FG Considers Ondo for Deep Seaport Project

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Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman
  • … As Badagry Deep Seaport’s fate hangs in the balance

Mary Nnah

The efforts of the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) towards developing a deep seaport in the riverine areas of the state appear to have paid off as the Federal Government has finally agreed to open discussions with the state on the execution of the multi-billion naira project, which is expected to open a new vista in the economy of the state.

This development is coming on the heels of the cancellation of the port master plan consultancy component of the $2.6 billion Badagry deep seaport project by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

The authority was said to have hinged its decision on the alleged poor delivery of the consultancy contract which was expected to guide the Federal Government in the development of new deep seaports in the country.

Staff of the authority who are very knowledgeable about the development of deep seaports had advised the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, not to go ahead with the port master plan consultant as his work did not meet the required global standards and practices as was premised on very faulty foundation.

The NPA Managing Director was reported to have explained that what was currently required in Nigeria was to fast-track the development of deep seaports that would make the nation’s seaports competitive.

In a bid to concretise the move to have a deep seaport in the state, Usman is expected to have a preliminary meeting with Governor Akeredolu on the possibility of exploring a “seamless but due process” and kick-start the construction of the multi-billion project located in Araromi, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.

Impeccable sources said barring any unforeseen circumstances, the meeting between Usman and Akeredolu will hold next week as all the parties involved look forward to a fruitful discussion.

In the same vein, sources at Dipharima House, the corporate headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Transportation said the option to develop a deep seaport in the riverine part of the state was informed by certain natural advantages the site had aside the preliminary technical efforts the state government had put in that regards.

According to them, from the look of things, the next destination after Badagry had been cancelled is the proposed deep seaport in Araromi, Ilaje Local Government Area in Ondo State, which is a veritable alternative.

“We are committed to this because we are already under pressure to find a lasting solution to the embarrassing gridlock in Apapa, Lagos which has deteriorated following the perennial poor port access roads.”

Continuing, the top government official who preferred anonymity because he has not been authorised to speak publicly on the matter said: “Already, arrangements have been concluded for the NPA team to meet the Ondo State Government to explore a seamless but due process towards the realisation of the project.

“We are aware that so much efforts have been put by the state governor for there to be a seaport along the coastline of that state and precisely in Araromi where there is a natural trench and deeper raft than the Badagry project, which would been more expensive to embark upon because it lacked the required minimum of 16 meter raft in depth.

“I can emphatically say that the technical efforts of the Ondo State Government appear to have jump started the process because we followed up and we are almost convinced that Ondo State has a deeper raft advantage than any other in the country. So we may have no choice than to look in the direction of Ondo State”.

He argued that the choice of Ondo State was informed by the natural advantages. Its proximity to the South-east and the South-south via Okitipupa and Ore stands out.

Usman had explained that the Federal Government cancelled a re-awarded the port master plan to avoid financial and commercial liabilities inherent in it.

Her words: “If you look at the Badagry and the Lekki deep seaport projects, they are all within the Western ports. The port master plan will guide us on whether it is okay to have two deep seaports in close proximity to each other. When I assumed office, I inherited a consultant that was supposed to do a Port Master Plan for the Badagry project, but the consultant did a very bad job.

“When we took the job to the consultant that did the project’s terms of reference (TOR), our internal people looked at it and said it was not good enough. Even the consultant that did the TOR confirmed that the job was not properly done.

“So because of these issues, we cancelled the contract, and the project’s promoters took us to court. We are currently in arbitration. Now we are working on re-awarding the contract. I just gave the go-ahead for the engagement of another consultant that will do the Port Master Plan. The master plan will allow us to know where ports should be deployed in the country in-view of environmental issues, in view of commercial and financial liabilities”.

Besides, Badagry, other deep seaports in the pipeline include the ones situated in Lekki, Lagos State; Ibom, Akwa Ibom State; Port Notel, Akwa Ibom State; Agge, Bayelsa State, and Ogidigbe, Delta State.

While all of them are funded by various state governments in collaboration with the Federal Government in some cases, the first ever ocean seaport being promoted by Port Notel Limited is a wholly private sector driven project.