By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned Customs and Port officials from frustrating business activities at the Inland Dry Ports in major parts of the country.
The President gave the warning Thursday, while commissioning the Kaduna Inland Dry Port in Kakuri area of the Kaduna State.
President Buhari, who commissioned 10 additional coaches and two locomotives to the standard gauge railway line in Kaduna, said his administration is committed to linking commercial and state capitals to the railway system to improve the nation’s socio-economic development.
Commissioning the additional locomotives and coaches at the Rigasa Railway Station, Kaduna, President Buhari said his government’s promise to connect all major Nigerian cities to railway was not statements of intentions, but a benchmark with which it is using to measure the performance of his administration.
Buhari said “Let me once again reassure Nigerians that we are strongly committed to linking all major commercial and production centers as well as state capitals with railway system, as a way of bringing about rapid socio-economic development and improving the lives of our people as well as encourage national integration.
“This is not only a statement of intentions, but a benchmark, which we are using to measure the performance of our administration. Our resolve to develop our railway system to a world-class standard remains a top priority.
“Additional critical projects include the rail line from Lagos to Calabar, which branches off to Benin, Agbor and Onitsha, Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri. Standard gauge rail line will branch off to Owerri, Awka, Abakaliki, Yola and Damaturu and Kano to Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibiya to link with Maradi in Niger Republic as part of regional railway inter-connectivity.
“Other important projects, which have been approved, are the procurement of more locomotives, coaches, workshops and equipment that will be used for new standard gauge lines, by way of encouraging private sector participation in our railway development. Negotiations for concession of the narrow gauge railways with a consortium are in progress.
“We are looking forward to a more efficient train service on the narrow gauge lines to be driven by the private sector. It is on the basis of this, that we are creating a more conducive environment for private sector, especially by strengthening our legal and regular trade frameworks,” he stated.
He also stressed that, “to achieve these, am using this opportunity to solicit for support of all relevant stakeholders and, especially the National Assembly and our development partners, in realizing these objectives.
“I commissioned and flagged off the Abuja-Kaduna train service in July last year, which was Nigeria’s first ever outstanding train service. I am glad that this service has become very useful to commuters and has even become the preferred form of transport for the commuters for journey between Abuja and Kaduna,” President Buhari said.
While commending the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, for his tireless efforts towards the development of the railway system, Buhari reiterated the resolve of his administration to vigorously pursue the development of the country through the implementation of the 25-year strategic railway Master Plan.
On Kaduna Inland Dry Port, President said, apart from Kaduna, six other Inland Dry Ports in Ibadan, Aba, Kano, Jos, Funtua and Maiduguri, have also been gazetted, and they are at various stages of completion.
The President noted that Kaduna Inland Dry Port is the first proper Inland Dry Port to be completed among the seven earmarked for various parts of the country. In his words, “It remains for Customs and Ports officials to make these facilities work and not to frustrate business, commercial and industrial enterprises with unnecessary bureaucracy and inflicting on them delays and hardships, thereby defeating the object of the whole exercise as has happened in the past. Make these facilities work this time.
“I urge all relevant stakeholders across the public and private sectors, particularly Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Shipping Companies and Agencies, Seaport Terminal Operators, Clearing and Forwarding Agents, Road Haulers and importers and exporters to utilize this facility optimally.
“The hinterland business community has waited for too long for such facility that has tremendous potentials to ease the way of doing international business for the interior-based importers and exporters.
“The development of Inland Dry Ports is an important factor in our economic development efforts. As ports of origin for exports and ports of destination for imports, the Inland Dry Ports will accelerate the implementation of our economic diversification policy.
“The concept of Inland Dry Port has gained widespread importance with the tremendous changes in international transportation as a result of the ‘container revolution’ and the introduction of door-to-door delivery of cargo. It provides importers and exporters located within the nation’s hinterland, especially industrial and commercial outfits, access to shipping and port services without necessarily visiting the seaports.
“It also enables them to process clearance of their import cargo and take delivery of their raw materials and machinery close to their places of business. Furthermore, the Inland Dry Ports will also provide our exporters the much needed facilities to process, package, consolidate and forward their exports to their customers all over the world without having to physically be at the seaports.
“This replicates the port economy in the various centres where the Dry Ports are located inland, thereby generating employment and contributing to the ease of doing business.
“I congratulate the Kaduna State Government, the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and, indeed, the hinterland importers and exporters on this epoch making occasion.
“I commend the initiative of Nigerian Shippers’ Council towards promoting the provision of these modern transport infrastructural facilities, and urge the Concessionaires of the other six Dry Ports to emulate the Concessionaires of the Kaduna Dry Port by accelerating work on theirs, so that in the next few months, they, too, can be commissioned.
“With the full complement of the seven Dry Ports, congestion at the seaport and traffic gridlock in the port complex will be eliminated. Consequently, the cost of transportation and, therefore, cost of doing business, will be reduced.
“I also want to commend the Government of Kaduna State for facilitating the establishment of Kaduna Inland Dry Port. The provision of access roads and other utilities to the Dry Port by the Kaduna State Government is worthy of emulation by the other Dry Ports host State Governments,” he noted.