The much anticipated inland container depot in Funtua, Katsina State, otherwise known as Funtua Dry Port, has failed to commence business activities fully, three years since its commissioning. Dailytrust, reports.
The project was flagged off on August 18, 2014 during the Goodluck Jonathan administration and expected to be completed and put to use within 30 months, precisely February 2017. However, nine months after the expected date of completion and usage, the project is yet to take off, despite enjoying one of the advantages lacking in the other six newly established dry ports – Funtua town is already connected to railway tracks.
READ ALSO: A new 60MVA power transformer commissioned in FUNTUA, Katsina
Rail connectivity is one of the promises made by government for all the ports.
The history of the port dates back to 2003 when then governor of the state, Umaru Yar’adua, now late, conceived the idea and began its processes. The real turning point, however, was in 2014 when the then federal government approved six of such ports, among which is the Funtua Dry Port.
Then minister of Transportation, Senator Idris Umar, in 2014 laid the foundation of the renewed initiative which however has not taken off till date. At inception, the cost of establishing the Funtua Dry Port was put at N3 billion but which later rose to N5 billion when a concessionaires’ arrangement was entered into through a public private partnership.
The chairman of the concessionaires, Equatorial Marine Oil and Gas, Alhaji Umaru Muttallab, had assured on implementing the project within a 30 months’ span and that the port, when operational, would change the economic landscape of the region and the neighbouring countries as it provides services to the hinterland.
The state government and its 34 local councils were expected to acquire a total of 20 per cent equity which will be sold later to the state indigenes through a privatisation process.
An official at the Funtua Dry Port who spoke on condition of anonymity said the nonchalant attitude exhibited by the present state government was one of the major hindrances to the completion of the project. He said of recent also, the country went into recession, noting that with the economic downturn, foreign investment was hard to come by.
The security challenges, especially kidnappings also contributed to scaring away investors, he said but assured that “within the new 18 months extension given to us, the port will be up and running.”
“If you visit now you will see some people working. We are committed and ready to get it completed,” he assured.
For the spokesman of the shippers’ council, Nweke Ignatius, the council is also disturbed by the ongoing trend and about to sign a new agreement with the concessionaires to either get the port up and running within a new agreed time or have the project revoked and awarded to others.”
He also said that, “As at now we are trying to get them sign an agreement since we have gathered they have not done so much.
“We have given them so much time but we can’t keep government waiting. We will revoke and re-award to others who can deliver,” he added
The Managing Director, EMOG, Usman Iya-Abbas when contacted by our reporter for comment promised to call back, but failed to do so after 72 hours of waiting.
After another attempt, Mr Abbas sent a text saying “I’ll call you soon” which he however, did not throughout yesterday.