Maritime stakeholders have blamed the lack of access to foreign exchange for the preference of Lome as the port of origin by Nigerian importers of petroleum products.
These stakeholders stated this in separate chats with The PUNCH recently.
A maritime lawyer who specialises in oil and gas, Emeka Akabogu, explained that for importers to be able to access foreign exchange, the goods must come from outside Nigeria.
“It is not that they prefer Lome as a port of destination; that would be the wrong narrative. The fact is that to be able to procure foreign exchange for the transaction, the goods must be imported. If they are going to be imported, the origin of the cargo has to be outside the country.
“Now many of the cargoes that were procured are readily available in the market by international petroleum product traders. In fact, as soon as possible, they would like to come within Nigerian waters.
“But if they are within Nigerian waters the buyers of the cargoes, who need to procure foreign exchange to purchase the cargoes, would not be able to designate that cargo as originating from foreign countries for the purpose of getting foreign exchange. This is part of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s guidelines, which have been existing for a while now. This is related to monetary policy, and it is part of those policies that need to be changed,” Akabogu said.
Also, the President of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, Mr Sola Adewumi, said many wet cargo importers now import from Lome instead of Europe.
“How many wet cargo importers are importing from Europe to Nigeria? Most of them are imported from Lome. They are taking Lome as their base. Maybe international traders are using Lome as their base. Many of them are not importing from Europe. We have big traders that are already using Lome as their area of operation; that is where most of them buy from. This is because we don’t have a conducive environment, which is why they are using Lome.
“We are engaging the government on why Lome is a preferred port. They made their place more conducive than ours,” Adewumi added.
Owners of small-scale enterprises, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, and manufacturers expressed concern a few months ago about the falling value of the naira and the tough operating environment, warning that it would lead to the shutting down of factories and job losses.