Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Inland dry ports are usually connected directly to seaports by road or rail. They serve as centres for trans-shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations. They take away the time-consuming sorting and processing of containers from congested seaports to inland.

These days, however, the people of South West are eagerly awaiting an Inland Dry Port in Ibadan, Oyo State, expected to rejuvenate the economy of the zone. The port will be sited at Olorisa-Oko, about five kilometres to Moniya, headquarters of Akinyele Local Government, and by the Ibadan terminal of Lagos-Ibadan standard guage light rail around the area the rail project bisects the old Ibadan-Oyo Road.

The project will bring sites of dry ports in Ibadan to two. The two ports are under public private partnership arrangements. The first site is at Erunmu on Ibadan-Iwo Road, Lagelu Local Government and the project started in 2006 during the administration of a former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The port which turning of sod was performed by former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, has not been functioning.

Director of Inland Transport Services, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Akintunde Makinde, told Daily Sun: “We have had inland container depots in the past. We had in Kano and Kaduna, but they were not full- fledged. They were like bonded warehouses, operating in those locations. NSC got into this thing because we wanted to reduce port congestion. We also wanted to bring shipping to the hinterland. We have coastlines and seaports, and we have a very large hinterland.

“People live in Maiduguri, they live in Kano they live in far places, why should we force them to come to Lagos to clear their cargo? If they come by road, they will spend days on the road, and they may spend weeks clearing their cargo. The cargo will also spend many days on the road before they get back to their destinations.

“So, why not take the seaport economy to the hinterland so they can from their office, move to the dry port, clear their cargo and to their warehouses? This is what we thought. We then decided to do a feasibility study to see if we can do dry ports in this country. We got a company from Germany, called Hamburg Ports Consulting, to do the feasibility study.”

The consultant was said to have gone round the country with Nigerians, and they came up with a report, which recommended six locations for these dry ports. They got Erunmu in Ibadan, Oyo State, South West; Isiala-Ngwa, Aba in Abia State, South-East; Funtua, Katsina and Zawachiki, Kano in the North-West; Heipang, Jos in North-Central and Jauri, Maiduguri in North-East.

Makinde continued: “We did tendering for them, and we got concessionaires that won those six locations. They were given the concessions. The land was possessed through state governments of those locations. We got titles for the land and we gave it to the concessionaire to start the work. Some of them started and some could not start due to one reason or the other.

“The Erunmu project started, and they did some works there. They did gatehouse, and constructed one other structure there. Kano did site office. Some of them did something and some could not do anything. But most of the problems are financial. They did not have enough financial backing to do it.

“Over the years, they have been negotiating with financial partners from abroad, and from Nigeria to help them implement the project. These projects were given to them in 2006, which is quite a long time.

“The company that got Erunmu Dry port is called Catamaran, which did some initial works. After sometime, they slowed down. Work couldn’t go on much. We heard that the reason was because the company had some issues. All these projects were sited near rail lines, which is the old rail line, that we call narrow guage.”

He stated that the when the Federal Government started the standard guage rail line, which started from Lagos, passing through Ibadan to Kano, the company “handling the project said this project is passing through Olorisa-Oko in Ibadan, we can do a dry port at that location.

“Fortunately, the new standard gauge rail line is not passing through Erunmu again. It passes through Olorisa-Oko, about 20 kilometres away from Erunmu. We told them, why not use Erunmu?  They said no, the standard gauge is not passing through Erunmu, which is why the new dry port would be sited at Olorisa-Oko.

“But we are not abandoning the Erunmu site. We are still going to do the Erunmu site because Ibadan is a big place, and the catchment areas go beyond Oyo State. Cargo can go to Ondo and Ekiti states, and so on, from Ibadan. This is why we can have two dry ports in Ibadan. The dry ports in Olorisa-Oko and Erunmu can stand and work together. This is what we are looking at now.

“There is no junior or senior brother between the ports. Even, the land in Erunmu is bigger than the one at Olorisa-Oko. It depends on the investment that is put there. You can have a big land and do a small dry port. But the two of them will be viable.

“Erunmu did not end up in a bad way. The Erunmu dry port will function. The most important thing is to ensure that the concessionaire that will be chosen has the financial muscle to do the work from start to finish, not that the work will reach half way and they won’t have money again. They may be encouraged to enter into partnership, to have local people investing in this project, so that there will be a solid base for the dry port. We are going to have sustainability of the two projects.

