The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has expressed its willingness to partner with the Plateau State Government (PSG) to revamp the Inland Container Depot (Dry Port) Project in Heipang, Plateau state that was suspended due to unavoidable circumstances..
The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Council, Barr. Hassan Bello made this known during his address when the Executive Governor of Plateau State Mr. Simon Lalong paid a courtesy visit to the Council, last week.
In his words, “These projects were at various level of construction before suspension of work due to concessionaires clamour for the declaration of the Inland Container Depots with the status of ports of origin for exports and ports of final destination for imports to enable them have access to long term financing and secure technical partners.
The Heipang ICD site was never suspended until further developments became impossible when the state government withdrew the Letters of Exchange that allocated the land for the project. This situation degenerated into the unfortunate demolishing of several structures like the Gate House Complex and Administrative Building notwithstanding our passionate appeals to officials of the Plateau State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning and the Jos Metropolitan Development Board (JMDB). As the implementation agency for the project, the Council was left with no option than to refer the matter to the Honourable Minister of Transport for higher level intervention and we sincerely believe that a workable solution would be found.
“The demolition of the ICD structures by the state government has direct and indirect long – term implications on the project. For instance, the action has sent a wrong signal to prospective local and foreign investors as well as technical partners wishing to participate in the development of the Heipang ICD project. Additionally, the action raised serious legal questions from the fact that the concessionaire was legally allocated with a valid title under the Federal Land Registry to construct the ICD in accordance with the terms of the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement signed with the Federal Government.
“In accordance with the National Policy on Public Private Partnership (NP4), the Federal Government allocated 30.412 hectares of Land for the Heipang ICD Concessionaire, Messrs Duncan Maritime Ventures Ltd for a period of twenty five years while the remaining 107.958 hectares was reserved for allocation to deserving industrialists wishing to invest in the establishment of Export Processing Industries in order to feed the ICD with export cargoes. He stated.
While expressing hope that the PSG will work diligently to fast-track the ICD project he earnestly appealed to Lalong for direct intervention and consideration of the following key issues to address the situation; immediate revalidation of the Letters of Exchange for the Heipang ICD site; immediate revalidation of the building approval plan to the concessionaire to enable him continue with construction of the ICD facilities; signing of Government Support Approval (GSA) to guarantee the state government continued support to the ICD project; open genuine channel of communications with the ICD Concessionaire (Messrs. Duncan Maritime Services) to address all areas of dispute inclusive of need for out of court settlement on its summon with the Federal High Court, Jos; resuscitation of the state ICD Implementation Committee (ICD-IC) to assist the Council and the state government in the successful implementation and execution of the ICD project.
Bello explained, “The Federal Government’s Inland Dry Port Projects were conceived as part of the government’s Port Reform Programme to decongest the seaports and bring shipping and ports services closer to importers and exporters in the hinterland.
This informed the FG’s approval for the establishment of the projects at Heipang and five other locations including Aba, Ibadan, Kano, Funtua and Maiduguri under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements using the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) Model.
“The ICD project has direct benefits in so many areas, and they includes; to replicate Port economy in Jos to boost export activities through production of cash crops thereby revitalizing the agricultural sector and consequently reducing overdependence on oil, it will also encourage the establishment of agro-allied Industries for the export of semi-processed and manufactured agricultural products while Contributing to reduction of transportation and transaction costs as well as create employment opportunities and related socio-economic benefits and Improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the host state governments, among others.” He further stated.
He added that the ICD Implementation Committee is to bring up a blue print on how to rekindle the ICD project in the state, noting that the committee will also come up with detailed areas of collaboration between the state government and the concessionaire especially in the area of equity participation in the project.
Responding, Lalong stated that the Idea of the ICD was voted for when he was the speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly and it was received with jubilation but shortly after that, it was very sad that over 10 years after leaving office, the issue was still there with even compounded problem. Stressing that he has decided on behalf of the state to take the working visit himself to see the situation first hand so that the government of Plateau can act immediately.
According to him, “Looking at the stature of our airport, I understand that the airport has already been given an international stature for the promotion of agriculture and tourism which will enhance the position of the airport and position of the state.
“I watch carefully and I said, the onus lies on me as a governor to come myself, listen directly and also have first hand information about what could be an obstacle or impediment towards the realisation of the objective of the lCD, and today I have heard from the CEO of the Council. I want to assure you that when we get back we will look at it and take adequate steps immediately.” He assured.
Lalong called on other state governments to take part in the benefits of a partnership with the Council, especially now that the focus is on the economy and on how to look inward.