The chief executive officer/ managing director of Inland Container Nigeria Limited (ICNL), the operator of Kaduna Dryport, Ismail Adekola Yusuf, in this interview with YUSUF BABALOLA, spoke on how the dryport will address the problems being encountered by shippers in the northern part of the country and some neighbouring landlocked countries.
When is the dryport coming fully on stream?
Let me put the record straight so that there won’t be any misunderstanding. The Kaduna Inland Dryport has been gazette by the federal government of Nigeria. It is the baby of ICNL and an entity on its own. The name remains Kaduna Inland Dry Port Limited. We are working towards the commissioning of the dryport this month as disclosed by the executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr Hassan Bello. So far, he has done the first visit which was the inspection by the NSC; the Council also regulates the ICD. They have inspected all the facilities in place and they are satisfied with it. Also, as said by the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Minister will still make a final visit /inspection before the commissioning and that is what we are working towards.
How will the dry port open-up the economy of the northern part of the country?
The dry port is a replica of a seaport but the difference is water. Port at coastal area has water while ports at hinterland have no water, which is why it is called dryport. All the facilities at the seaport are also available at the dry port; all the approved government agencies at the seaport are also present at the dryport.
On growing the economy of the north, ICNL will be the agent of everyone that imports from abroad and need it at their door steps. We are not serving the people of Kaduna state alone, but everyone in the northern Nigeria. Also, a southerner probably from the eastern part of the country who has customers to buy his products from the North could, instead of coming down to Lagos to clear his goods, can request it to be moved to the dry port which is closer to the buyer.
Similarly, all the manufacturing companies in the North, instead of taking deliveries of cargoes in the South, will prefer to take them to Kaduna dry port because of its closeness and the fact that it will reduce cost of transportation.
How much have you spent on this project so far?
The facility has been in existence operating as a bonded terminal before it was upgraded to the status of a dryport. So, that has its own cost but additional facilities provided to upgrade the facilities have cost us over one billion naira and we are still investing. The more cargoes discharge at the dryport, the more investment we will have.
How did you intend to attract cargoes to the dryport?
To attract cargoes, we have embarked on some sensitisation programmes in Kaduna where we invited manufacturing companies, shippers, exporters and it was done in collaboration with the NSC. We also had sensitisation with the Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and all organizations are involved, we had series of meetings and we are already sensitizing them on how they intend to benefit from the dryport.
Do you have any international partners funding the business?
We don’t have any funding from any international company; our funding so far has been wholly from e thICNL, the owner of the dry port.
Is the dryport connected by rail yet?
The facility was once operated as a bonded terminal and in that sense we have two rail tracks entering the terminal. So, today, if the port is commissioned, containers will move directly from Apapa port to Kaduna dry port without any delay.
Is the dryport also connected by good roads?
Presently, we have to do that because the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) may not have enough capacity to handle the containers for the dryport.So, definitely we have to move by rail but in the near future, the best option will be to move by rail and it’s cheaper for the people we are servicing.
Apapa port is the only port connected by rail, when the dryport commences operation, how do you intend moving cargoes from other ports?
As far as we are concerned, we can only move containers by rail through Apapa port for now until the NRC or the federal government connect other ports through rail otherwise it will be extra cost for the importers to pay because they will have to get trucks to move the containers to Apapa ports for onward transfer to the dryport. In real sense, it’s not economical; I urge the federal government to lay tracks in other to carry on with our job.
Have you engaged the federal government on this challenge?
Yes, I have engaged the NSC and luckily everything is under the ministry of transportation; there was discussion with the minister and it was part of the plan of the federal government for the seaport.
What relationship exists between ICNL and the NRC?
We have a good relationship and even with the communities where the port is situated. We have never had issues with the host communities. We should also note that the land where the dryport is located is presently owned by the NRC.
How many years lease did the federal government gave ICNL?
