FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, July 28, 2019
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ANOTHER HOPE BECKONS ON ABIA INLAND CONTAINER DRY PORT

resh hopes have beckoned on Abia Inland Container Dry Port located at Avor Ntigha, Isiala Ngwa North Local Government of Abia State. The federal government Concessionaire to the project, Eastgate Dry Port Projects Limited has formally introduced the company that will handle the actual construction of the project, Messers China Tianchen Engineering Corporation, to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu with strong assurances that every arrangement for the construction works have been concluded and that they are ready to start work at the site.

In return, Governor Ikpeazu at the Governor's Lodge,Abuja, where the event took place assured the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Eastgate, Bill Nkemdirim of his administration's commitment to provide enabling economic environment that will turn Abia State into a choice investment destination in Nigeria, adding that his government will provide every necessary support to ensure that their work is seamless.

According to the governor, " the Dry Port Project will be a powerful catalyst to the economic development of the state and indeed, the entire South East region".

Ikpeazu , who stressed the importance of inter- morality in ports operations,challenged the operator to construct a 3km rail line from the project site at Ntigha to link Nbawsi which is a major railway stop, so as to link the port with other parts of the country, explaining that the port when completed, will save businessmen who engage in import and export the stress of going beyond the state to enjoy port services as containers to and from the region will now be discharged at the port, for onward movement to their final destinations.

The governor said that apart from direct impact of the businesses,the location of the dry port will catalyze the growth and development of indirect businesses around the area in addition to the provision of jobs. He added that the coming of the Enyimba Economic City will combine with the Dry Port to positively turn around the economy of the state and the South East region permanently.

It will be recalled that Governor kpeazu in his desire to open access to trade and commerce in the state, develop avenues that would support inflow of businesses, inaugurated the Inland Dry Port Project Implementation Committee .

In 2007, the then Minister of Transportation, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, during the ground breaking ceremony of the project said that the depot when completed would create 100,000 jobs.

Also, the project, a 50,000 TEU (containers) port facility, would serve Aba, Onitsha,Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Delta and Benue states. One of the features of the port was that it would receive containerised cargo by rail from Port Harcourt.

Considering the strategic economic position of Aba as the commercial hub of the South East, the idea behind the establishment of the dry port was to save importers the trouble of traveling to the coast for their business transactions thereby bring goods closer to the owners.

The Abia Inland Cargo Depot, among other ICDs, was a product of the Build Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement the federal government signed with concessionaires in 2006. The agreement, which identifies the federal government as the guarantor and concessionaires as operators, stipulates that private investors would be licensed to build Dry ports at designated sites, operate them for stipulated time and transfer ownership to the federal government. The system enables private investors to partner with the government in providing port facilities.

Other ICDs were sited at Zawachiki village, Kano State; Eronnu in Egbeda LGA of Oyo State; Heipang, Barkin Ladi, Plateau; and Galanbi, Bauchi State.

Eastgate Inland Terminal Limited, the concessionaires of Abia ICD were the first among other ICDs to be issued Certificate of Occupancy by Nigeria Shippers Council in 2008, and in 2009, the agreement for the commencement of the physical development was signed.

Adebayo had during the ground breaking ceremony of the project in 2007 stated that government expected the Abia ICD to be ready for business within 30 months. Unfortunately, the facility is yet to come on stream.

This time around, what elicits greater hope in Abians is the rich profile of the construction company. Founded in 1953, China Tianchen is one of the leading international engineering corporations in the world providing engineering consulting, design, procurement, construction management and commission supervision. The company has successfully commissioned thousands of projects within China and in over thirty countries cutting across Asia, America, Africa, Europe, among other continents.

Another source of profound hope are the assurances Mr. Bill Nkemdirim that the federal government awarded the contract to his company on account of his established track record and experience in managing port operations;that the project will turn around the economic fortunes of the state and the entire South East region as it will be the first Dry Port in the region; and that the expected construction period is 24 months.

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