Government agencies and private organisations responsible for trade in Niger have called on Ghana to rescue the landlocked nation from what they describe as over-taxation, intimidation, harassment and unfair treatment at the hands of port operators in neighbouring francophone countries.

Speaking in Niamey during a Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA)-initiated trade mission to Niger, that country’s Minister of Commerce in charge of Trade and Private Sector Promotion, Alma Uomarou, told the Ghanaian delegation there is a new throat-cutting tax law in Benin – a country that its imports come through – which is affecting economic activities in Niger.

According to the minister, he has personally cautioned the Beninois government of the consequences on trade relations between the two countries and said that his country is open to working closely with Ghana on how to use Ghanaian ports and trade corridors.

“I am currently on my way to Benin to represent my government and let them know our disapproval of the newly-introduced tax; and also how our economic operators are unhappy with the way they are treated at the Cotonou Port and on the corridors,” the minister said.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are the three main landlocked countries in the sub-region that are traditionally aligned in using the seaports of fellow Francophone countries in Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Benin to participate in international trade.

However, due to inefficiencies, high cost of operations, poor transportation network, delays and political instability in these countries, economic operators in the LLC’s have realised the need to diversify their use of seaports in the sub-region.

Seydou Sadou, Minister of Industry of the Republic of Niger, noted that numerous opportunities exist for Ghana to take advantage and advance its lead in the international trade market within the sub-region.

“I have very good relations with my colleague Minister of Commerce; we will put the necessary measures in place for Ghana to benefit from our trade,” he said.

Burkina Faso, for example, has been a major trade partner with the 2 seaports of Ghana, with four out of its top-5 importers using Ghana’s seaports. Currently, it accounts for 6,274,004mt of traffic, representing 57 percent of total transit traffic on the Ghanaian corridor.

The Ghanaian delegation – led by Board Chairman of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Peter Mac Manu and the Director General of GPHA, Paul Asare Ansah – assured the government and economic operators in Niger of Ghana’s readiness to offer every assistance they need.

Among other things, the Nigerian authorities urged their Ghanaian counterparts to eliminate all bottlenecks – including making information on goods in transit available to Niger authorities.

They also asked for the Ghanaian authorities to address a major concern regarding a Private Terminal Operator – Bolore Transport and Logistics – which has sited its terminal on the Ghanaian end of the Niger Boarder, thereby making doing business along the Ghanaian Corridor more expensive.