By Okezie Nnadi
West African giants Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire have started bilateral discussion to strengthen their trade relationship through port and shipping operations to cohesively participate aggressively in global and regional trades.
The move was facilitated recently following a courtesy visit to the Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, by a delegation of officials from the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire who were in Nigeria to explore and bolster trade relationship.
The NPA boss said that the Nigerian Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari had introduced incisive reforms to facilitate cross-border trade, having in mind, a multimodal port system to reduce the cost of shipments in and out of the country.
The present administration, he further explained, had also invested heavily in major public infrastructure upgrades, including construction of modern rail lines and deep seaports, to boost the international competitiveness of the country’s trade as well as positioned Nigeria as gateway to the African economy.
The NPA MD drove home his point by giving the example greenfield ports like the Lekki Deep Seaport, which he disclosed, was capable of handling ultra large cargo vessels (ULCV) and scheduled to commence business by the second quarter of 2022.
Bello-Koko also highlighted efforts by the Authority to give priority to non-oil export trade, stating that export processing terminals were now being established to take advantage of opportunities under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
He called on the Ivorian government and its businesses to increase their share of trade with Nigeria.
Koko assured the delegation that the NPA would do all that was required to address non-tariff barriers and restrictions to trade between the two neighbouring countries.
Even as he stressed that there was room for information sharing, just as both countries needed to cooperate more in the areas of joint training of staff and technology transfer.
He asked for the support of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire towards Nigeria’s candidate emerging as the next Secretary General of the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA). This, he said, was in considering the country’s status as a founding member and a major financial contributor to the organisation.
On his part, the Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire to Nigeria, His Excellency Traore Kalilou, described the bilateral relations between the countries as strategic, and that he looked forward to a review of existing agreements before the end of the year.
The Ivorian commended the NPA Management on its value-adding interventions, which he noted had raised the performance of the country’s Ports.