The process to reopen operations at six Inland Container Depots (ICDs), otherwise called dry ports, located in each of the country’s geo-political zones, has commenced, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) disclosed Wednesday.
The Commission disclosed this during a meeting it organized with the owners of the project, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), and the Concessionaires.
The ICRC is the government agency under the Presidency charged with the responsibility of regulating all government concessions and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
The meeting was held to seek solutions to those factors hindering the completion of the dry ports whose contracts were signed since 2006.
Acting Director General of the Commission, Michael Ohiani, said 16 years after the concession contracts were signed, some of the ICDs were still at 5 percent completion, while only two had gotten to 55 percent and 68 percent completion levels respectively.
Also at the meeting was ICRC’s Director of Contract Compliance Department, Jobson Ewalefoh, and his team.
In his remarks, the Ag. Director General said the Commission plans to rub minds, identify the challenges, taking into consideration that these projects have already attracted Mr. President’s attention.
He said there was need to decongest the country’s seaports and come up with ways to make progress on the development of the ports.
When completed, he said these ICDs would bring the required benefits to the citizens and the country.
“We are not unaware that at the material time that the contracts were signed, ICRC as a Commission had not been set up. So, no proper Outline Business Cases (OBCs) were done for the projects, like we now do. But I want us to have a frank discussion so that we can chart a way forward,” he told participants at the meeting.
The Commission reminded the concessionaires and NSC that by its Act, it is to take custody of all public-private partnership (PPP) contracts, including the ones for the ICDs.
The concessionaires and states where the ports are located include Oyo state (Ibadan) with 50,000 20-foot Equivalent Unit (TEUs), by Catamaran Logistics Ltd; Abia State (Isiala Ngwa) with 50,000 TEUs by Eastgate Ltd; Plateau State (Jos) with 20,000 TEUs by Duncan Maritime Nig. Ltd; Kano State (Dala) with 20,000 TEUs by Dala Inland Dry Port Ltd.; Katsina State (Funtua) with 10,000 TEUs by Equitorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd., and Borno state (Maiduguri) with 10,000 TEUs by Migfo Nigeria Ltd.
Based on the last assessment presented to the ICRC by the NSC, the the Dg said the percentage progress made by the concessionaires were Oyo state – 10%, Abia state – 5%, Plateau State 29.7%, Kano state – 55%, Katsina State – 68% and Borno State – 5%.
However, the concessionaires told the ICRC that the 16 years journey had been fraught with various challenges which hampered any further progress.
The concessionaires complained of poor cooperation from state governments who mostly delay in meeting their own part of the agreement, for instance in the area of land provision.
Another major challenge, they said, was the lack of narrow-gauge rail lines in and out of the dry ports, which made operation of the ports inefficient.
Besides, access to funds, they said, also remained a major issue, even as banks and foreign investors made unreasonable demands for assets and bank bonds before the release of funds.
At the end of the meeting the concessionaires unanimously stressed the need for the ports being constructed to be given the status of port of origin and destination and also to be registered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) upon completion.
In view of the delay in execution, the concessionaires stressed the need for a new agreement, pointing out that although an agreement began in 2017 between them and the NSC, it was yet to be cleared by the Federal Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
While commending the ICRC for its intervention, and NSC for its support so far, the concessionaires expressed confidence that under the present administration issues on the contracts would be resolve.
They pledged their commitment to see the concession to conclusion and the ports operational even as two of the concessionaires, Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd for the Katsina ports and Dala Inland Dry Port for the Kano Ports declared that their ports would commence operation before the third quarter of 2022.
Managing Director of Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd, Usman Iya Abbas, informed the ICRC team that the Funtua port was already at over 85 percent completion, and was ready to launch before the end of the second quarter of 2022.
“We hope to commission this project before the end of the second quarter and the ports will become functional immediately. We are lucky to have great relationships in the shipping industry and with major shipping lines.
The MD of the Dala Inland Dry Port Ltd., concessionaires of the Kano Inland Port, Ahmed Rabiu, also hinted that the construction of the container depot was already nearing completion.
He assured that the company was working assiduously to ensure project completion and take off before the end of March 2022.
On his part, Ewalefoh of the ICRC who chaired the technical session of the meeting assured the concessionaires of the continuous support of the Commission, charging them however to send a detailed update of the contract status reports to the ICRC.
He further enjoined the other four concessionaires who were yet to make remarkable progress in their contract execution to emulate the milestone recorded by the other two who were finalizing their constructions, so that the ports can yield the economic benefits for which the concessions were granted.