Reactions have started pouring in over the withdrawal of Lilypond Container Depot Nigeria Limited from the concession agreement it had with the Federal Government on Lilypond Terminal, Ijora, Lagos, even before the expiration of the 10-year concession agreement.
While some hailed the decision, others expressed misgivings.
Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, hailed the development, saying that the Lilypond Terminal was originally intended to serve as a truck park not as a container terminal.
Ogungbemi advised the Federal Government to retain the original idea behind the creation of the terminal.
“It is a good development, because, originally, Lilypond was constructed to serve as a truck park and not as a container park. My advice to the Federal Government is that they should allow the status quo to remain, so that it will be reversed to a holding bay or transit park for trucks that are operating in the ports to ease the chaotic traffic situation within Apapa and within the ports environment,” the AMATO boss said.
On his part, Customs Area Controller (CAC), Lilypond Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller, Willy Egbudin, said that it was unfortunate that the concessionaire decided to pull out even before the expiration of the concession agreement.
Egbudin said it was now up to the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) to allocate the terminal to another operator.
He expressed optimism that a new concessionaire will utilise the facility at the terminal, which, he affirmed, is one of the best terminals.
The CAC said: “There are people out there who will want to operate it, because the facility at Lilypond is a good one. There is nothing we can do about it. They gave us the letter, and I have forwarded it to the (Customs) Headquarters. It’s left for NPA to allocate it to somebody else.”
He added: “Since Lilypond is a sister company to APM Terminals, I expect that they should be able to operate the depot successfully. But if they say they cannot because of one thing or the other, so be it. If any other strong operator comes there, they will operate it, because Lilypond is a good terminal. The facility is a very good one, so I expect that people should take advantage of it and operate it.”
Also speaking, the Founder, National Association of Government Approved Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said that it is was honourable for Lilypond Container Depot Nigeria Limited to have pulled out of the Lilypond Terminal.
Aniebonam said that it was “healthy” for the company to take that stand, given the economic implication of operating at the terminal where activities had been quite idle.
“From all indications, it appeared that their reason was that they were not breaking even for the past one year. I think it’s quite healthy looking at it from the economic point of view. The terminal was concession and it was quite viable as an inland container terminal, but subsequently went down. The hiccups were quite germane, in the sense that members of NAGAFF and all other freight associations and their members have lost business in the past one year. The Customs on their own part have a revenue target of about five billion naira a month, and, for so long, they have not been able to meet that target. Invariably, the government is losing, the freight forwarders are losing, they themselves are losing, because they are supposed to bring in cargo to the arena,” he said.
Chairman, Lilypond Joint Initiative, Prince Anselm Njemanze, said that, if the rationale for the concessionaire’s withdrawal is for business to thrive, then it is a welcome development.
Njemanze stated that the withdrawal of the concessionaire will also give the government the opportunity to revisit the concession agreement.
According to him, the idea of converting the terminal to a truck park will be in variance with the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda.
“Ijora has never been a truck park, and will never be a truck park. Ijora has a status of a dry port and an Area Command, and converting it to a truck park will not generate the revenue the government has ascribed to each Command,” he said.
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