· Transport Minister tours Onne, Rivers ports
The proposed multi-million dollars Bonny Deep Sea port in Rivers State is yet to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) despite its flag- off earlier this year in March by President Mohammadu Buhari under the leadership of Rotimi Amaechi as Transportation Minister.
The project was said to have had a temporary setback occasioned by the change in the initial location which has problem of existing pipelines buried underground across, among other issues.
During a tour of the Onne Port Complex and Rivers Port Complex in Port Harcourt, River State, last week, by the Minister of Transportation,
Engr. Muazu Sambo, the managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA),Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko affirmed that the promoters had done the Outline Business Case(OBC) and Financial Business Case(FBC) which NPA and other relevant approving authorities have seen but another location has been identified which has a natural draft of over 17 metres.
Recall that the Bonny seaport, the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line and a new Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt, all combined with a value of about $3.2billion, were flagged-off in March this year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to experts, this development however is a paradigm shift from the established project development approval and implementation procedures, where approval precedes official flag-off. But in the case of Bonny Deep Sea port, not even the absence of a clear location could dissuade its flag-off.
It is also not on record that there was any conditional approval before the ceremony, thereby laying credence to the claim by some industry professionals that any project in Nigeria associated with the infamous Chinese construction firm undermines due process.
With the ideal site now for the construction of the green-field deep sea port at Finima, Bonny Island, Rivers State, Bello-Koko said, “The next thing is for the Minister to sit down and look at it and then we determine the next option. There are various proponents for the construction of the port, and I am sure that this is on the front burner for him.
“He just talked about the short, medium and long term strategic plans. For us in NPA and working with the Ministry, the development of a deep sea port in this part of the country is very key. It also means that you now have two deep seaports in the West. Lekki is already gearing up for take- off, and then you have the Badagry that has been approved by FEC and then we hope that the Minister will get approval for Bonny deep seaport soon and that means we have deep seaports at different locations of the country. I do hope that within the life-time of this administration, the Bonny deep seaports will gain approval for take- off,” he added.
The Bonny Deep Seaport project covering a land area of 275.22 hectares is to be developed through direct investment by Messrs China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, Nigeria Limited, on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer, DBFOT, basis.
The project scope includes construction of a breakwater, revetment, container berth, general goods berth, dredging of the access channel and turning basin, construction of office buildings and warehouses. The new port with a draught of 17 metres will have a terminal capacity of 500,000 TEUs per annum and 100,000 DWT general cargo berth.
The port project will be boosted by the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri rail-line with a branch at Elelenwo in Port Harcourt, heading to Dere, Bodo and terminating in Bonny.
While Bello-Koko described the Bonny Deep Seaport project as a “game changer” that would significantly transform the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria based on its multiplier effect, the Minister of Transportation, after the assessment of the on-going re-construction work at Rivers Ports and Onne Ports expressed the hope that they would guarantee massive job opportunities, better welfare and improved living conditions for Nigerians.
Assuring that the repositioned Onne Port will maximize its huge potentials in export and import trade, he said the 3 days fact-finding tour was to ascertain why the eastern ports are not performing at maximum capacity
“Part of the reason why I’m here is to look into why the Rivers Ports are not working. Whatever the challenges are, we will address them. I will discuss with stakeholders and we will come up with short term, medium term and long term plans on how to overcome those challenges and make the ports productive”, Sambo said.
On the issue of the dilapidated access road to the Onne Port, the Minister assured that Sukuk IV will take care of that, adding that he would liaise with his counterpart, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola to see how it can be fast-tracked.
The Minister, however, frowned on Terminal Operators who defraud the Federal Government by not complying with payment of the Practitioners Operating Fees, warning that it will no longer be tolerated.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello- Koko said government is very serious about the need to increase traffic at the Eastern Ports, so as to decongest the Lagos ports.
On the issue of security, he said: ” we are working with the Nigerian Navy to improve security on our Waterways and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has deployed assets under the Deep Deep Blue Project that would be working with the Nigerian Navy to improve security along the used for Offshore patrols.”
At the West Africa Container Terminal (WACT) Nigeria, the Managing Director, Naved Zafa, while briefing the Minister on their facility, said: ” as part of our Terminal upgrade and expansion project, we have acquired sufficient cargo handling equipment at our terminal to improve the efficiency of the port”.
Speaking further, he informed that the Nigeria Customs Service .has just installed a new scanning machine at the port complex, which was acquired by the Federal Government and inaugurated by the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd).
According to him, the scanner would facilitate trade, ensure security and drastically reduce the importation of illicit goods by unscrupulous persons, adding that it would reduce dwell time by promoting faster and easier treatment of cargoes.
Other facilities visited were: Integrated Logistics Services Terminal, International Container Terminal, Onne Multipurpose Terminal and Brawal .
The Minister was accompanied on the trip by the Director, Finance and Accounts, FMT, Umaru Hassan who represented the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, Director, MSD, FMT, Babatunde Sule, Director Legal Services, Pius Oteh, Director Rail, Jimoh Yusfu, Director Press, Eric Ojiekwe, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria among others.