soon lose its position as the trade facilitator of the West Africa sub-region.
He stated: “It is true. I have clients that are in Ghana who really wanted contacts of manufacturers in China to enable them import directly into West African country. So what it means is that the closure of the border has opened the eyes of neighbouring West African countries to leave Nigeria as a hub to go import directly from Europe and other countries like China.
“This means that neighbouring countries like Ghana will increase their revenue from imports while Nigeria will continue losing revenue and hub status in West Africa.”
Similarly, the Vice President of the Association of Nigeria Tyre Marketers, Okechukwu Eze-Ifeoma, told Vanguard Maritime Report that it is not only Ghana but most countries in West and Central Africa.
Eze-Ifeoma told Vanguard Maritime Report that though they knew in the past that they could import directly, they did not do so knowing that they could get their products cheaper and faster from Nigeria because of the competitive nature of trade in the country.
In his words, “That is correct. Most people now are buying directly from China to any West or Central African country. Even before the lockdown, you know that there was border closure which government has failed to re-open even before COVID-19.
“When COVID-19 came everything became serious and restricted. It is true and the effect on the economy of the country now is huge. Many people that are supposed to be coming to Nigeria; you know; why most of these countries come to Nigeria is because of the competitive nature of Nigerian business.
“One particular product, more than 2,000 people will be importing it. At times you can even get it cheaper; instead of going to China to buy one container; you could get someone who could buy 50 containers. So most of them know that they can get it cheaper; which stops them from going to China to buy directly.
“Not only Ghana, even Angola. Most of the people from Angola come to Nigeria as well. Most people from Malawi, all these countries come to Nigeria to buy; but these days most of them have been directing their money to China to buy directly. If you buy products and you cannot bring it to your base, it is off no use.”