Lolo is regarded as Kebbi State’s agricultural corridor, and a commercial jewel that would assist Nigeria’s diversification process, improving the country’s economic climate locally and internationally. This dream hangs on the proposal by government to build a dry inland port for the growing business community. Yahaya Sarki writes
There is no doubt that both economic and commercial activities is what makes a place, regardless of how big or small. These practices are viable and reliable for development beneficial to both the people, state and country at large.
It is in this light that Lolo in Kebbi state which lies in a semi urban area of Bagudu local government, has unmistakably become a promising business hub to drive Nigeria’s economy forward.
Lolo is about 123 kilometres away from the state capital Birnin Kebbi via Kamba in Dandi local government area. While from Bagudo local government where it is located, it is a distance of 158 kilometres by road.
This agricultural and business settlement also borders two West African countries of Benin and Niger republic. The economic and commercial activities of the area is thanks to its strategic position as a border town and linkages to these African countries.
Kebbi State is lucky to have two important borders linking the Republic of Niger and the Republic of Benin respectively at Kamba, Lolo , Nigeria and Gaya Niger Republic and IIoua in Republic of Benin.
Owing to the economic potentials of Lolo as an international market and corridor that facilitates the movement of goods and persons across the border, the federal government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Shippers Council has proposed to establish The Lolo Inland Container Depot (ICD) since 2015 in order to facilitate and encourage hinterland and intraregional trades. However, this proposal is taking time in being implemented.
Meanwhile, it is not surprising that any first time visitor to Lolo, will notice the behive of economic and commercial activities at an international level. Also unmissable is the farming activities of the people of the area.
On reaching Kamba to Dole Kaina ,there lies a water entry , a small river with boats moving from one point to the other of Lolo. People mostly come to this busy point for commercial trading activities with their goods and bags of different grain of crops, loaded and off loaded at both ends.
Some of these traders are going into Lolo to Benin while others are coming back into Lolo. At the border between Lolo and Benin, just about 3 kilometres away, exist Customs, Immigration keeping vigil on what comes in and out of the country.
Nigeria and Republic of Benin have taken this opportunity of the Lolo area for free trade. Seen at the region are trucks in large numbers as goods are exchanged, those for import and those for export from one country to another.
Hundreds of people between Nigeria and Benin as well as other West African countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, also carry out their legitimate businesses and transactions in Lolo.
In the same vein, Lolo has an international market where people come to transact businesses, eg trade and commerce.
Food stuffs and cash crops such as rice ,onions,maize ,groundnut ,tomato and livestock such as cows and goats are also sold. These activities facilitate the movement of goods and persons from different countries.
Interestingly, most of the goods that come from Benin for transaction into Nigeria are cosmetics, oil palm and other goods, while the ones from Nigeria going into Benin and other African countries are agricultural products such as rice ,sorghum ,maize among others.
The Lolo international market for sometime now serves as a link, connection to several other African countries facilitating trade and is indeed a hub centre for traders from different part ms of West Africa and Central African countries.
Lolo has become so popular that as a melting business point, people from far and near in places such as Benin Republic,Togo,Burkina Faso,Niger,Mali,Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana as well as Northern part of Cameroon and Chad transporting themselves by road and water patronise Lolo international market which takes place every Wednesday of the week.
In the time being, although the immediate former governor, Saidu Dakingari had budgeted 14 billion naira for reconstruction of the international road, Lolo still has a road that links the two sister countries Benin and Niger republic making it easier for trade to go on.
The Kamba and Bagudo local government councils play an important role in the facilitation of inter-states trade, because of their position as Nigerian border commercial hub centres for traders from Central and West Africa.
These two communities speak the same language, Hausa language predominantly spoken and have the same culture, meanwhile their Republic of Benin counterpart and other Francophone countries speak French.
A visit to Lolo community by Leadership Sunday, reveals the great economic , social and even cultural potentials of the area and what Kebbi State and Nigeria stands to gain if a dry inland port is established in the area.
The location of the site is one by two kilometres stretch of land on the outskirts of Lolo close to the border with Benin Republic, about 5 kilometres to Nigeria/Benin republic entry point.
Investigations carried out by Leadership Sunday revealed that the land which is meant for the project is owned by individuals who have willingly given it out for the project, but are however awaiting compensation from the government.
Already the area according to the locals have since been surveyed and quantified by the state ministry of Lands and Housing and a delegation from the Nigerian Shippers Council have recently visited the area for inspection.
The area is also fortified with security, a mini army barracks and a police station apart from the presence of the Customs,Immigration and the State Security Service.
The benefitting host community of Lolo which is a very important stakeholder in the establishment of the dry port, wants the federal government of Nigeria to collaborate with Kebbi State Government to make the Lolo Inland Dry port a reality.
Community leaders and members expressed unreserved willingness to support the establishment of the dry port in their area and cannot withhold their enthusiasm and joy about the initiative. The leaders hope that government would start the project in earnest.
The village head of Lolo, Abubakar Muhammad Lolo ( Lonzon of Lolo ) was full of praise to God for selecting the area for the project. He said his hope was rekindled when a delegation from the Nigerian Shippers Council visited the area.
“Just recently, a delegation from the Nigerian Shippers Council, led by the Director of the Northwest, came here, we showed them the site which consists of 1 by 2 kilometres stretch of land. She expressed utmost happiness about it.
“This project we believe, is part of the diversification agenda of Mr President and we are happy to be part of it. The numerous development it will bring to our area is unquantifiable, this is not to say about the generation of employment to our hundreds of youths and even the people.
“We pray that God will give both President Buhari and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu the courage to make this project a reality. My call on government is to hasten the project which will not only generate wealth and employment to people here but will quickly improve the economy of Nigeria.
