President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday last week, January 4, 2018 commissioned the long awaited Kaduna Inland Dry port situated at Kakuri, Kaduna. Inland Dry Ports were conceived to bring port activities nearer to inland exporters and importers and relieve the seaports of congestion. Congestion at the nation’s seaports often led to long delays and loss of cargo. It was in a bid to, among other reasons, decongest Lagos port that the federal government in 2014 approved the Inland Container Nigeria Limited Bonded Terminal for upgrade to the status of an Inland dry port. The Kaduna Inland dry Port is designated as “Port of Origin and Final Destination” by the federal government in an official gazette no. 60 vol. 102 of March 26, 2015.
Other approved locations of Inland Dry Port already concessioned to private sector operators by the Federal Ministry of Transportation’s Inland Container Depots (ICDs) Implementation Committee are Isiala Ngwa (Abia state), Erunmu, Ibadan (Oyo State), Heipang (Plateau state), Zawachiki (Kano state), Zamfarawa, Funtua (Katsina state) and Maiduguri (Borno state). A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road, rail or air to a seaport, operating as a center for transshipment of sea cargo to and from inland destinations.
The choice of Kaduna as one of the Inland Dry Ports in the country was an apt decision given its position as a major administrative, commercial and industrial centre, and a major outlet for trade in agricultural products from other parts of the north. Kaduna Inland Dry port is expected to receive cargo by rail or road from Apapa port in Lagos. As a port of origin and destination, exporters and importers can export and import their goods directly from and into the Kaduna Dry Port. The Kaduna dry port could also service some neighbouring landlocked countries such as Niger Republic.
Director, Special Duties of the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) Ignatius Nweke said the port, which is among the seven dry ports being promoted by the Council, has the capacity to handle 29,000 tons of cargo annually in the first phase of its operations. He said its handling capacity could double when it is fully operational. According to Nweke, the idea of establishing ICDs in the hinterland was informed by the need to, besides decongesting Lagos port, provide relief for the busy Apapa road. He also said Kaduna dry port will ease export of farm produce from Kaduna and other neighbouring states. He said “the market for Kaduna ginger will improve tremendously once the dry port commences full operations,” adding that it will boost the export of hibiscus, sesame seed and Shea butter to China, Singapore, America, United Kingdom and other countries of the world with high demand for agricultural products.
Some potential benefits of the Kaduna Inland dry port include bringing shipment activities to the doorsteps of exporters and importers. Apart from saving exporters and importers from the burden of conveying their consignments under separate arrangements from or to their intended locations outside Lagos coupled with its attendant risks, it would equally uplift the region’s economy and that of the nation through the thousands of job opportunities to be created for the teeming population of jobless but employable youth. A remote advantage of this is the likelihood of relative reduction in violent crime rate.
Although dry ports are conventionally linked to seaports by rail or road, sustaining the gains availed by the simplification of export and import procedures at the Kaduna Inland Dry Port depends, to a large extent, on a functional railway system. Moving large tons of goods from Lagos to Kaduna by road only entails solving a problem (seaport decongestion) only to create a new one (overstretching and damaging the nation’s highways). Railways, not roads even in their better state of maintenance, are the best means of transporting cargo across long distances. We therefore urge the federal government to, as pledged by President Buhari in his 2018 New Year address, revive the country’s railway system.