Sixteen years after obtaining licences to begin operations in the six geopolitical zones of the country, Inland Container Depots are yet to come on stream.

During an engagement with the Nigerian Shippers Council and the concessionaires of the six Inland Container Depots (ICDs), the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), while exploring solutions to the factors hindering the completion of the dry ports whose contracts were signed since 2006, revealed that 16 years after the concession contracts were signed, some of the ICDs were still at five per cent completion, while only two had attained 55 per cent and 68 per cent completion level.

A statement signed by the Acting Head, Media and Publicity of the Commission, Manji Yarling, quoted the Acting Director-General of the Commission, Michael Ohiani, as saying that the ICDs, upon completion, will not only decongest the ports but will bring the required benefit to the citizenry.

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 Equitorial 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 per cent, Plateau State 29.7per cent Kano state – 55per cent , Katsina State – 68per cent and Borno State – 5per cent .

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 part of the agreement, for instance in the area of land provision.

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.

Given 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 completion 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.

Managing Director of Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas Ltd, Mr Usman Iya Abbas, 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.

MD of the Dala Inland Dry Port Ltd., Ahmed Rabiu, 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.