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We Will Transform Onitsha Port In Two Months, If Given Go-Ahead –Yusuf, MD, ICNL



Ismail Yusuf, managing director of Inland Containers Nigeria Limited (ICNL), speaks on the effects of the economy on its business and its capacity to develop the Onitsha River Port, if given opportunity as second preferred bidder.

Half-year overview

The half part of 2021 has been very difficult, even more than last year when we had COVID-19. A lot of things have been happening in the country and the situation is getting worse every day. In terms of security, kidnapping, killings, banditry are everywhere. When there is no peace, there cannot be development.

First, our customers are not importing as expected. Second, the high rate of inflation and exchange rate is another problem. Last year, a dollar was exchanged at around N310 to N360, but today it is N510. So, how many people can import in such a situation?

When you can’t even plan because you are not sure of the monetary policies of the government, people will definitely be skeptical about importing, so that it doesn’t happen that in the end they are not able to sell the goods.

When you look at it, the many factors that encourage customers to go out and import are not there; likewise the support from government. You can’t go to the bank and borrow money to do your business. You can only expect low patronage from our customers because they are not getting support from anywhere.

Plan for Onitsha River Port, Oba terminal

You know the bottlenecks that come with government bureaucracy. When government tells you that they are going to do something in six months, expect it to be done maybe in the next one and half years.

For government, there are a lot of processes you pass through. If that is not completed, you cannot be called upon to come for a meeting. On our part, we have done the bid and are waiting for the final decision of government. That is for Onitsha River Port.

But for an investor who wants to invest in the East, you will consider proximity to Onitsha from Oba, which is just about 10 to 15 minutes’ drive.  If we eventually get Onitsha, we might not need to develop Oba Terminal any longer, because it will amount to a waste of money. So, the outcome of Onitsha River Port will determine what will happen at the proposed Oba Bonded Terminal site.

If the government gives us the go-ahead today, in the next two months, we will mobilise human resources and every other equipment required to do the job.  Infrastructures are there already; we have cranes. What it will require is for us to move the ridge stacker from Kaduna or Kano to the place.

We have empty handlers. Government has provided crane. We already have a tarmac there, we have offices there also. All we need to do is buy furniture and computer equipment and start operation.

For us, when government is planning to dredge the river port, we as a bonded terminal operator can start moving cargoes by road  immediately until government finishes dredging.

So, what we will do is to start moving containers from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri to the place on bond by road, pending the time the dredging will be completed, and the vessels will be able to get there.

Place of ICNL in bonded terminal operation in Nigeria

We are the pacesetter. When talking about the operation of bonded terminal in Nigeria, Inland Containers was the first to operate in the hinterland.

Today, we also have Kaduna Inland Dry Port, a subsidiary of Inland Containers, as the first dry port to be commissioned by the Federal Government.

Today, we are operating at a low capacity; a low capacity in the sense that there are a lot of teething problems facing the company for now. Not that the company does not have the capacity to perform.

We have been talking with the regulatory agencies, security agencies, and all stakeholders that they need to give us support and policy statement to ensure things are working as  expected

For instance, if you say that a dry port is a port, everybody expects what is done at the sea ports to also be done there. But today, we have not gotten shipping companies to buy into dry ports as where they don’t issue through bill of lading for import and export.

The Federal Government is supposed to have made a policy on that through its representative, the Shippers Council. The codes that ports are supposed to have needs to be given, they are supposed to do that as an agency of the Federal Government.

Also, rail needs to be working, for less or cheaper cost of transportation. That needs to be in place, not only for Kaduna Inland Dry Port, but for all inland dry ports.

If that is not there, any of the new dry ports coming up will still face the problems we have been facing till today. That is why I said we are the pacesetter; we are the ones facing the teething problems now, and when this has been solved, it becomes easier for new and incoming dry ports.

Success of Kaduna dry port

The success I can say that we have achieved at Kaduna Inland Dry Port today is that we have been able to have a very good rapport with some of our stakeholders, especially the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Customs has been giving us full support to ensure that the dry port is working. The Kaduna State Government has also been doing the same to see that the dry port works. I can also commend the Shippers Council on the aspect of sensitisation, because, since its inauguration, we have done more than three sensitisaton seminars to bring in all the stakeholders and make them aware of the presence of Kaduna Inland Dry Port for their patronage. And I give them kudos for that. 


It terms of export, the port manager has been doing a lot of work, meeting the exporters, agents, Customs and the regulatory agencies and other stakeholders in order to patronise the dry port for export business.

Like I said earlier, another sensitisation in coming up on July 15, 2021; organised and jointly sponsored by the Shippers Council, Kaduna Inland Dry Port and the Tobacco Industry in Zaria.

We are doing this so that customers can be aware that they can do their export right from Kaduna Inland Dry Port; they don’t necessarily need to go to Onne Port in Rivers State or Apapa Port in Lagos. is an authoritative car blog in Nigeria. Its objective is to get Nigerians and a wider audience to be more informed about automobiles, the automotive sector and transport infrastructure. Over the years, we have been instrumental in creating immeasurable public awareness about automobiles and their maintenance, safety and traffic laws, amongst others. ...Your mobility, our priority. NK

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