By Akanimo Sampson
After more than seven years of foot-dragging and seeming nasty backstage politics, work is currently being expected to start on the unduly delayed $2.5 billion Ibom Deep Seaport, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) deal. It is billed to start on or before this coming April.
Conceptually, the Ibom Deep Seaport is conceived as a cargo gateway for the vast Southern, Eastern, and Northern Nigeria markets as well as markets in West and Central Africa.
As far back as 2012, the Godswill Akpabio administration (2007-2015) had appointed Felak Concept Limited (Nigeria) and Maritime and Transport Business Solutions (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) as advisers to assist with the Outline Business Case (OBC) for preliminary assessment of the need and viability of developing the seaport that was formerly called the Ibaka Deep Seaport.
The Federal Government’s approval for the deep seaport project to commence under a public private partnership deal was obtained in 2015 based on the approved Outline Business Case. The current Transaction Advisers, Global Maritime and Port Services (GMAPS) have since commenced work on the procurement stage.
As part of their industrialisation plans, the Akwa Ibom State Government under Governor Udom Emmanuels’s watch, is very keen on implementing the seaport project as part of the Ibom Industrial City development through a PPP arrangement.
Though part of the industrial city, the deep seaport is however, being treated as a separate project. The seaport will be owned by the Federal Government through the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in partnership with the state government and private investors.
The Ibom Industrial City project on the other hand, will be solely owned by the state government. Both projects will utilise the state’s unique location to promote industrialisation in the country’s oil and gas region by developing a modern state-of-the art industrial city which will include a deep sea port.
Insiders say the seaport is in line with the Federal Ministry of Transportation plans to augment port capacity in Nigeria and a key component of Akwa Ibom’s economic empowerment plans. The project has the full support of the re-election seeking Udom administration and Abuja through the transportation ministry and the NPA.
The seaport will occupy 2,565Ha of land area of the 14,517Ha available for the industrial city project. The approximate location of the project site scaled from the British Admiralty Chart No. 1387 are Latitude 04 32’ 35” N: Longitude 080 14’ 07” E. and UTM coordinates 415168 m E; 502,199 m N (UTM Zone 32N).
Strategically located to serve West and Central African Region, JDZ Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, Angola, Gabon, Congo, Congo DRC, Chad etc
Key factors of the seaport include, Greenfield port project, Deep water access (18m in the channel, allowing >15m+ vessels in the port), 5,129 hectares for port development, Port is part of the 14,400 hectare Ibom Industrial City, Proximity to major shipping routes, Operations protected from waves, currents and winds, Combined deep sea port and FTZ development in the state, Short distance to destination markets to minimise feeder transit and costs, Large gateway market size to attract direct vessel services, and Sizeable transshipment cargo hinterlands for feeder shipping network connection
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Ms. Imeh Okon, says the seaport is well positioned to offer a value proposition superior to other ports in the region, adding, ‘’no port in the West African region has yet to be established as a major transshipment hub. The project will change the landscape of infrastructure in Nigeria’’, she said in Uyo, the state capital, at the weekend.
At the High Level Stakeholders Retreat on PPP, she said, ‘’it will have solutions to traffic congestion in Lagos port because those goods that normally go to Lagos will come here. I can assure you before April, the contract for Ibom Deep Seaport will be signed and the approved consortium will start immediately.’’
According to her, Nigeria has spent N2.7 trillion on infrastructure development in the last three years, pointing out that N100 billion had been injected into rail projects. ‘’What we have done as a government is to go back to the 25-year Master Plan on the rail sector. All what you are seeing right now is in terms of rail infrastructure as a result of the Master plan that was on ground’’, she said.
The presidential aide said the essence of the retreat was to bring stakeholders together to deliberate and develop on policies that would be suitable for the country, harping that the Federal Government is committed to the development of infrastructure in the country, and that infrastructural development will enhance growth.
Ms Okon however, said that revenue generation was a major challenge since the country depended on oil for revenue and the price of oil was not stable in the international market: ‘’The challenge we have seen is revenue; because we are largely dependent on oil to generate revenue and the price of oil has affected government spending. So, we are going to partner with the private sector to develop most of our priority infrastructure projects.’’
On his part, Acting Director-General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Chidi Izuwah, noted that infrastructure deficit was the major challenge to the country’s development, stressing that increase in infrastructure will boost prosperity, growth and peace in the country.
According to him, ‘’the President is committed to developing infrastructure, without infrastructure, we cannot have inclusive growth and development. The stakeholders conference is to re-define our strategies and create investment to develop infrastructure across all parts of Nigeria.’’
The Permanent Secretary, Political and Economic Affairs, Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government, Gabriel Aduda, in his opening remarks said that the retreat was organised to discuss infrastructure improvement delivery framework in Nigeria, adding that the retreat was also put together to examine the legal and operational framework for infrastructure development in the country.