With the final assessment of the Kaduna Inland Dry Port, yesterday, by the Minister of Transportation, Hon Chibuike Amaechi, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello to ascertain its readiness for commissioning, we draw attention to an earlier editorial on the subject in which we highlighted the significance of the Kaduna project and its relevance to the economy of the North in particular and Nigeria in general.
For Nigeria, a vast country with a landmass of approximately 923,766 square kilometres, a road network of 15,000 kilometres and an estimated population size of 190 million, concentrating shipment inlets and outlets to the sea ports alone can pose a grave challenge for those involved in that line of business. Nigeria’s, it needs to be emphasised, is largely an import-dependent economy. That makes shipping a core factor in her industrial growth and development. It makes it a national imperative that any and every effort to ease the facilities that are needed for that sector to play its desired role must be redoubled as a matter of national priority.
It is in this context that we examine the functions of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the Ports Economic Regulator, vis-à-vis the urgency to bring ports services to the door steps of those who need them for their own operations. The NSC is aware of this demand on it in this regard and has mapped out ground- breaking strategies designed, essentially, to ease the observed challenges importers and exporters face in the course of bringing in goods that will help energise the nation’s economic and industrial development.
One of this strategies is the establishment of Inland Container Depots (ICDs) or dry ports which are inland intermodal terminals directly connected by road or rail to a sea port. They are meant to operate as centres for the trans-shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations. The idea behind this novel policy thrust is to attain the fundamental objectives of the government which are geared towards growing the economy, creating employment opportunities and reducing poverty.
We recall that almost a year ago, Kaduna Inland Container Depot, was designated port of destination. There is one of such depots spread across the six geo-political zones of the country. But these depots facilities, with all the good intentions of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, are yet to take off so as to perform their statutory functions in the economy. This is largely due to some legal issues that are part of the arrangement but which have been made to appear complex by bureaucracy. This is one formidable obstacle that is hampering the realisation of the dry port policy. That is almost over.
The Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, since assuming office, has brought an unusual drive, commitment and enthusiasm to bear on this project, giving it an effective push. He has taken it upon himself to visit the depots to inspect what is on ground so as to remove any hitches on the path to making them achieve their set goals. Amaechi has so far pursued the projects with vigour which has aided him in pursuing with understanding the enormous contributions of the ICDs to the economy. The Minister’s interest is complementing the Shippers’ Council’s initiative and dedication that have brought the projects this far despite the hiccups and challenges novel ideas of this kind have to cope with.
It is appalling, in our view, that while Nigeria commenced the dry ports initiative as a signatory to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) before any other country in Africa, the current index point to the fact that Ghana has overtaken her. It is from this perspective that we appreciate the minister’s business-like approach to governance which we hope will ensure the smooth take off of the dry depots in the country soon, if for nothing else, to regain lost grounds.
The economic reform measures of the Buhari administration is hinged on free market modalities with transportation as the engine driving the anticipated rebound. From that standpoint, it is our opinion that the opportunities in the ICDs are numerous enough to stimulate the economic processes, ginger the economy in the hinterland and create robust environment that will accelerate growth. The dry depots project, we assert, has the potential, if well planned and executed. It can be done.