By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why the Federal government has earmarked Onne seaport as Nigerian grain hub Instead of the Lagos ports Apapa, or Tincan Island. The selection of the south east port as the country’s grain hub may not be unconnected to the fact that ‘’it is active in terms of importation and exports’’.
Going by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, records, ‘’year by year, in terms of percentage, the Onne port is the fastest growing port in terms of business in Nigeria at present as it , and thus was considered as theonly port for now that will serve as the country’s grain hub as it could accommodate any type of occasion going vessel laden with cargo .
Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director off The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, may have facilitated the selection of Onne port by the Authorities to be used as the country’s grain hub when he stated the that ‘’it is easier to do business at the port naturally compared to other ports in Nigeria’’. He has his reason. This because the Management have deployed more equipment, more personnel and paid more attention to the port to make it more competitive with other seaports in other maritime nations.
West African Container Terminal, WACT, the port Concessioneer appear to have made it more suitable for the purpose as it was said to have spent over N100 billion on its expansion, creating more stacking areas and invested on newer equipment, crane, RTGs and so on, to serve the need of Customers. An insider confirmed The Value News that ‘’it is one port in Nigeria where you can send your cargo and clear it faster’’.
It was therefore , not very surprising that when the war thorn Ukraine, expressed its readiness to establish grain hubs in Nigeria and other African countries, as a way to boost the bilateral ties with the African countries, the Onne port became a ready choice.
The Ukrainian government has donated 25,000 metric tonnes of grains to Nigeria under its Agrarian policy initiative called ‘’Grains from Ukraine’’. That much was confirmed by Mahmood Abubakar, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Prior to the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development confirmation of the Ukrainian government, grain donation to Nigeria , Gefrey Onyeama, minister of Foreign Affairs, after a recent meeting with Mykola Solski, the Ukrainian minister of Agrarian Policy and food, had thrown light on the Ukrainian plan to establish grain hubs in the African Continent, particular, Nigeria.
Solski, the Ukrainian minister, was emphatic on this when he said that his home country is interested and ready to develop grain hubs in Africa. The Ukrainian government minister is happy that Nigeria is ready to consider such possibility in a port in the country. He had said that if the two countries manage to implement it, it will be a practical step towards business , reaching a new level.
According to him, developing such a hub in a Nigerian port will make it possible ‘’to bring high quality wheat , maize and other foodstuffs to Nigeria, and which will go a long way to influence positively on the dynamics of grain prices in the country.Note that Ukraine is the fourth larges grain expoter in the world, ahead of all EU, member states and provided the United Nations, UN, World Food Programme about 40% of Wheat for countries experiencing food shortages.
Until the Ukrainian government took the bold initiative to donate its excess grain to poverty stricken African countries , including Nigeria , to avoid waste , Russian military vessels , were said to have been blocking the country’s ports in the Black Sea. This may have been made possible because of the July 2022, agreement with Russia, that was said to have been brokered by officials of the United Nations, UN and the Turkish government to open a safe maritime humanitarian corridor for the Black Sea Grain imitative.
As a prelude to ensuring the successful implementation of the Grain from Ukraine Initiative of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was said to have appointed Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former Vice President of the World Bank and one-time minister of Education , during Olusegun Obsanjo’s Administration, and now a Senior Adviser at the Africa Economic Development Initiative and Regional Director of the National Democratic Institute of Africa, who will be joining former President Joyce Banda of Malawi and Chris Fomunyoh, Regional Director for Central and West Africa programmes at the North American country of the United States, US, National Democratic Institute on this crucial programme, to stem food insecurity in the African Continent.
It was gathered that since then, over 900 ships full of grain and other foodstuffs have left three Ukrainian ports : Chornomorsk, Odesa and Yuzhny Pivdennyi, to different parts of the world . The first shipment of the grain donation was supposed to arrive Nigeria last February but did not.
Officials of the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development are optimistic that with the selection of Onne port as the country’s grain hub, the shipment will arrive the country between this month of March and April, 2023. Already , the The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Port Harcourt , Area II Command , personnel, Onne, and the Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, appear fully prepared to receive the grain shipment from Ukraine to Nigeria.
Informed sources at the Ukrainian Consulate in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, told The Value News, that as at this month of March, that over 23 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs have exported through the Black Sea Grain Iniative. The source disclosed that Nigeria, might be one of the beneficiaries from the world food basket this time around.
For now, over 456 tonnes of wheat was believed to have left the Ukrainian ports to Ethiopian, Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia and Afghanistan. Note thatthe Ukrainian Grain Imitative reaching out only to the developing countries only, the country , it was gathered also exported maize to the developed economies. It was learnt that since the Launch of the Grain from Ukraine Initiative in November 2022, more than 30 donor have joined the programme. These are the European Union, EU, counries, Qatar, Turkey, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Canada, and the US. The donor nations were aid to have pledged $20million so far for the programme.
There is no gain saying the fact that since the unblocking of the Ukrainian Black Sea ports, the export route has helped to address the global food security crisis and lower grain prices, as the export backlogs remain significant. The Russian and Ukrainian war had caused a significant increase of food prices on global markets, that Ngozi Okonjo –Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the
Economy and now Director General, World Trade Organisation , WTO, had cried out.
She had said that the unending Russian and Ukraine war will push up the cost of brea among other things, as it will hurt wheat consumers . This is because Ukraine is a major exporter of Wheat and maize . The WTO, Director General, is happy that the Black Se , has been blocked for safe passage of ships to delive grain to buyers to address the global food shortage.