The Federal Government is to withdraw its 20 percent equity holding in the Lekki Deep Sea port development, which is aimed at developing Lagos Free trade Zone at Lekki axis of Lagos State, Nigeria,the Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has said.
The Federal Government holds 20 percent equity in the project, representing ,$118 million; the Lagos State Government, holds 18.5 percent, while the Tolaram Group of Singapore has 61.5 percent.
The Minister, who spoke at the just concluded two days African Ports Evolution (APE) Conference in Accra, Ghana, emphasized the need for a level playing field for all the promoters of deep sea ports in the country, acknowledging that in Africa, investors, out of fear, have always wanted government’s involvement in project developments as a guarantee for sustainability.
Assuring investors of continuity of projects in Nigeria, irrespective of the government in power, Amaechi noted that while the other deep sea ports are being developed independent of the Federal Government via hundred percent private sector participation, it will be wrong for the government to take up equity interest in the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
He cited the Badagry Deep Sea Port development , where the promoters have earmarked $2.2 Billion for its development without the involvement of the Federal Government, reiterating that the government lacks money for such project at the moment.
Ironically, the Lagos State Government, under Gov. Babatunde Fashola had accused President Goodluck Jonathan’s Federal Government of starving the project of its counterpart funds of $118Million towards the actualization of the project.
But in a swift reaction then, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Mallam Habib Abdullahi, dismissed the allegation, saying that the Federal Government through the NPA, which is one of the project promoters had paid 1million dollars out of its total financial obligations to the project.
As at press time, however, it was not known whether the Federal Government will demand a refund of the sum already paid , but what was clear is that the Minister would soon hold a meeting with the management of NPA to commence the new resolution, whose approval by the Federal Executive Council(FEC) seems a walk- over given the prevailing recession in the economy.
Before the project commenced, a concession agreement between the NPA and the Lekki Ports LFTZ Enterprises, LPE had taken place under which the guarantee financial cover commitment was made.
The Lekki Deep Seaport with draught of about 14meters was designed to attract bigger vessels with the aim of transforming the centre to a hub port and industrial city in West Africa.
The project was conceptualized to provide an enabling environment for industries to thrive, attract both local and foreign direct investment into the state and create jobs for the teeming unemployed population in the state, the state government has said.
The deep seaport until now, is a joint venture project of the Federal Government, which is being represented by the NPA, the Lagos State Government, Lekki LFTZ Enterprise and a Singaporean based investor, the Tolaram Group.
Lagos State Government is optimistic that the deep sea port, upon completion, would complement development at the free trade zone and the congested Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports.
Upon completion, the deep seaport is expected to create over 162, 000 jobs and decongest the current ports in Lagos, which were built to handle 60,000 tonnes, but are now handling over 100,000 tonnes of cargo.