By Kenneth Jukpor
In a bid to attract investments and partnerships for the Edo dry port, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) is set to position the project as one of the foremost transport infrastructure during an impending meeting with the leadership of Afreximbank and the French Minister of Transportation.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello revealed this while hosting the Edo State Inland Container Depot/ Truck Transit Park Implementation Committee, led by its Chairman, Dr. Charles Akhigbe.
Bello noted that NSC has gotten an interest from the Afreximbank to talk about critical transport infrastructure that could grow the nation’s economy and Edo dry port is one of the top priority projects, while he also intends to share the Edo dry port prospects with the French Minister who visits Nigeria in a fortnight.
Although the Edo dry port project was expected to have taken off several months ago, the NSC boss dispelled claims that the Council had abandoned the project, arguing that the dry port is one of the projects NSC intends to market.
His words: “The potentials of the Dry Port in Benin has never been questioned and NSC is as enthusiastic about the project as Edo State government and your committee. We want to see this port granted port of origin and destination. We have worked with the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
“We also arranged for the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani to visit and be aware of the project. However, we are exercising caution on the infrastructure which you have invested so much. We don’t want the Edo dry port to be 100 percent complete before we declare it as a port of origin and destination. If we have 60 percent, that is a demonstration of intention, goodwill and shows the capacity of the sponsors.”
“Benin is a well-deserved city for dry port, but we need concrete investors so we have to market the project. It is one of the projects we intend to engage Afreximbank for funding. We can’t designate parks or markets as dry ports. There must be modern infrastructure and processes. There should be refrigerated warehouses, processing centres, connection to other crucial infrastructure such as rail, roads, etc. The dry port must reflect the economic ambition of Nigeria.”
While describing the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki as a development driven leader, the NSC boss admonished the State to invest in the Edo dry port, noting that Kano State has spent N2.4billion to develop the roads leading to the dry port.
According to Bello, after the Council’s GAP Analysis on the Edo dry port, the major challenges with the project were connectivity as there is no rail connection and the roads are in poor conditions.
In his response, Dr. Charles Akhigbe revealed that the Edo State government has approved the reconstruction of the road leading to the dry port while a rail connection from Agbor (Delta State) is also in the offin.
Akhigbe stated that the feasibility masterplan for the rail had already being paid for and the projection was made for standard gauge rail.
He noted that the committee had also engaged the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to discuss dedicated export warehouses, refrigerated warehouses, containers and other top facilities required for an export center.
While commending Shippers’ Council boss for his numerous efforts to actualize the Edo dry port, Akhigbe said Bello’s official visit to Edo State in May 2017 granted Edo dry port its very first recognition to Nigeria that a dry port exists and was in the making in Edo State.
“You also paid a courtesy visit to His Excellency the Governor and to His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare Il. The Governor and Oba asked me to extend their greetings to you. However, the reoccurring question on their lips at every point in time I meet with them is: What is causing the delay in the dry port becoming a reality after 5 years since our formal application?”
“The main reason for this visit is to seek to improve our relationship with the NSC so we can maintain a harmonious relationship. As our industry regulator, it is our responsibility to have a longer listening ear. We are here to assure you of our continued loyalty and trust, so that NSC can continue to guide us through the process to achieve the final grant of license as a port of origin and destination,” Akhigbe said.