By Godwin Ekosin in Kaduna
Commissioned on Thursday, January 4, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari, Kaduna Inland Dry Port, was expected to help decongest the ever-busy Lagos Sea Port and major roads across the country – in addition to improving ease of doing business by exporters and importers.
Available information showed that, this Port was gazette on May 26, 2015, by the federal government as port of origin and port of destination among the seven dry ports being promoted by Nigerian Shippers Council with ability to generate minimum of 5,000 direct jobs and several thousands of indirect jobs along value chain.
One year after, with the expected capacity to handle 29, 000 tons of containers per annum, this dry port, located in the heart of Kaduna, the political headquarters of Northern Nigeria, remains desolate without the targeted influx of containers as promised by its authority when it was commissioned.
The major access road to the dry port remained quiet and lonely as observed by our reporter that visited the facility recently.
GovernanceNews noticed low rate of activities with no serious movements of trucks and persons expected. This was aside staff vehicles and few trucks stationed within, waiting to pick up their billed containers – majorly to Kano, the commercial hub of Northern Nigeria.
Since the intention was to decongest seaports, experts said, dry ports are naturally built around a rail system that move cargoes from the seaports to mitigate the nightmare of congestion associated with major roads like Apapa.
The major challenge of the port was apparently the inefficient railway system in Nigeria that it relies on to transport cargo for import and export. The rail system itself begs for holistic repairs to encourage businesses to make do with it as an alternative. Though there is a railway line close to this facility, it was not directly within its technical franchise area, thereby making it difficult to bring the few containers coming into the ware house for examination, clearance and forwarding. However, it has expansion container warehouse believed to be for temporary storage.
With about 40, 000 square meter capacity warehouse, parking lot that accommodates 70 45-60 feet trucks, access road, standard office accommodation, the erstwhile bonnet terminal (a storage place where cleared goods are received after Customs checking and shipping clearance from Lagos seaport) all of which require immediate attention.
At a glance, one can see large warehouses for cargo storage, export consolidation, stuffing and unstuffing operations and groupage, fully equipped with a technical workshop, modern examination bay, expansive container terminal, and modern Assycuda systems for NCS.
As expected, men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) and other critical personnel have their presence at the Port.
Inaugurating NAFDAC office this February, Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said, the new office would ensure that regulated products (foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and chemicals) imported into or exported out of the zone meet pre-requisite standards of safety and right quality.
A clearing and forwarding agent sighted at the Port, who does not want his name in press, expressed mixed feelings about the Port and its operation.
According to him, “with ban or closure of land importation by the federal government, we were initially happy with the commissioning of this port.
“One of the issues I personally have with Nigerian Customs is the high tariffs we pay. As someone who has being doing business through neighboring countries, the margin is just too wide and the final customers, who were used to prices of goods imported from these other countries, are not cooperating.
“What I’m saying is that, you end up making little or no profits at the end of the day. Mind you, the fact that I clear goods does not make me the owner or importer of the container. Mine is to facilitate the transport of these imported cargoes to the agreed destination after examination and clearance at the Port.
“We don’t spend so much time. Like now, I came in with this truck yesterday. And I should be living here as soon as they are done with examination of the container. I don’t know the content. But I know it was coming from India and the destination is Kano.
“On a more serious note, don’t you see several trucks on the road. Where do you think they are going or coming from; to and from Lagos. A good number if importers are not comfortable with the way things are here. They still make do with Tincan and other seaports around the country”, he said.
A truck driver, who simply gave his name as Abdul said, “I am trying to see what I can do around here to get food for my family. If I had a clean truck, I would have been going to Lagos. But this vehicle is old and I just have to manage it pending the time things will improve to acquire another one.
“Many of my colleagues are not that satisfy with what we have here. The place is quiet. You will just be here; no any other business you can quickly do. Unlike Lagos, where you can do some sharp movement of containers from one place to the other.
“I think people send something like ginger from here. But importation is far higher than exportation. We just hope for better days ahead as time goes on. But for now, we are only managing.”
After several visit, Manager, Kaduna Inland Dry Port, Rotimi, could not be reached to provide statistics and other information on the operation of the Port a year after it was commissioned, neither did he delegate his any official to speak to our correspondent as at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, Chairman Inland Container Limited, Tope Borishade, Borishade, had said, the Kaduna dry port would not compete with seaports, but will collaborate to improve the ease of doing business.
Thought he called on shippers from all parts of the North, and beyond to do business from the Port to save time and money, his call is yet to yield good outcome.
He said while addressing stakeholders in Lagos that, “farmers can form cooperatives, come forward with their farm produce and goods, and take advantage of our 4,000 square metres capacity warehouse at the port to store their goods for export forwarding to various countries aboard.
“This initiative will empower and create multiple employments in the community. It is a well-known fact that Kaduna State is the largest producer of ginger in the country, and the new port provides the opportunity for the exportation of processed agricultural produce to other countries of the world from Kaduna Inland Dry Port.”