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Economic Boom Looms In Plateau As Dry Port Takes-off

Eleven years after the foundation laying ceremony of Jos Dry Port Project, residents heaved sigh of relief as FG pledges quick completion of the project. In this piece, ACHOR ABIMAJE takes a critical look at the project and assesses the benefits derivable therefrom.

Heipang in Barkin Ladi L.G.C. near Jos, the Plateau State Capital was agog during the foundation laying ceremony of Jos Dry Port Project in 2006.

Indeed, drums were rolled out to celebrate the foundation laying ceremony by one of Nigeria elder statesman, General Yakubu Gowon who is also the son of the soil.

The foundation laying, among other things, ought to have signal the commencement of the construction of the Jos site which is about 20,000 tons facility that will serve Jos and its immediate environment.

But 11 year after the foundation laying ceremony, the Jos site project was abandoned thus adding to the growing list of abandoned projects that littered the country.

Findings revealed that the Jos site, if completed, will serve shippers from Kaduna, Nasarawa and Benue States among others within Nigeria and neighboring land locked countries, which use Nigeria as a transit point for the movement of their cargoes.

Indeed, the idea of dry port or inland port was conceived in the sixties, it was defined as an ‘inland terminal’.  The initial idea was to enable all importers and exporters located within the hinterland carry out their business without necessarily visiting seaports as such, all activities in the seaports were duplicated for the inland terminal.

… brief on Inland container depot

Reflectively, the concept of inland container deport –ICD-in Nigeria was first introduced in 1979, when the then elder Dumpster lines leading other members of the United Kingdom, West Africa Linear Conference teamed up with national insurance corporation of Nigeria (NICON), to established ICD in Kano under the management of inland container Nigeria Limited (ICNL).

The first container was said to have been delivered to the Kano ICD in 1985 by the end of its full year operation.  The experiment was so successful that a second ICD was initiated and commenced operation in Kaduna in 1982, while other places were also on drawing board to establish more sites.

However, these ICDs, were plagued with some problem which led to their demise. Their demise resulted in the managers of the Kano/Kaduna ICDs appeals to the federal ministry of transport in mid 80s to come to their rescue.

This matter was referred to the Nigerian shipper’s council for study and advice; all this marked the beginning of the involvement of Nigeria shipper’s council in promotion of ICDs as a component of transport infrastructure for the hinterland shippers.

Indeed, these are the precursors to the ICDs we currently have either completed or being completed scattered in some parts of the country including the Jos dry inland deport.

… economic activities set to boom

LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that the Jos dry Port Project when completed will receive containerized and other cargoes basically by rail from Lagos or Port-Harcourt, it will also handle export cargoes from Plateau State and other neighboring States.

The Dry Port will ensure that businessmen in Jos now have the privilege to receive their goods in Jos as against traveling to Lagos or Port-Harcourt to clear and take delivery of their cargoes to Jos by road.

Delivery of cargo by rail has advantage of security, speed and bulk carriage while clearance of goods, payment of custom and other duties will be performed on the site.

Above all, the Jos Dry Port Project will not only generate employment to the people within its location as most youths are idle, but will stimulate many new businesses and industries within boarders.  It will also enhance export cargo consolidation for onward transportation to the seaport.  Truck haulage from ICD to consignees will engage several trucks and drivers, freight forwarders and clearing agent, customs and policemen will also be present at the site.

On the whole, the Jos Dry Port Project facility will put a modern face to the ancient reputation of Jos as centre of trade, commerce and tourism.

…high prospects of prompt completion

Good enough, indications have emerged that the seemingly abandoned Jos inland container depot, with all its potentials for boosting economic activities in the states of the north central, will soon be completed.

Speaking recently during an inspection visit to the Jos dry port project, the Minister of Transport Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi said that dry port projects were conceived to facilitate efficient cargo delivery to the hinterland, provide access to port services and to stimulate economic development.

Ameachi said that under the new arrangement, the host state is to provide land free of all encumbrances, basic amenities, facilitate all the necessary building permit, constitute the state dry port implementation committee, inequity participation and other measures to ensure success of the project.

“The concessionaire is to ensure the development and operations of the facility under the supervision of the federal ministry of transport represented by the Nigerian shippers’ council as stipulated in the build, own operate and transfer BOOT agreement”.

The minister recalled the first meeting with the concessionaire of the Jos inland dry port in June 2016 where it was agreed that a new approach is needed if the projects were to be actualized and noted that the Nigerian Shippers council-NSC- and Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission-ICRC- have worked together to fashion out a new agreement which when signed will provide pragmatic and achievable milestones.