The dryport model is different because it was already gazette by the federal government. We already have a facility in place and we have a landlord we are paying to. The dryport has a slightly different terms of operation because their location are under the state government because the federal government directed the state hosting the dryport to get them hectares of land where the facilities will be located and that was why there was Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT).
What is the role of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in the dryport project?
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been playing a vital role in ensuring that all the dryport in Nigeria start operation. For instance, when we approach them, our applications were granted and a committee was setup to look into our request and recommend to the federal government the facilities to be put in place to meet the requirements of the dryport. That was done and recommendations were reached and we got a response that our request has been granted and asked us to put something in place before we can start operations which is what we are doing and that is where we are today.
Huge investment has been made, how did you intend to recoup money invested?
Charges at the seaports and that of the dryport are not the same because the seaport in Lagos is a transit point. I know stemming container to Kaduna dryport is an agreement between importers and shipping companies and movement is part of charges that importers and exporters will pay but ICNL’s concern is to develop tariff for the dry port in Kaduna.
Do you have the intention of servicing landlocked countries like Chad, Niger Republic and others?
Definitely, we shall service them since we have facilities to handle their cargoes. They are moving their cargoes from Lagos seaport but now that we have Kaduna dryport that is about 1000km to Niger Republic, I think instead of coming to Lagos to pick the cargoes and transport them through trucks to their countries, they will pick them at the Kaduna dryport and transport them by road to their destinations at a much lesser cost.
What are the challenges faced before realising this project?
One of the major challenges faced is funding. You know the Nigeria banking sector doesn’t like funding new projects and getting funds from them has always been very tedious. They find it difficult to associate with beginners. They drove us away with interest rate and when we discovered this, we came back to the drawing table and we looked at what we can generate within our own resources and throughput. We then had a robust discussion with our contractors and told them if the construction was to be 12months and we are unable to get it done due to funding, why shouldn’t we extend it for another 4 months. That agreement was reached and the company is able to finance the project through its internally generated revenue.
What support have you been getting from the federal government?
The support we get from the federal government has been through the NSC which is an agency of the federal ministry of transportation.
What advice do you have for companies given licences for dryport operations but are yet to develop them?
My advice is for them to wake up and do what ICNL has done by ensuring that they put up their facilities so as to build up the economy of their respective zones where the dryports are located.
Will your company not be a threat to operators at the Lagos seaport?
It is not the wish of the terminal operators to stem container or not but the policy of the federal government on economy and it’s a global standard practice. It’s not only applicable to Nigeria but other countries in the world. That we have not been doing this type of business before was the reason why we are seeing it as a threat. Nobody should see us as a threat.
Terminals at the seaports should not hold cargo for more than 48 hours but because we don’t have extended port at the hinterlands that has been the reason people believe cargoes must be held on to. But when the whole dryports begin operation, this will end. Dryports are built for a purpose and it must be achieved.
Apapa road is a nightmare to everyone including ICNL, is the government doing enough to fix the road?
My believe is that with the recent strike action embarked upon by truck drivers, clearing agents, maritime workers and the promise by the government officials who addressed the agents and other stakeholders (they said the federal government is doing everything to fix the road), we are hopeful something will be done. Also, with the collaborations with companies like Dangote Group and Flourmills Plc, I believe they will work on it until permanent solutions are found.
Kindly appraise 12 years of port concessioning in Nigeria?
Since the federal government concessioned the port, there have been efficiency in cargo delivery. When they say the federal government has no business in business, I believe in that phrase because private investors are coming with passion and determination to recoup their investments and because of this, they will put facilities in place to ensure value for money. There is a difference between when the port was managed by the NPA and now that it is being managed by private operators. Before, everywhere was messed up that it takes up to one month to take containers out on the port, but now it takes barely three days and I think the model should be extended to other sectors of the economy.
In the next few years where do you see ICNL?
In the next few years, after starting operations, the dryport will be in full capacity because there will be patronage and market for it. Today it’s still operating as a bonded terminal and when it is commissioned, it will operate fully as a dryport.