The flagship of the nation’s Inland Container Port (ICD) policy, the Kaduna Inland Dry Port, is due for commissioning tomorrow by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is billed to be an epoch-making event because of its potentials to open up the hinterland to international business, create jobs directly and indirectly and generally impact positively on the economy of its catchment area in particular and the nation as a whole.
As the port takes off, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), is targeting a minimum of 300,000 jobs. The Kaduna port is equipped to handle a minimum of 29,000 containers annually as it serves as a business window for Nigeria’s neighbours like Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
The policy, which covers the six geopolitical zones, is borne out of the desire to ameliorate the disincentive to business of concentrating shipment inlets and outlets to the sea ports alone. At the time the policy came on stream, shipping business was solely reserved at the ports and this has continued to pose a grave challenge for those involved in that line of business.
The stress becomes even more complicated with the realisation that Nigeria 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 response to this that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the Ports Economic Regulator, fast-tracks its decision to bring port 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.
Inland Container Depots (ICDs) or dry ports as they known, 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.
Even before it came on stream, Kaduna Inland Container Depot, had been designated port of destination which means that it has direct link with international business in its own right. There is one of such depots spread across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The delay in the take-off of these inland ports until now, despite the good intentions of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, is largely due to some legal issues that are part of the arrangement but which have been made to appear complex by bureaucracy.
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 and understanding of the enormous contributions of the ICDs to the economy. Tomorrow’s commissioning is sure to be a promise fulfilled.
As far as this policy is concerned, Nigeria is just about to key in to its benefits. The country, it must be noted, commenced the dry ports initiative as a signatory to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) before any other country in Africa. 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, 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, create robust environment that will accelerate growth.
The dry depots’ project, we dare to assert, has the potentials, if well planned and executed, in real terms, to accelerate the import/export business in a most remarkable way.