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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Multi-billion-naira Inland Dry Ports projects abandoned, sites taken over by weeds, horse traders

By News Express on 29/01/2018

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Business activities are yet to commence in most places designated as Inland Dry Ports across the country, investigations by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) have revealed.

NAN checks indicated that, apart from the Kaduna Dry Port where activities have commenced and that of Jos, where work at the site had reached advanced stage, work had either been abandoned or not commenced in all other sites.

In the South-East, work is yet to start at the two sites proposed for the construction of the ports at Ntigha and Obollo Afor in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State, and Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State respectively.

In Aba, Abia State, the Ntigha Port is located on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway had been overgrown with weeds with no structure in place.

In 2017,the state government had signed a deal with the Concessionaire, East Gate Container Terminal Limited.

The Zonal Coordinator of the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Aba office, Mrs Ify Ofulue told NAN that work had not started at the site at the moment.

Ofulue said she had called the telephone lines of the concessionaires to have update on the project, but discovered that they were out of the country.

The Executive Secretary of NSC, Hassan Bello had earlier said that the Abia Inland Cargo Dry Port, would ultimately become an export free trade zone, which would create 3,000 jobs opportunities.

“When fully operational, the port is expected to boost business transactions in the South-East and decongest Onne and Port Harcourt Wharfs,” Bello said.

In Nsukka, the dry port in Obollo Afor is not functional, just as the land hosting the sign-post had been taken over by cow and horse dealers.

A NAN correspondent, who visited the dry port on Obollo-Makurdi Expressway, reports that the only indication of port was the sign post that read “Dry Port Project by Nigeria Shippers Council, in conjunction with Enugu State Government, Obollo Afor.”

A horse seller, who identified himself as Bello Idris, told NAN that some people came last year and fixed the sign-post, and left.

“We are using this place to sell our horses, as well as hire them to those who want because nobody is using this place.

“Anytime those who put this sign post come to make use of this place, we will look for another place to do our business,” Idris said.

Mr Victor Urama, an indigene of Obollo Afor, said that besides the sign-post indicating the location of the “Inland Dry Port”, there was nothing to show as the place was completely “dry”.

According to him, this is why cow and horse sellers are using the place to run their business.

“To me, I do not think there is any element of seriousness on the part of the appropriate authorities to develop that place as Dry Port,” Urama said.

Similarly, NAN checks reveal that the Inland Container Depot at Erunmu in Egbeda Local Government Area of Oyo State remains moribund.

Since the inception of his administration in 2011, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi had repeatedly promised to revamp the moribund dry port.

Mr Yinka Fatoki, Executive Secretary of the Bureau of Investment Promotion, declined comment on the issue when contacted by NAN.

Last year, the Federal Government had expressed commitment to collaborate with the state government to ensure that the port became operational.

In Kano, the non-declaration of the Inland Dry Port located in the state as “port of origin and destination” by the relevant authorities had stalled its operation 15 years after its completion.

Alhaji Ahmad Rabi’u, Chairman of Dala Inland Dry Port Nigeria Limited, Kano, who is the state Commissioner of Commerce and Industry, said work on the port was completed in 2003, but that the facility had remained dormant.

“Dala Inland Dry port is ready to commence commercial activities but is waiting for the declaration of the facility as port of origin and destination for the final technical arrangement and formal take-off.

“In 2003, the Dala Inland Dry Port Nigeria Limited was awarded responsibility to operate the Kano Dry port and since then, it has passed through different stages of development.

“All the technical arrangements have been concluded, with the exception of the declaration expected to be formalised,” Rabi’u added.

He said the port was constructed under a Public Private Partnership arrangement, with Kano State Government holding 20 percent equity interest.

According to him, the port would generate a lot of revenue as Kano constitutes between 75 and 80 percent of Nigerian cargo export.

He said the port would be linked to the rail line, and has facilities for storage, consolidation of goods, maintenance for roads and rail cargo carriers, as well as customs clearance services.

Rabi’u therefore urged the Federal Government to facilitate the completion of the processes in view of the economic benefits of the port to the people of the state and the country at large.

NAN also reports that work on Fright Station/Dry Port in Funtua, Katsina State, which started since September 2014, is progressing at a snail speed and residents are worried that it may be abandoned.

The District Head of Funtua, Alhaji Sambo Idris is therefore urging the Federal Government to hasten its completion because of its economic importance.

