• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ntigha Dry Port still a pipe dream 16 years after conception

Container traffic at Nigerian ports hits 1.56m TEUs in 2023

…Why it should be one of Otti’s priority projects

Realisation of Ntigha Inland Dry Port (IDP) project in Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State, is still a mirage 16 years after it was conceptualised and liscenced for construction by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), while similar projects in other regions gazetted at the same time have been realised.

Understanding Inland Dry Ports

Typically, Inland Dry Ports (IDP) bring shipping services to the door step of shippers, assists in decongesting the seaports and make them more user-friendly and provides the impetus to revive and modernise the railway as primary mode for long distance haulage. Above all, it helps to reduce the over all costs of cargo to hinterland locations as well as to landlocked countries.
The development of Inland Dry Ports across the country was an initiative of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. The IDPs are being promoted and facilitated on the basis of Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement.

Read also: Port automation: NPA says Nigeria will meet IMO 2025 deadline

The IDP being an equivalent of a sea port located in the hinterland receives containers by rail or road from the seaport for examination and clearance by customs and other authorised Agencies. It has all the loading and off-loading equipment needed to handle containers.

The proposed inland dry port at Ntigha was one of the six legacy projects of the Federal Government, entrusted to “Eastgate Inland Container Limited, through a concession.

Ntigha Dry Port lags peers

Other gazetted inland dry ports in Nigeria are Hipang, Jos, Plateau State; Funtua, Katsina State; Dala, Kano State; Hauri, Maiduguri, Bornu State and Erunmu, Ibadan, in Oyo State.

The Kaduna container deport was later upgraded to the status of an Inland Dry Port and was commissioned in 2018.

Apart from Kaduna, Dala Dry Port in Kano State having attained practical level of completion, was commissioned by former President Muhammadu Buhari on January 30,, 2023.

Funtua Inland Dry Port in Katsina State, following the attainment of the minimum standard level of completion, was declared as a Port of Origin and Destination for import/ export cargoes by the former Minister Minister of Transportation on February 2 2023.

Work is currently ongoing at the Jos Inland Dry Port in Plateau State, as a result of the smooth exit of Duncan Maritime Ventures, Ltd, and the successful takeover of the Jos IDP by Plateau State Investment and Property Company Limited (PIPC), the new concessionaire has returned to site.

Meanwhile, actual construction work has not started at the Ntigha Dry Port, which is touted to be the most viable of all the Dry Ports liscensed by the NSC.

The Ntigha Dry Port was approved alongside six others in 2007. It was the first to get certificate of occupancy in 2008.

The concessionaires signed an agreement for commencement of construction at the site in 2009, but some unknown factors stalled the dry port project commencement, as the project had witnessed two ground breaking ceremonies and still construction work has not dtarted.

The first ground-breaking ceremony was done during former Governor Theodore Orji’s tenure, as Abia Governor, while the second was in the third year of Okezie Ikpeazu’s first tenure, the immidiate past governor of the State.

Stakeholders in the transport value chain in the South-East Zone of Nigeria with the understanding of the importance of a dry port in the zone, have at different forra appealed to both the Federal and Abia State Governments to speed up the realisation of the project.

Read also: Nigerian Shippers Council harps on inland dry ports to ease congestion

Call for implementation committee

At a sensitisation programme/presentation of operational manual for IDPs, organised by the NSC, in Aba, the stakeholders also called for immidiate constitution of state implementation committee for Isiala-Ngwa IDP and appealed to Eastgate to embark on aggressive sensitisation programme on the operations of Isiala-Ngwa IDP, in order to improve visibility and patronage.

They also pleaded with the Federal and Abia State Governments to fast track the provision of critical transport infrastructure (road/rail) in the state, in order to ensure seamless movement of cargoes from the seaports to the proposed Isiala-Ngwa Inland Dry Port (IDP).

Importance of Ntigha Dry Port

The Ntigha IDP, when realised, will improve trade and investment in Aba, which is a commercial hub that serves the entire South-East and South-South Zones of Nigeria and neighbouring Central African Countries with Cameroon, as the central market.
It will also reduce losses incurred in transporting containers, belonging to businessmen from the South-East, stocked in Apapa Sea Port in Lagos State.

Chamber of Commerce weighs in

Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA), a city chamber, also appealed to the Federal Government to hasten action towards the completion of Ntigha IDP.

Lawrence Obetta, former president of ACCIMA, observed that the project when completed, would go a long way to resolve all shipment problems encountered, by importers and exporters in the South-East Zone of the country.

He observed that the dry port project will be a catalyst to the economic development of the State and indeed, the entire South-East region, noting that upon completion that businessmen, who engage in import and export would not have to go beyond the State to enjoy port services, as containers to and from the region, would be discharged at the port, for onward movement to their final destinations.

He said that the location of the dry port would catalyse the growth and development of indirect businesses around the area, in addition to the provision of jobs.

Read also: Nigerian ports begin full automation to tap opportunities in AfCFTA

When fully operational, the port is expected to boost business transaction in the South-East and de­congest Onne and Port Harcourt ports.

The proposed project, which is a 50,000 TEU (container) port facility, will serve Aba, Onitsha, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Delta and Benue States. The port would receive containerised cargo by rail or road from Port Harcourt.