“Which seaport? Na fish I dey sell o. Me I no know any seaport. I no see anything since. I just dey hear for radio,” said Joan, a plump lady selling fish by the riverside at Ibaka in Akwa Ibom State.
Joan’s revelation on the status of the much publicised Ibaka deep seaport is in sharp contrast to claims by the Akwa Ibom State Government that the project would be delivered by 2015.
Apart from the fish seller’s comment, there were no signs of any construction work going on at the site of the proposed port which the state government said would be ready 18 months from now.
“I don’t know of any seaport. I hear for radio and television but what we hear is different from what is on ground here. As you can see, there is nothing going on here. I think they are just doing it on paper,” Uduak, a middle-aged fisherman, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY at the site of the proposed deep seaport.
Several other indigenes of the community who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY expressed similar views.
Ibaka is a riverine community with fishing as the main occupation of the indigenes.
The site of the proposed seaport is currently used mainly for fishing activities and water transport for small crafts. In addition to the lack of any sign of construction work at the port site, the only road leading into Ibaka is extremely narrow too narrow for trucks and in a terrible state of disrepair raising questions about the State Government’s seriousness about driving the project.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, had in August this year said the seaport project would be completed before he leaves office in May 2015.
Akpabio stated this when the Managing Director of China Civil Engineering Construction Company, (CCECC), Mr. Shi Hong Bing, led the management team of the firm to present an architectural design of the project to the governor in Abuja.
Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had at various times informed Nigerians that work was ongoing on the Ibaka port project with the impression that it would be ready for use in the not too distant future.
A maritime expert, Capt. Jerry Mgbonu, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that “it is not possible to deliver the Ibaka Deep Seaport in the next two years.”
“How can that happen? If they have not started construction by now, they will need a minimum of five years to deliver the first phase of the project apart from putting the road in shape,” Mgbonu who is resident in Calabar, said.
In 2011, Chairman of Mercury Maritime Concession Company Limited, Rear Admiral Andrew Okoja (rtd), alleged that the original concept of the Ibaka port was his idea.
Accusing the Akwa Ibom State Government of alleged copy right violation, Okoja claimed he developed the port concept while undergoing Senior Executive Course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Jos in 1993.
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