According to him, the development of these facilities across the country is based on tripartite arrangement involving the federal government, the host state government and the private investor, with each stakeholder playing a critical role in the development and implementation of the project.

He pointed out that considering the derivable benefits of the project to the Nigerian economy and more so the present administration’s agitation for economic diversification, the federal government is committed in its resolve to achieve the successful take off of these projects nationwide.

A visibly confident Ameachi was elated that the Plateau state government has completed a dual carriage access road to the facility as well as land acquisition and payment of compensation to land owners while the concessionaire has achieved some stages of development with the supervision of the Nigerian Shipper council since their movement to site.

He noted that these can only be done through cooperation and collaboration among the major stakeholders in identifying challenges and ensuring these are properly resolved.

Ameachi also stressed that the visit is to physically inspect and evaluate the level of development of the project and to further solicit the plateau state government continuous support for the project especially the release of fresh letter of exchange and terms and possible areas of consideration for the withdrawal of the pending court case.

He added that others are the resuscitation and reconstituted of Heipang dry port implementation committee, support of the state government in the construction of rail siding linking the facility and the connection to the national grid and link of 33KVA power supply.

In a speech, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state, commended the federal government for the commencement of the Inland Container Depot project and called on the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Aviation to consider construction of railway from Abuja to Jos to ease transportation system in the country.

The governor said that the rail line would cater for about five states if provided, adding that movement from Abuja to some of the northeast states would be made easy.

Lalong also called for the resumption of work at the Jos Airport to make it viable, saying that the project had since been stopped and abandoned.

He commended the minister for the innovation he had brought into the transport sector through his determination to revive the rail sector as well as the aviation sector adding that  the state government will do all that is needful as well committed to ensure that the Jos dry port project became a reality.

Earlier in his opening address the group managing director DUNCAN group of companies the Dr. Godfrey Bawa Shitgurum the concessionaire said the Jos dry port project with a land mass of 33.7 hectares and a capacity to handle 20,000 TEUs adding that this dry port will be a game changer in the economic architecture of the region.

He pointed out that apart of generating revenue to the state and the federal government the port when fully operational will create employment expand the economic value chain and open a new business opportunities to the citizens.

“It will also bring internal trade to the state, lower freight rates, earn foreign exchange and create multi-model transport system”.

He said the minister’s visit is the manifestation of the Federal Government commitment towards the diversification of the economy and the transport sector in Nigeria in particular.

“The story of this project would have been different and our gathering today should have been to commission the Project however, we had experienced a drawback but the steps taken by this administration has inspired confidence in us to resume work.’

“What you are seeing today is the resilience and commitment on our part to see that the state fully benefit from activities of the port “.

“May I use this opportunity to appreciate the efforts of the governor of Plateau State, Barr Simon Lalong for demonstrating strong desire towards the project which resulted to the level you are seeing today.”

“As part of the state Governor’s commitment, he had paid a personal visit in 2015 to the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, in Abuja, and also sent relevant government functionaries and agencies to see the level of work at the IDP “.

“We thank and appreciate the Executive Secretary of the NSC in a special way and the roles of the Council in ensuring that we are where we are today. We want to say a big thank you for your encouragement and support. We remain grateful to them “.

“The benefits of the Heipang Inland Container Depot to Plateau State, North Central States, including Abuja and the North East states cannot be over emphasized

He appeal to the Federal and State Governments to intervene in the provision of internal road network, water supply and electricity into the IDP while also calling on the Nigeria Shippers Council to facilitate the signing of Support Approval, GSA, to guarantee the state government continued support and to fast track the gazette of the Jos IDP as a dry port of origin and destination.

On his part the Executive Secretary Nigerian shippers Council NSC Barr. Hassan Bello said the Jos Inland Dry Port (inland Container Depot) under construction will be completed in June this year.

According to the Executive secretary they will leave no stone unturned to ensure it completion at the stipulated time because of the economic important to the people of north central and beyond.

… residents anxious about quick completion

Expectedly, residents of Heipang community and environs are anxious about the timely completion of the projects which they feel will not only improve their economic fortunes, but will upgrade the status of the community to an urban settlement.

Dominic Galadima is a youth leader in the Heipang area of the state. He told our correspondent that the residents have waited too long to see the project come to fruition.

“We are waiting and are very optimistic that the project will be completed soon. Once that happens, it will help us in so many ways including providing jobs for our youths and assist in attracting other infrastructures to our area”

Be that as it may and in view of the huge impact that the Jos Inland Port Project will make on the state economy of plateau state and its environs, the need for all stakeholders to ensure that all hands are on deck to ensure its speedy completion cannot be underestimated.

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