“Luckily, Lolo is a border town that has links to about three countries, Benin and Niger republic. God has blessed this area with many business potentials, people from Ghana bring palm oil, we grow onion and rice in large quantities, we have about nine kilometres of Fadama land for massive production which is in line with both PMB and Governor Bagudu agricultural agenda.
“If you go round to see for yourself the natural richness of this area, you will be amazed. There are farmers that can get 800 bags even over 1000 bags from their yeild , that is why we are making special appeal to federal to tap into the endowment of this area by setting up a dry port”, he said.
The Lolo community leader, while pledging total support of his people on the project said ‘’ We will support this project 100 percent. Whatever is needed of us we will do because it is for the benefit of my people. The coming of officials from the Nigerian Shippers Council is an indication of federal government’s resolve to carry out the project. All that we want is prompt action from the government and we will surely support the course,” he emphasised.
An elder of the community and the traditional title holder of Lolo Majidadin Lolo, Muhammad Ibrahim, also cannot hide his feelings on the proposed inland port in Lolo.
“To be candid, I do not know how to express my feelings about the proposed dry port because it is very vital to our development especially the youths. You see our youths are very focused on self reliance. So for that it will be very good for us.
“One other advantage is that we are predominantly farmers here that take advantage of rainy and dry season farming. So you see, when the dry port is established, our agricultural produce will now have a big market, socially, economically we will be uplifted.
“Why we are happy now is that government is now more determined to construct this inland dry port. Of recent , some days back, the Zonal Director of Northwest Zone, Hajiya Karina Othman visited us to see the proposed site for the dry port. This has given us courage that the dry port would be established.
“And then the current governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has made it a duty. Each time he comes to this area, he would assure us that the dry port would become a reality. In fact that ambition of the governor has become just like his chewing stick, always talking about it to see that during his tenure this dry port takes off.
“Our other political leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, last time he came during the campaign, made a similar pledge to work towards the establishment of the dry port. All these are giving us caurage and hope that the government will do it .
“Let me tell you one thing, when our people, I mean people of this community heard about the proposed inland dry port, they were jubilating and happy. The issue is the talk of the town, they fully know what will acrue to Lolo, the benefits that will come to a small town like Lolo, automatic improvement in every facet will come.
“We are really proud about this. You see in terms of trade, you have seen with your eyes international trade is going on you see people from Benin republic, Niger republic come with trucks loaded with goods at the border side. Those trucks are there for 24 hours on daily basis, off loading and loading goods. So you see if the dry port is established, imagine the economic activities that would take place here on an international dimension. I am appealing to government to please, in the name of God, hasten the commencement of Lolo dry port project so that it will be for the benefit of not only the indigenes but Nigeria at large “he implored.
The hope and expressions of joy regarding the establishment of a dry port in Lolo is in the air everywhere, even the political class of the community is not left behind.
Hassan Adamu Lolo is the incumbent elected Councillor of the area. Adamu expressed happiness and gratitude to God for giving the area such an opportunity to serve as a commercial hub of not only Kebbi but Africa, although the dry port is still at proposal level.
“You see, bulk of our people are farmers , we border Benin and Niger republics in our local government , Bagudo local government. We are happy and have already allocated land to Nigerian Shippers Council, which is a demonstration of our zeal, commitment and support for the success of the project.
“Most importantly our area is also peaceful for any development. We are please appealing to the federal government to make its presence known here by establishing the dry port, so that the whole Africa can converge here for business because the inland container dry port is not only for Nigeria but also for the people of Benin ,Ghana,Niger,Cameroon and many others,” he said.
Another politician of the area, Maryam Ibrahim who is the Women Leader of Lolo did not hide her feelings on the proposed inland dry port in Lolo. She said the women folk and youths would greatly benefit from the project.
“The advantages are numerous, it will provide employment to our youths thereby checking youth restiveness. Business will spring up. Women too will benefit as our husbands will get jobs to do to take care of the family, while we the women will engage in petty business or trade which will generate income to families.
“No doubt that if this dry port is constructed a lot of development will acrue to our area like electricity, hotels and our roads will be improved.
An akara seller in the community, Tani Bello, although not fully comprehending what a dry port is, expressed optimism that such a development will boost her petty business since more and more people will come to Lolo.
“All I know is that as more and more people come to Lolo from different places, even from Benin and Niger, my business of selling Akara will be boosted,” she said smiling.
It is pertinent to note that the establishment of Lolo Inland Container Dryport would pave way for economic activities, job creation, increase trade between land cities and coastal region as well as increase trade ties between Nigeria and other African countries.
This will further harness agricultural products of Nigeria via Kebbi for export to African countries as well strengthen socio cultural ties between Nigeria, Republic of Benin,Niger and other African countries that transact business in Lolo.
However, there are some challenges which the Kebbi State government and the Federal Government of Nigeria needs to join hands to address. There is the need for the provision of electricity in Lolo, as well as the need for the improvement of the existing road leading to Benin Republic .
The construction of more roads within the area for easy and smooth transport of persons and goods would be welcomed as there is the need for the establishment of internet service for communication, there is need for the establishment of hotels and there is also the need to ensure safety of boat passengers who use the river as a means of transport through provisions of life safety vests to each passenger as well as the enforcement of loading order to avoid over loading the boats, thereby guarding against boat mishap.
It is hoped that with the enthusiasm shown by governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu on Lolo inland dryport establishment through his numerous trips to the area, assuring the people of the area his commitment on the sucess of the project and of recent the visit by the Nigerian Shippers Council to the project which has been on the drawing board for over six years, will now see the light of the day and become a reality before President Buhari and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu end their tenures respectively.
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