The promoters of the proposed Lekki deep seaport have been unable to get the project off the ground eight years after obtaining approval from the Federal Government.
The port is located within the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.
The promoters of the port, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited – a special purpose vehicle promoted by the Tolaram Group – have shifted the date for the commencement of the port at least five times, SHIPS & PORTS can authoritatively report.
Approval for the port was granted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under former President Goodluck Jonathan in the first week of December 2013. The December 4, 2013 FEC approval, granted the Lagos State Government and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) 18.15% and 20% equity respectively in the port while a private consortium of investors led by the Tolaram Group holds the remaining 61.8%.
Lekki deep seaport, according to information on the project’s website, is being built as a multi-purpose deep seaport and “will be one of the most modern ports in West Africa, offering enormous support to the burgeoning commercial operation across Nigeria and the entire West African region.”
However, eight years after obtaining the Federal Government approval, the port has not been able to kick off. This is in spite of the “official flag-off ceremony of the project” by President Muhammadu Buhari represented by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on March 29, 2018.
SHIPS & PORTS reports that the promoters of the project had first touted 2014 for commencement of operation. This was later changed to 2015 and then 2017, then 2018 and then 2022. In March this year, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the port would open in the first quarter of 2023.
In May 2017, one of the investors in the proposed port, ICTSI pulled out over the delay in commencement of operation.
“The parties arrived at this decision following delays in the execution of the Lekki Port Project,” the Manila-based container terminal operator said in a press release on May 26, 2017.
In November 214, the Chief Financial Officer of Tolaram Group, Sandeep Prasramka attributed the delay to financing.
“I would not say we faced any challenges but the process of project financing to enable a number of international financial institutions to fund the project is bound to be time consuming. Most project face delays from the time of their conceptualization to implementation and we are no exception.
“However, now we are quite close to implementation i.e. starts of construction. From this milestone, timelines are contractually agreed and legally binding on various parties to start operations hence we do not expect substantial changes in schedule going forward.”
However, the position has remained almost the same and the project has not significantly moved forward since then.
Speaking on the delayed commencement of the port, Leke Oyewole, a former Senior Special Assistant (Maritime Affairs) to former President Goodluck Jonathan, said he did not support the Lekki deep seaport project from inception.
“From day one of the concession of that project, I have never supported it. If they commence operation, how are they going to manage the gridlock along the Lekki-Epe road? Is Victoria Island not going to turn to another Apapa? Common sense should have sensed that even before the start of the project.
“When I mentioned it then, they said Fourth Mainland Bridge was coming. Is it a container bridge they are building? That port to me, from day one did not command any sense of good traffic in that place. How they want to do it, I don’t know. We can’t stand logic on its head and expect any sanity,” Oyewole said.
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