Trade: Why Nigerian Government, Earmarked The South Eastern Port Of Onne, As Grain Hub  

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.

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.

Ukrainian Government Appointed Grain Envoy For African Continent

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.  

Ukraine Grain For Export

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.

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