The economic impact of the Dec 2017 proposed take off of Abia Inland Dry Port
If things go as they were designed, the first set of containers are expected to land at the Abia Inland Container Dry Port located at Avor Ntigha, Isiala Ngwa North Local Government of Abia State. The cheering news to Abians, South East, and Nigerians in general was announced recently by an official of the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Christian Chimezie.
It will be recalled that Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in his desire to open access to trade and commerce in the state, develop avenues that would support inflow of businesses, inaugurated the Inland Dry Port Project Implementation Committee early this year.
According to Chimezie, the committee was working hard to realise the target date for the delivery of the port, adding that Abia State that the government was committed to realising the port to boost business transactions in the South East and decongest Onne Port.
The import of the facility to the economy of Abia State cannot be over emphasised .In 2007, the then Minister of Transportation, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, during the ground breaking ceremony of the project said that the depot when completed would create 100,000 jobs.
Also, the project, a 50,000 TEU (containers) port facility, would serve Aba, Onitsha,Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Delta and Benue states. One of the features of the port was that it would receive containerised cargo by rail from Port Harcourt.
Considering the strategic economic position of Aba as the commercial hub of the South East, the idea behind the establishment of the dry port was to save importers the trouble of traveling to the coast for their business transactions thereby bring goods closer to the owners.
The Abia Inland Cargo Depot, among other ICDs, was a product of the Build Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement the federal government signed with concessionaires in 2006. The agreement, which identifies the federal government as the guarantor and concessionaires as operators, stipulates that private investors would be licensed to build Dry ports at designated sites, operate them for stipulated time and transfer ownership to the federal government. The system enables private investors to partner with the government in providing port facilities.
Other ICDs were sited at Zawachiki village, Kano State; Eronnu in Egbeda LGA of Oyo State; Heipang, Barkin Ladi, Plateau; and Galanbi , Bauchi State.
Fortunately for the Abia Inland Port, Eastgate Inland Terminal Limited, the concessionaires of Abia ICD were the first among other ICDs to be issued Certificate of Occupancy by Nigeria Shippers Council in 2008, and in 2009, the agreement for the commencement of the physical development was signed.
Adebayo had during the ground breaking ceremony of the project in 2007 stated that government expected the Abia ICD to be ready for business within 30 months. Unfortunately, the facility is yet to come on stream. The time around, we are relying on the pledge made by Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu that the state would deploy maximum support for Nigeria Shippers Council and the concessionaires, Eastgate Inland Container Limited towards the realization of the project. The governor, whose words have remained his bond, is disposed to deploy available infrastructures and facilities for the economic advancement of the state.
Inland Container Depot was first introduced in the country in 1979 when the then Elder Dempster Lines led other members of the United Kingdom West Africa Liner Conference (UKWAL), to team up with the National Insurance Corporation (NICON) to establish an ICD in Kano, under the management of Inland Container Nigeria Ltd (ICNL).
Another Inland Container Depot was established in Kaduna but the two ICDs were plagued with several problems which led to their closure. After their collapse, the managers of the Kano/Kaduna ICDs appealed to the federal government to resuscitate them and the matter was referred to the Shippers’ Council, thus marking the beginning of the involvement of the Council in the promotion of ICDs as a component transport infrastructure for hinterland shippers.
Ukegbu writes from Umuahia, Abia State.