From Uche Usim, Abuja
Following years of inactivity of the concessioned six Inland Container Depots (ICDs) located in each geo-political zone of Nigeria, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) on Wednesday, held a meeting with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) who are the owners of the project and the concessionaires.
The meeting, which was at the instance of the ICRC, the agency of government under the Presidency charged with the responsibility of regulating all government concessions and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), sought to find solutions to the factors hindering the completion of the dry ports whose contracts were signed since 2006.
Acting Director General of the Commission Mr Michael Ohiani at the meeting stressed that 16 years after the concession contracts were signed, some of the ICDs were still at five per cent completion while only two had gotten to 55 per cent and 68 per cent, hence the need for the meeting.
Also at the meeting was Dr Jobson Ewalefoh, ICRC’s Director of Contract Compliance Department and his team.
Speaking further, the Ag. DG said, “We want to rub minds and come up with how we can make progress: what are the challenges taking into consideration that these projects have already gotten Mr President’s attention and more so, we need to decongest our seaports. Also when completed, these ICDs will bring the required benefit to our citizens and our country Nigeria”.
“We are not unaware that at the material time that the contracts were signed, ICRC as a Commission had not been set up, so no proper Outline Business Cases (OBCs) were done for the projects like we now do, but I want us to have a frank discussion so that we can chart a way forward.”
The Commission reminded the concessionaires and NSC that by its Act, it is to take custody of all PPP contracts including the ones for the ICDs.
The concessionaires and states where the ports are located include Oyo State (Ibadan) with 50,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), by Catamaran Logistics Ltd; Abia State (Isiala Ngwa) with 50,000 TEUs by Eastgate Ltd; Plateau State (Jos) with 20,000 TEUs by Duncan Maritime Nig. Ltd; Kano State (Dala) with 20,000 TEUs by Dala Inland Dry Port Ltd.; Katsina State (Funtua) with 10,000 TEUs by Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd. and Borno state (Maiduguri) with 10,000 TEUs by Migfo Nigeria Ltd.
Based on the last assessment presented to the ICRC by the NSC, the percentage progress made by the concessionaires were: Oyo state – 10%, Abia state – 5%, Plateau State 29.7%, Kano state – 55%, Katsina State – 68% and Borno State – 5%.
However, the concessionaires told the ICRC that the 16 years journey had been fraught with various challenges which had hampered any progress that could have been recorded.
The concessionaires complained of poor cooperation from state governments who mostly delay in meeting their own part of the agreement, for instance in the area of land provision.
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Another major challenge they emphasised was the lack of narrow gauge rail lines in and out of the dry ports which they noted was important to make the operation of the ports efficient. They added that access to funds also remained a major issue even as banks and foreign investors make unreasonable demands for assets and bank bonds before the release of funds.
The concessionaires unanimously stressed the need for the ports being constructed to be given the status of port of origin and destination and also to be registered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) upon completion.
In view of the delay in execution, the concessionaires stressed the need for a new agreement, pointing out that an agreement started in 2017 between them and the NSC but it was yet to be cleared by the Federal Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
They however commended the ICRC for its intervention and also appreciated the NSC for their support so far, noting that they were confident that under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the contracts will be sorted out.
The concessionaires pledged their commitment to seeing the concession to conclusion and the ports operational even as two of the concessionaires, Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd for the Katsina ports and Dala Inland Dry Port for the Kano Ports declared that their ports will commence operation before the third quarter of 2022.
Mr Usman Iya Abbas, Managing Director of Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd informed the ICRC team that the Funtua port was already at over 85 per cent completion and was ready to launch before the end of the second quarter of 2022.
“We hope to commission this project before the end of the second quarter and the ports will become functional immediately. We are lucky to have great relationships in the shipping industry and with major shipping lines.
Ahmed Rabiu, Managing Director of the Dala Inland Dry Port Limited, concessionaires of the Kano Inland Port also hinted that the construction of the container depot was already nearing completion. He assured that the company was working assiduously to ensure project completion and take off before the end of March 2022.
On his part, Dr Ewalefoh of the ICRC who chaired the technical session of the meeting assured the concessionaires of the continuous support of the Commission, charging them however to send a detailed update of the contract status reports to the ICRC.
He further enjoined the other four concessionaires who were yet to make remarkable progress in their contract execution to emulate the milestone recorded by the other two who were finalizing their constructions, so that the ports can yield the economic benefits for which the concessions were granted.