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“Oyo State Government realises the importance of dry port to the economy in the state, and the state is a food basket. If we can get our products packed in this place, and containerised and shipped abroad, instead of taking them to Lagos, the economy will boom. The dry port will pave way for so many industries to spring up in this area.

“The main reason for dry port is not only imports, but exports. Dry ports will encourage exporters. Most of the people that export things don’t have enough things to carry to Lagos. If you have few bags of whatever, and another person has another bags of the same whatever, you can bring all of them together in this place, package them together, and put them in a container. It is easier to do. You can’t take a few bags to Lagos.

“The dry port project is mainly to improve export, that we’ll stop relying on oil. Oil is a wasting asset; anytime you take from it, it reduces. When you farm or produce things, it doesn’t reduce. It will produce more and more.

“We need political support from our political leaders. Government is a continuum. We expect that the level of support we received from this outgoing government be continued with the in-coming one so that we can have sustainability. The Erunmu project would have gone beyond the level it is now, if there has been more support.”

Executive Secretary, Bureau of Investment Promotion and Public Private Partnership in the Governor’s Office, Mr Yinka Fatoki, who was recently appointed permanent secretary, said: “By virtue of the law of the land, moderating the maritime sector, the NSC is the regulator of that sector. It is the chief promoter and Oyo State is co-promoting the project.

“The involvement of the state government is the provision of the 90 hectares of land stretch on which the dry port will be situated. The promotion of the project is predicated on PPP arrangement, adopting the DBOT template, which is an acronym for Develop, Build, Operate and Transfer.

“Oyo State, by virtue of its pedigree, is the administrative and political nerve centre of South West. It is barely an hour from Lagos, which is the commercial capital of the country. It will considerably assist in decongesting the Apapa Port, the main port in Lagos.

“It will be a transit point for distribution of cargo to the various states of the South West. It will be a port of origin and a port of destination. If they are shipping anything from the other climes, the destination will be Ibadan here. It won’t be Lagos. You don’t have to clear your cargo in Lagos. We can have Customs clearance here. It will be a port of destination.

“It is going to be a port of origin. It will create a lot of employment directly and indirectly and ancillary activities, relating to port activities. The multiplier effect is such that where you have commercial activities, you will find out that hospitality business in terms of hotels, restaurants, canteens will spring up. There will be need for warehouses.

“Of course, the main attraction of this port is its proximal location to the Ibadan terminal of standard gauge rail corridor. It is nearing completion and the proximal location of this project to Ibadan end terminal will assist because Lagos is going to be barely 30 to 40 minutes from Ibadan. Most people that are working in Lagos can afford to come and live in Ibadan. It means a lot of housing estates will also spring up around here. The potentials of the dry port are awesome.

“The initial Erunmu dry port along with five others were the six designated inland container depots that the Obasanjo administration rolled out in its bid to decentralise the port operations, and to encourage exports from the hinterland. Unfortunately, those ports were dead on arrival. It was a learning curve for the NSC. There were so many things that were taken for granted. The Federal Government did not designate them as ports of origin, or a port of destination.

“The Customs must be able to recognise a port as a port of origin or a destination before it operates as a port. There were technical issues. The processes that led to the appointment of concessionaires in Ibadan and other five were also questionable. For so many reasons, they have issues that have up till now constrained taking off of the six ports apart from the one in Kaduna. And it is still debatable whether it has seen light of the day.

“What government has done is to make the project a win-win situation for Oyo State. We have over time studied the issues involved with the Erunmu project. We forged strategic partnerships with one of the major brands in the maritime sector worldwide, APM Terminals, with its headquarters in Hague, Netherlands. The initial effort was to have it come on stream as a major driver of original Erunmu Project. But it understood the issues involved more than anyone else. And it said it would not touch it.

“What we have arranged now and we have been working together on the new project for two years. It is an ultra modern logistic hub that will have all the features of a dry port in Erunmu too, but not that initial location. It is just by it. It is a 20-hectare land that has been subscribed by the state government and the company will bring about $9million on the table.

“We are hopeful by what is on ground that it will come on stream before the end of this year. The Business Development Manager of APM in Lagos, was in my office and he brought a consultant from the United Kingdom, who would lead a team that would conduct the soil test on that terrain.”

Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said the new dry port would be 20,000 tonnes capacity and would be developed in three phases: “The need to develop inland dry port in hinterland parts of the country is more demanding now than 2007 when the Federal Executive Council approved the concession of six inland container depots across the country.”