By DAPO OLAWUNI
On January 4th, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Kaduna Inland Dry Port (KIDP) in Kakuri, Kaduna State.
The KIDP is operated by Inland Container Nigeria Limited (ICNL)
At the time of the inauguration of the dry port, Nigerians, especially importers and exporters were excited because the dry port was first of its kind among the seven dry ports that have been so designated across Nigeria.
A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road, rail and air to a sea port and operating as a centre for trans-shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.
Speaking at the commissioning, President Buhari had assured that the project would enhance economic activities, improve revenue generation and create direct employment.
He said the idea of establishing Inland Container Depots in the hinterland is to reduce the congestion in Lagos ports and provide relief for the busy Apapa road.
Apart from these, the KIDP through its operations is expected to receive cargo from Apapa Port in Lagos, through the railway or by road and also export goods through the same channel.
But, fast forward to present day, fresh indications have emerged that the noble concept of the KIDP is now suffering frustrations from lack of patronage by stakeholders it had envisaged, especially Northern State Government, Shipping Lines as well as from neighboring ports of Niger Republic.
Director of Kaduna Inland Dry Port, Mr Tony Iju Nwabunike, National President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) accompanied by the Managing Director of ICNL, Mr Ismail Adekola Yusuf were guests at a roundtable session organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Apapa Lagos on Thursday.
Speaking at the event, the ANLCA President lamented that the Kaduna Inland Dry Port is yearning for patronage, not because of the recent closure of the land borders, but because the stakeholders that supposed to make the place viable do not understand the principles of dry port.
Ideally, the KIDP has been made a port of destination, meaning that it is a full fledged port just like the Apapa seaport and any other port, so it should be a final destination for cargo if you have your True Bill of Laden (TBL)
But Nwavunike told journalists that the TBL has been the source of problems for Kaduna Dry Port.
According to him, the low patronage of the dry port was because the shipping lines that supposed to be giving importers the TBL are not doing that.
He also lamented that the shipping lines failed to issue the TBL because they do not have logistics to transport cargoes from Apapa port to the hinterland.
Normally, the foreign shipping companies are expected to charge the importer freight charges and deliver his cargo to the final port of destination.
Nwabunike said “So many people want to import and have their goods final destination at the dry port, not Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri or Calabar, they would wait at the Kaduna to pick their goods. But you cannot puck your goods if you don’t have a TBL that states that the cargo is designated to Kaduna”
“Why is TBL not given to importers? We have met some of them that said they prefer to use Kaduna instead of Lagos and the gridlock. The shipping lines are saying that they cannot charge land freight to Kaduna Dry Port, they are supposed to charge the importer offshore so that when the cargo gets here, they will get it to Kaduna port, but the logistics now becomes a problem”
“The shipping lines do not have the capacity to get the trucks, there is no locomotives and wagons from Nigerian Railway Corporation, so these has become the bane”
“But we are looking forward to seeing how we can partner with a very big logistics company where we can have a serious bilateral relationship and agreement with all the shipping companies so that they can provide them vehicles that would be on a permanent price for an agreed period”
Why Niger Republic Sidelined Nigerian Ports for Cotonou Port
The ICNL has also said that there is need for sensitization of impirters, exporters, and the neighboring countries, especially Niger Republic which is very close to most Northern States in Nigeria.
Niger Republic is seating on a 1,500kilometer across Nigeria with so many approved borders and countless unapproved borders.
Kaduna is less than 500kilometers to Niger Republic, but it is almost 2,000 kilometers from Niger Republic to Cotonou, Benin Republic.
Speaking, the ICNL Director stated that Niger Republic prefers to import their goods through Cotonou port because Cotonou port does not ask them for duties and that they do unstuffing of the goods over there unlike in Nigeria.
Unstuffing of goods is done in a big truck, four or five containers can be stacked into one single truck.
“But Nigeria is telling Niger Republic that their containers arriving here must be under seal, same containerised for onward delivery to the border of Nigeria and Niger. We have told them that this is the best for them because of the safety of the goods and safety”
What are the Possible Way Out?
Indications have shown that many of the Northern State Governors who are actually importing fertilizers, tractors, and other machineries are not patronizing the Kaduna Dry Port.
To this end, the Federal Government should compel them to do so since these imports are coming to the North, they should make use of Kaduna port instead of coming to congest Lagos port.
To this, Mr Nwabunike said “If we keep on folding our hands and expecting things to happen, we may not do very well, so we are having a relationship where we can have an MOU with logistics companies so that we can have movement of goods to KIDP”
“We are embarking on massive enlightenment programs, especially in the media, knowing that free market economy is the key”
“For us to put KIDP is not a joke, many of the other private companies do not have the capacity.
The KIDP that has made bold to become the first should be encouraged so that others can come from behind and follow the queue”
“The federal government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Shippers Council is actually working hard to see that we are surviving, but it is not enough, we need a serious patronage on that”