Opinion

Evaluating Nigeria’s preparedness for dry ports operation

Unarguably, dry ports in Nigeria would improve the movement of imports and exports outside the congested seaports. This forms part of the reasons why the Federal Government gave approval for the development of six Inland Container Depots (ICDs) or dry ports across the country. The tasks before the Federal Government include provision of an impetus to revive and modernise the railway as a primary mode for long distance haulage. Another task is to assist in the reduction of overall costs of cargo transportation to hinterlands as well as transit cargoes to landlocked countries.

Unfortunately, it has been over 15 years since the approval was given but the process of having the dry ports has been bedevilled with many challenges. The Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement was signed on May 16, 2006, between the Federal Government and the concessionaires to establish dry ports, otherwise known as ICDs, and Container Freight Stations (CFS). An ICD is an equivalent of a seaport located in the hinterlands with loading and unloading equipment needed to handle containers and to receive containers by rail or road from the seaport. Seven locations were approved for the ICDs, namely: Isiala Ngwa, Aba; Erunmu, Ibadan; Heipang, Jos; Zawachiki, Kano; Zamfarawa, Funtua; Jauri, Maiduguri; and Inland Container Nigeria Ltd. (ICNL), Kaduna.

In addition to the seven gazetted ICDs, there have been proposals from the private sector to establish ICDs at Dagbolu in Osun, Lolo in Kebbi, Onitsha in Anambra and Ogwashi-Uku in Delta. Unfortunately, today, the only operational and functional dry port in the country is the Kaduna Inland Dry Port Ltd. commissioned by President Buhari in 2017. Malam Mustapha Zubairu, Deputy Director, Public Private Partnership, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) cited lack of funds as one of the factors that affected the take-off of dry ports in the country. Zubairu, however, said that there was renewed interest and vigour by the present administration to ensure that all dry ports projects concessioned were implemented and made to operate. He said that because of the renewed interest, some of the concessionaires had received funds so that the projects would take off. “There are a lot of factors that affected the early commencement of the project.

“Funding was challenging for the concessionaires because the project is capital intensive and not something that can easily be done by an individual. “Another challenge has to do with land. Some state governments have failed to perform their own commitment based on implementation strategy.

“They are supposed to play a key role toward the provision of basic amenities like access roads to the site, perimeter fencing, security, water and others. “Most state governments failed to discharge some of these responsibilities and the critical of them all is the land to be delivered free from all encumbrances and this was relatively challenging for some state governments,” he said. Zubairu noted that the Kaduna Inland Dry Port Ltd. was functional, but for the Ibadan project, he pointed out that it had yet to be concessioned fully.

He explained that what obtained at the moment was the preferred bidders. The deputy director said that the Ibadan project was under negotiation and very soon, someone would emerge as the concessionaire and have the approval so that operation would commence.

He said that in Funtua, the project had gone far, as an appreciable level of deployment had been attained particularly on infrastructure, various aspects of the project, including perimeter fencing with gates. Zubairu said that in the Maiduguri area, the insurgency in that part of the country had affected the take-off of the project.

In Abia State, he said that the land issue had remained the most critical aspect that affected the project. According to him, the state government was also not forthcoming but the issue was being resolved. Recently, Mr Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) noted that all outstanding issues in the Full Business Case (FBC) and concessionaire agreement that would drive Ibadan Inland Dry Port development had been resolved. He commended Mr Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State, for the pivotal role he had played toward the actualisation of Ibadan Inland Dry port by agreeing to provide necessary infrastructure that would assist the successful take-off of the project.

“A critical one is a link road from the entrance/ exit of Ibadan Dry Port and a frame bridge at the entrance/exit of Ibadan Dry Port. “Others are connection of Ibadan Inland Dry Port to 33KV power supply and reconstruction of Oyo-Ibadan to Moniya-Iseyin link road,” Jime said. The executive secretary noted that the outstanding issues that had not been addressed by the Oyo State Government include payment of compensation for the 90 hectares of land acquired for the project.

He listed others as the provision of infrastructure as well as the need for engagement with host communities and stakeholders for support. Jime, during an inspection of the on-going construction of the Dala Inland Dry Port site at Zawachiki in Kano State, noted that the port would boost trans-Saharan trade development and indeed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The NSC boss noted that the support and partnership of the Kano State Government with regard to the development of the Dala IDP should be emulated by other state governments. According to him, the Dala IDP, when completed, will serve to decongest the seaports and reduce the cost of doing business. Governor Makinde noted that Oyo State wanted the Ibadan Dry Port project to be operational; assuring that it would give the NSC maximum support for the project.

“Oyo State Government wants to partner with the council for speedy realisation of the project and as such appeals to council to bring to the government’s notice those things that they are doing that may impact negatively and vice versa,” he said. On his part, the Chairman/Chief Executive officer, Dala Inland Dry Port, Abubakar Bawuro, appreciated the Kano State Government and NSC for their roles toward the IDP project to actualisation.

He further pleaded for the support of the council to fast track the conferment of the dry port status as a Port of Origin and Port of Destination. He gave an assurance that construction works at the Dala IDP would be completed soon for full operation to begin. Mr Bala Adamu, Chief Operating Officer NSC, during a Ministerial Implementation Committee (MIC) meeting with shipping companies, urged the Kaduna Inland Dry Port Ltd., (KIDPL) to ensure the issuance of Through Bill of Lading (TBL) for cargo at the port.

“The KIDPL has been gazetted as a port of destination, so the management has a legal instrument to pursue the TBL and Shippers’ Council have expended a lot of money to create awareness but the KIDP need to take the crucial step,” he said. Adamu noted that to ensure that KIDPL got the TBL; the council had engagement with shipping companies and allayed their fears, urging them to reach their principals on the need for them to issue the bill of lading. “Also, there will be a review of haulage rate, a standardised rate to provide a benchmark for cargo evacuation from the seaports to the inland dry port.

“The KIDPL should step up its game; nobody will push them to vigorously pursue importers and exporters. They should promise them incentives. “NSC is appealing to the KIDPL and its parent body ICNL, to embark on publicity to improve their visibility, synergise and collaborate with shipping companies, stating their volume and what they can guarantee them,” he said. Mr Rotimi Hassan, Port Manager, KIDPL noted that the port had challenges associated with shipping companies, customs and rail connection, but was optimistic that things would improve soon. The management of KIDPL is working on strategies to ensure successful operations and counts on the support of stakeholders to achieve the desired success.

Ogbolu is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

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