Lekki Deep Seaport: The Metaphor Of A Beautiful Bride

By Frank Odinukaeze

 

Lekki Deep Seaport: The Metaphor Of A Beautiful Bride

In a space of four months, Lekki Deep Seaport, Lagos has hosted many top government functionaries who obviously visited with a political intent. The most striking of all the drama, is the disagreement on the project delivery date between the investors and government officials, who have cajoled them into submission, lately.

Beside the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who visits there almost on monthly basis and can lay claim to carrying out his ministerial duties, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed just visited. President Mohammadu Buhari, earlier this year visited. The Acting Director General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr. Michael Ohiani; the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akubueze, among others, have also visited at different times.

The frequent visits by these government officials show the urgency and rush of the government to quickly get the Lekki Deep Seaport project running. But this stampede of visits is ominous and foretells disaster for this project. What does the All Progressives Congress (APC) government want from this project?


The project has lately become a beautiful bride with soaring expectations over the huge economic prospects and benefits that would accrue from the $1.53bn deep seaport project.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed while undertaking a tour of the facility had said that both the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government would earn revenue of over $201 billion in 45 years when the Lekki Deep Seaport becomes fully operational.

Accompanied by heads of parastatals under the Ministry of Transportation, Alhaji Mohammed expressed joy at the quality of work done; assuring that the port would become operational in the last quarter of 2022.

Besides having its target and niche market as enunciated in the Outline Business Case (OBC) of the project, it is believed that it has an added advantage of taking pressure away from Apapa port and also decongest the port corridors and environs that have degenerated to an eyesore.

However, what has remained in the realm of surprise is the absurdity of recreating the “Apapa Modern Logistics Disaster” at the Lekki port axis. The beautiful bride has neither access roads to fast track the movement of cargo and trucks out the port nor plans for rail connectivity.

The only access road for trucks to move out of the Lekki port is through the Shagamu / Ijebu-Ode road which observers have lamented might not be durable enough to withstand the weight of these trucks and the cargo. Last week, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu reiterated that the Lekki/ Shagamu will be 6-lanes. Where is this road promised by Lagos State Government?

According to the Lagos State Governor, the six-lane road connection will be provided to link Lekki Deep Seaport to Shagamu and other locations along Lagos-Ibadan expressway to dissipate the traffic congestion in Lagos.

Meanwhile, he noted that the land for the Badagry Deep Seaport has already been secured with the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) expected soon; adding that the establishment of Badagry seaport coupled with the Lekki Deep Seaport will provide better economic and trading opportunities in Lagos.

Sanwo-Olu who was speaking at the 2022 All Markets Conference organized by NDIGBOAMAKA Progressive Markets Association in Lagos, on Thursday last week stressed the need to reduce the logistics constraints which have characterized Apapa and Tin Can Island ports and environs over the years.

Even at this, it is believed that using the Shagamu / Ijebu-Ode axis attracts an additional cost to the shipper apart from the stress and risks associated with such arrangement.

The result is that the initial intention to solve the problem of decongestion of Apapa port might turn out to be futile or divert the logistics mayhem from Apapa to Lekki.

However, the idea of an alternative sea port is laudable. But the Infrastructure needed to make for seamless operations at the Lekki Deep Seaport must be put in place. There must be good access roads leading to and from the Lekki port.

According to Lai Mohammed, when fully operational, the deep seaport, “will create 169,972 jobs and bring revenues totaling 201 billion dollars to state and federal governments through taxes, royalties and duties. The direct and induced business revenue impact is estimated at $158bn in addition to a qualitative impact on the manufacturing, trade and commercial services sector.

Describing the project as a game-changer, the Minister added that the port boasts of $800m on construction alone, stressing that “the aggregate impact has been put at 361 billion dollars in 45 years, which will be over 200 times the cost of building it.”

Speaking on the gains that await the nation, the Minister noted: “When it begins operation in the last quarter of this year, it will make it possible for Nigeria to regain the maritime business that was lost to ports in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana”. This is delusional because there are many variables responsible for this, and one of which is cost of port services. The development of Lekki Deep Seaport is not premised on cheap port services.

He continued:”It is also a big boost to Nigeria in its quest to take advantage of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA. “A major advantage we have to leverage is transhipment. With this port, Nigeria will become a transhipment hub and the revenue we are currently losing to our neighbouring countries will come here.”

“Phase one of the project, according to Lai Mohammed has reached 89 per cent completion rate, assuring that it will hit the 100 per cent mark in September this year. The facilities here are first class. We have 7 ships to shore cranes and 21 RTG cranes. No port in Nigeria currency has this. The excellent equipment is why this port can do 18,000 teus, which is more than four times the number that can currently be handled by our other ports.”

The Minister tasked newsmen to report the good things happening in Nigeria rather than negativities that portray the country in a bad light.

“I want to appeal to our colleagues in the media to play up these developmental efforts instead of concentrating energy on negativity. Let the world  know that Nigeria is not all about kidnapping,terrorism and banditry.It is also about massive development that are unprecedented “Lai added

Observers are however worried about the September commencement date of operation of the Lekki Deep Sea port. Barely five months to the projected commencement date, there are no good road network that would make movement of trucks and personnel seamless.

It is speculated in some quarters  that the reason behind the rush is to use the Lekki Sea port as a political campaign tool. The Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi who has picked form to run   for presidency under the APC ,has visited the Lekki port several times all in an effort to leave a project  legacy and also a campaign performance tool for APC ahead of 2023 presidential election.

The Lekki Deep Seaport, which is being constructed by China Harbour Engineering firm and Tolagram Group, is occupying 90 hectares in the entire 830 hectares of land carved out for the Lagos Free Zone, created in 2012 to enhance the nation’s economic position as a logistics hub in West Africa. As a Public Private Project (PPP) the Federal Government(represented by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)  and Lagos State own stakes in the project which was started by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP government under former president Goodluck Jonathan . But APC has appropriated the project to be a flagship project of President Buhari’s administration. It is understood; leadership is a continuum.

While it is commendable to continue with a project started by the previous government,  it is also important  to ensure that the right things are done to prevent accidental project delivery.

The necessary Infrastructure must be put in place. The investors and engineers had told the Governor of Lagos State, Sanwo-Olu that the project would be ready in 2023,but the Minister of Transportation insisted they must deliver the project in 2022.

The question on the lips of concerned Nigerians is: How feasible is the September date when there are yet no  road or rail connectivity to evacuate goods from the port?

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said it has no fund for rail connectivity to the port. Ben Akubueze stated this while on visit to the port in company of Amaechi, and others. He left no hope at all as he concluded that there was no budgetary provision for that in 2021, 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.

Observers say APC is rushing the promoters to give an unrealistic take-off date for campaign reasons with rail and road connectivity for cargo evacuation not in place.

The Lekki axis where the much celebrated sea port is located is not blessed with good road network. What is more, the road leading to this beautiful bride is adorned with residential buildings. It therefore means for anything like road expansion to take place, most of the rising estate houses on the corridor will give way. This therefore poses a lot of challenge to both the seaport and port users.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the Lekki project is a game- changer as it will turn the fortunes of the country overnight. What a hallucination!

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