By Martins Uba Nwamadi
Sometime in 2005, Nigeria Shippers Council, the avant garde of the federal government on transportation issues, conceptualised an idea of a dry port project in Nigeria. According to the template, dry ports in Asia, North America, Pakistan, UAE and some African countries have contributed tremendously to the economic growth of these countries.
Armed with statistics and intimidating profiles, the management of Nigerian Shippers’ Council made a robust presentation to the Federal Executive Council urging the Federal Government to approve the establishment of inland container depots, otherwise called Dry Port in some specific locations of the country.
In May 2006, the Federal Government of Nigeria approved the development of 6 Inland Container Depots (ICDs) across the country with specific instruction that the ICDs must meet global standards. It must be on Public, Private Partnership (PPP); Build operate and hand over to government after an agreed period of time. There must be no cutting of corners.
The template so provided by NSC must be strictly adhered to while the Standard Operating Procedure must not be tampered with. The red line was drawn.
The ICDs so approved by then were Erunmu in Ibadan, Isiala Ngwa in Abia, Heigpang in Jos. Others are Zawaunikin in Kano, Zamfarawa Funtua and Jauri in Maiduguri.
Fourteen years after the approval by FEC, the only operational and functioning Dry Port in Nigeria is the Kaduna Inland Dry Port. Commissioned by President Buhari in 2017, the dry port is now port of origin and port of destination with International Maritime Code. In fact, it is not out of place to tag Kaduna Inland Dry Port as a success story given the high volume of patronage and its performance level.
The Ibadan Inland Dry Port of which the Chinese Construction Company has mobilized to sight is targeting early 2021 as delivery and commissioning date. Also the Heigpang Dry Port Jos is almost 60 percent completed. The new‘toaster boy’ in this sector is the Kano Inland Dry Port of which the state government is committing a whopping sum of N2.4 billion to provide infrastructural facilities, access road, water, electricity, telecom modes etc to ensure that the port meets global standard. While all these are cheery news, the Isiala Ngwa Inland Dry Port looks like an abandoned project. A recent visit to the site shows over grown weeds adorning the entire landscape. The only visible sign is a 20 feet weather beaten billboard begging to be repainted. It will be recalled that in 2017, Canadian investor/promoters signed MOU with the state government. According to feelers, the state government with its bogus World Bank Enyimba City Project wants Isiala Ngwa Dry Port to align itself into it.
The Funtua Inland Dry Port is moving with speed and hopefully by next year, it may start operations.
According to Roso, Woxemus and Lumsden, Dry Port is an Inland intermodal terminal directly connected to a seaport with high capacity traffic, more preferably rail, where customers can leave and or collect their goods. Dry ports have unique services unlike inland terminals. Their unique services include transshipment, consolidation, track and trace, maintenance of containers, long and short time storage and customs clearance.
The Dry port and intermodal concept is uniquely designed to not only lay and develop infrastructure that will link inland areas with coasts so as not only to create access to our hinterland farmers but also to create market for their products around the world while cutting drastically the high cost of moving goods around the country thereby reducing prices of agricultural products.
Recently, the executive director of National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT), Abayomi Olaniyan, revealed that Nigerian farmers produce 2.3millions metric tonnes of tomato annually. Nigeria’s annual rice production in 2019 was 4.9million metric tonnes.
Kebbi State, the rice hub of the nation alone produces 3 million metric tonnes of rice annually. In Zamfara, Bauchi, Taraba state, mining is taking the front burner. The CBN recently bought N5 billion worth of gold from Zamfara state government. What a huge mine. Also, states in the south are now looking beyond oil turning to agriculture, aquatic farming and mining as key drivers. All these products either processed or raw have to be moved to urban cities for consumption or exported to other countries as raw materials. Whichever way, the country benefits from it.
Enunciating the benefits of Dry Port Project, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council Barrister Hassan Bello whose organization midwifed the ICD projects but also the facilitator opines that with the massive rehabilitation of our rail lines, efforts of federal and state governments to improve on transport infrastructure deficit, coupled with economic development of most state governments to encourage large scale investment in agriculture, both for domestic consumption and export market; redevelopment of former cotton, rubber, palm oil and coffee plantations and the massive investment in mining, will surely usher a new era which will buoy the operations of the inland Dry Ports. A better connected Nigeria that has tremendously upgraded its transport systems stretching from rail to road rehabilitation to airways would invariably mean a more flourishing country and considerably cheaper logistics that would not only provide bigger markets but could attract investors to the country.
“Once investors are sure that their products and cost of transportation are affordable and cheap, it encourages them to invest. Inland Dry Ports are geared towards achieving these roles in the economy” Bello added.
Bello further stated that Dry Ports have enormous benefits to the society. It helps in bringing economic development from coastal area to the hinterland. It improves supply chain, logistics, thereby reducing transportation cost. It reduces capacity constraints at sea port while adding value to market players. Mostly importantly it creates jobs, stimulates the economy while reducing youth restiveness.
In conclusion, infrastructural development is a key policy thrust of this government given that it is a catalyst for economic growth and development. We need to grow our economy and with the enormous investment government either Federal, State, Local entrepreneurs or multinational companies are engaging in mining, extractive industries, agriculture, assembly plants in the rural areas will put a lot of pressure on transportation hence the need to fast track the development of Dry Ports to bridge the gap. It is time to roll – up ourselves and lay the bricks and mortar given that the Federal Government job drivers are rural based.
We urge the facilitator, Nigerian Shippers’ Council to ensure that the investors/promoters meet international specifications and global standards. Any compromise in the MOU should be resisted as it may deny the port global accreditation.
The council should also go a step further by interfacing with state governments that are lukewarm to the development of the Dry Ports. Any state government or promoter that is foot dragging, the council should without hesitation weild the big stick. We need all Nigerians to promote our country and equally promote activities that enhance economic growth.