Alhaji Abdullahi Kutawa, Acting Chairman of Funtua Local Government Council, and Alhaji Bello Abubakar, National President of Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, said they were looking forward to the completion of the project, adding that it would facilitate evacuation of agricultural products and generate commercial activities.

Effort made by NAN to have comments from the project concessionaires, Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas was not successful.

The project was billed to be completed within 30 months of commencement but since then, its cost had risen from the initial N3 billion to N5 billion.

Under the initial arrangement, the Katsina State Government will acquire 10 percent equity, while the 36 local councils will also have 10 percent stake with the equity reserved for Katsina indigenes, to be issued to interested investors.

Meanwhile, some traders in Maiduguri are calling on the Federal Government to expedite work on Borno Dry Port project to fast-track socio- economic development of the state.

A cross section of the traders who made the call while speaking with NAN in Maiduguri, said the call was imperative considering the damage done to the state’s economy as a result of activities of insurgents.

Alhaji Nura Ahmed, a trader, said the project would reinvigorate businesses, provide job opportunities and enhance wealth creation in the society.

“Dry Port is desirable as part of practical measures to resuscitate the shattered economy of Borno and neighbouring states.

 

“We call on the government to ensure the actualisation of the project,” he appealed.

Abubakar Kime, another trader, said that the project would stimulate import and export of agricultural produce in the North-East.

Kime noted that all the trading routes to Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun had been destroyed by the insurgents, a situation which crippled business activities.

“Dry Port will accelerate importation of manufactured goods and promote exportation of fish, livestock, farm produce, hides and skin.

“We came to know about the proposed project through government pronouncement; it is a welcome development,” he said.

Efforts by NAN to get the comments of officials of Ministry of Transport and Lake Chad Basin Development Commission on the project were unsuccessful.

It is still not clear where the project will be sited in view of the ongoing military operation in Lake Chad region.

President Muhammad Buhari had announced plans to establish Dry Ports in Borno, alongside Kano, Kaduna and some other states in the North.

The situation at the 33-hectares Heipang Inland Container Deport in Plateau State is however different as Mr Bawa Peters, Executive Director of DUNCAN Group of Companies, handlers of construction work at the deport, told NAN that they were anticipating the creation of 5,000 jobs from the project that had reached 70 percent completion stage.

He appealed to business men in the North to patronise the project when completed, saying that it would save them the massive cost involved in traveling to sea ports to clear their goods.

“Vigorous work commenced at the site five weeks ago. The progress is massive and will be sustained till the job is completed,” he assured.

Peters called on the Federal and Plateau State governments to ensure the construction of a railway line to the terminal.

“Government should also ensure that there are good roads, electricity and other facilities that will link the container depot.

“Already, offices for banks, clearing agents, fire service bay and Port police post are almost completed. It means we have gone very far,” he said.

Activities are gradually picking up at the Kaduna Dry Port, which started operation at the beginning of the year, says the Manager of the port, Mr Rotimi Raimi.

According to him, the general cargo activities being carried out in Lagos seaport are also taking place in Kaduna, adding that they have been getting encouraging inquiries from businessmen on how best to utilise the port.

He said importers in the North now had an alternative of cheaper means of doing business without demurrage, as goods are received within 24 hours.

“Inland Container Depots in the hinterland was informed by the need to reduce the congestion in Lagos ports and provide ease of doing business.

“What we are advising importers to do is to adhere to the Federal Government’s guidelines on importation; importers or exporters that do not know what to do, should come to us; we are going to enlighten them on all the processes so that they can be guided accordingly,’’ he said.

He said in terms of job creation, the port had provided fully furnished offices for all government agencies, shipping representatives, banks and restaurants, making it a one-stop-shop for businesses.

“We are expanding and in a few years to come, a lot of employment opportunities will be created; the employment rate, both direct and indirect, will be multiplying on a yearly basis,” he added.

The manager said a Modern Examination Bill for the Nigeria Customs Service, the first of its type in the country, had been installed at the port.

He said 30 wagons would be used to pull and push containers to the terminal from the train station.

According to him, the port has the capacity to handle 29,000 tons of cargo yearly, with room for expansion.

On security, Raimi said facilities had been put in place, with government and private security personnel, CCTV cameras and electric fence complementing each other to ensure the safety of goods.” (NAN)

Source News Express

Posted 29/01/2018 04:29:19 AM

 

 

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