The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), in its relentless efforts to place Nigerian ports in better stead, conceived the idea of deep seaport development. The Federal Government on its part did not hesitate to approve the siting of deep seaports in various locations in Nigeria name: Lekki and Badagry in Lagos State; Ibaka in Akwa Ibom State; Olokola in Ogun and Ondo States, and Agge in Bayelsa State.
To ensure that the projects are executed conclusively, the Federal Government has taken some far reaching measures. For example, the Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, has since disclosed that a steering and project development committee for the construction of Ibaka and Badagry deep seaports has been inaugurated through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
In the case of the Ibaka, the Transaction Adviser appointed by the Government of Akwa Ibom State government had equally submitted Initial Due Diligence Report and an Outline Business Case to the project steering committee. Interestingly, the management of NPA requested for 5,138 hectares of land from the Akwa Ibom Government which was gladly approved by the latter.
Similarly, the Lekki Deep Sea Port Project has received some boost from the Federal Government with the NPA management signing a 45 year concession agreement with Messrs Eurochem Technology Corporation Limited.
Recently, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, explained that the development of Deep Sea Ports for Nigeria is the response of the Government to the looming challenges posed by other African ports especial in the West and Central African region where the ports of the nations in the region are aspiring to be the hub. Similarly, the management of NPA has set this goal for itself to transform Nigerian ports as the hub of the region.
There are ample reasons for the development of deep seaports in Nigeria. The Transport Minister, in one occasion, rightly explained that the projects will serve as catalyst for making Nigeria the hub of West and Central Africa, which the NPA management has been striving to achieve.
A cogent reason for the development of these projects is the visible current of dissatisfaction among shipowners and operators on the low draft of Nigerian seaports that cannot accommodate bigger vessels. With the deep port projects successfully executed, the draft will be better like the deep seaports of Morocco and Ghana that have 17 and 14 meter drafts. This will definitely satisfy the yearnings of shipowners clamouring for better draft at Nigerian ports.
More importantly, it will be easier to cope with the export of solid mineral, steel products including oil and gas especially the latter that are mostly located off shore.
The growing competition among the ports of the West and Central Africa to capture the sea borne trade of the region especially becoming the hub port, has placed enormous challenge on Nigeria to respond aggressively to the competition.
Notwithstanding some commendable steps taking so far by the Nigerian government towards the development of deep seaports in the designated locations, the slow pace of the execution of these laudable projects has become worrisome.
It is worth stressing that at the Ibaka deep seaport site, there is no visible ongoing work. The road leading to it is deplorable. This situation is capable of dampening the enthusiasm of port users who cheered the government when it announced the siting of the project. The situation in other proposed sites of deep seaport projects is not any different.
Considering their importance of these projects, the relevant bodies and partners involved need no urging to execute the projects with the required zeal and vigour.
Also, they should not be afflicted with the usual bureaucratic foot dragging. Nigeria and Nigerians need deep seaports for greater economic progress.
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