Boosting international trade, commerce through dry port


ATLANTIQUE Marine and Engineering Services Limited (AMES) is  promoting the AMES-Edo Inland Dry Port (IDP) to boost international trade and commerce in Edo State, other parts of the Niger Delta and Nigeria.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of AMES-Edo IDP, Dr. Charles Akhigbe, who is also the promoter of the project, during an interactive session, after receiving the senior management team from the Federal Ministry of Transportation at the project site in Benin, disclosed that on completion and having become operational, no fewer than 300 local government areas in Nigeria would benefit from the AMES-Edo IDP.

He revealed that the AMES-Edo IDP, costing about N7 billion, would also enhance the socio-economic condition of Edo people and other Nigerians.

Akhigbe hailed the Federal Government for backing the initiative, while calling for more support to ensure that the project comes to reality very soon.

He said: “The aim of the AMES-Edo IDP project is to add value to the economy. We are closer to the end of the tunnel than when we started. More than 300 LGAs will be greatly impacted.”

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mrs. Magdalene Ajani, in her remarks, lauded the management of AMES-Edo IDP for the project, but she insisted that there was still a lot of work to be done.

Ajani said: “The gap analysis that has been done by the consultant has been delivered to AMES-Edo IDP. We have advised the management to work on the identified gaps.

“By the time those things are on the ground, we shall be returning to confirm the status.

“The project delivery team, comprising officials of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the AMES-Edo IDP group and other stakeholders in Edo state, other parts of the Niger Delta and Nigeria, will work together to put in place some technical things.”

The promoter of AMES-Edo IDP (Dr. Charles Akhigbe) disclosed that the port had been granted approval in principle by the Federal Government, as a port of origin and destination.

He noted that with the Federal  Government’s approval in principle, which was secured in October 2020, the inland dry port was set to commence agro export, while disclosing that AMES-Edo IDP was the first in the Southsouth geo-political zone of Nigeria.

Akhigbe revealed that the AMES-Edo IDP would provide over 5,000 jobs and create more job opportunities for many Nigerians in the companies that would provide ancillary services at the expansive facility.

He disclosed that 80 per cent of the construction work had been achieved in the five years concession to complete and inaugurate the massive project.

The Transaction Adviser/Executive Director of AMES-Edo IDP, Chief Chris Orode, in a presentation to the Project Steering Committee of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, which was witnessed by Akhigbe and other critical stakeholders, revealed that the proposal for AMES-Edo IDP was submitted to the Minister for Transportation on June 2, 2015, while the transaction adviser was engaged on October 13, 2015.

He disclosed that there was a meeting in Abuja with top officials of the Federal Ministry  of Transportation on April 4, 2019, which afforded the AMES-Edo IDP team to present the current status of the project.

The gap analysis, according to Orode, was submitted to the Federal Ministry of Transportation in the first quarter of 2020, while on September 30, 2020, provisional approval was granted AMES-Edo IDP as a port of origin and a port of final destination by the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, a former Governor of Rivers State.

On the socio-economic vision of AMES-Edo IDP,  the executive director said: “It is to become the first and preferred IDP in the Southsouth zone of Nigeria, with economic link to the Southeast, Southwest and the Northcentral axes, leading to the Trans-Sahelian trade route (Lokoja-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano-Niger Republic).

“It will provide value-added services for exporters and importers/industries/manufacturers. It will firm up and promote inter-regional trade on the ECOWAS’ (Economic Community of West African States’) international trade route (Abidjan-Lagos-Ore-Benin City, Lokoja-Kaduna).

“It will improve stakeholders’ shipping experience, create wealth and jobs. It will drive the general export cluster business from Edo State and the nine adjoining states, with over 400 LGAs. It will drastically reduce the costs of import and export, greatly contribute in decongesting the Lagos ports and encourage increased value addition for industries and manufacturers.

“It will contribute to accelerating the socio-economic transformation of Edo State, the Southsouth zone and other zones of Nigeria. Edo State is a logistic hub and rightly the gateway to the Southwest, Southsouth, Southeast and some parts of the Northcentral zones of Nigeria, with many small and medium scale enterprises (export/import), all of which can be serviced by the AMES-Edo IDP.”

Orode also disclosed that the records at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) showed that over 70 per cent of cargo consigned to the Lagos ports complex were destined for the hinterland states, stressing that the economic opportunities in other adjoining states could be consolidated for non-oil export and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

He revealed that the Godwin Obaseki’s administration in Edo state had been very supportive of the AMES-Edo IDP, especially by waiving the payment of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) fee and establishing industrial/enterprise park for non-oil industrial and manufacturing set-ups, very close to AMES-Edo IDP.

The executive director also hailed Obaseki’s administration’s development of the Benin River Port, for rapid agricultural, solid mineral and industrial development, for the production, processing and export of various agricultural and mineral resource deposits

He noted that the Benin river port would also provide a direct market for the viability of the AMES-Edo IDP as a Domestic Export Warehouse (DEW), in fulfilment of the zero oil policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Orode lauded Obaseki’s government for completing the survey of the 3.5kms access road, with drainage, from the project site to the Benin-Sapele dual carriageway, while also collaborating and assisting the AMES-Edo IDP with the security architecture to ensure unimpeded smooth operations.

He also described as a step in the right direction, the Federal Ministry of Transportation’s alignment of the coastal rail line from Lagos, thereby passing through Benin City and Sapele, as well as Benin City-Asaba-Onitsha, before terminating in Calabar, the capital of Cross River state.

While further speaking on AMES-Edo IDP’s product flow chart, the managing director disclosed that the process would be technology driven, thereby involving full tracking and traceability, for monitoring from departure to arrival.

On the mode of transportation, he said: “The rail mode is the backbone of the AMES-Edo IDP in moving heavy duty cargo. In the financial model, it is projected that a rail track will be aligned to the AMES-Edo IDP’s site.

“Coastal rail tracks have been prepared by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The funding strategy is being worked out by the Federal Ministry of Transportation. The route will be Lagos-Shagamu-Ore-Benin City-Sapele-Warri-Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Uyo-Calabar. The track will be aligned with the AMES-Edo IDP.

“The proposed Koko-Ogbeye-Epe dual carriageway will be less than two hours to Lekki deep seaport, when completed. The AMES-Edo IDP base is 30kms from Benin City airport, 132kms from Asaba airport, 46kms from the Koko seaport, 65kms from Warri seaport and over 300kms from Apapa ports in Lagos. Benin City is a national logistic hub.

‘AMES-Edo IDP initiated discussion and paid for the advisory services of Nexus Capital LLC, New York, to source for funding in March 2018. The fee paid was lost, as the expected approval was not forthcoming.

“However, after securing the provisional approval of the facility as a port of entry and port of final destination, AMES-Edo IDP is presently in serious strategic discussions with the following, to participate on a technical and financial bases in the project: Mr. Hassen El-Houry, the Managing Director of National Aviation Services, Kuwait; TFS Finance Limited; Amit Modi of Infrastructural Development Unit of CPSC of Canada and a Chinese company with base in South Africa.

“They (investors) are all at the stage of conducting the initial due diligence on the company and the project, confirm if they can do business with us, get the necessary bank guarantees and sign all the necessary agreements with AMES-Edo IDP. We are hopeful that the success of these discussions and agreements signed, the execution of the gap analysis, with reference to the grant chart, will commence”