The port has immense potential for the economy

President Muhammadu Buhari was exultant last week as he inaugurated the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos. It is the first of its kind in Nigeria and one of the biggest in West Africa with immense potential for the economy. Built within four years at the cost of about $1.5 billion, the deep seaport is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as biometric scanners and facial recognition systems. It is expected to ease cargo congestion that costs billions of dollars in annual revenue. At a banquet in his honour by the Lagos State government, Buhari said the completion of the project was driven by the vision to “bequeath a legacy of poverty elimination through the provision of job-creating infrastructure.” 

Designed to handle at least 2.5 million 20-foot standard containers per year, the port will be operated as a joint venture between the federal government, Lagos State, Singapore-based Tolaram Group (in charge of the Lekki Free Zone) and state-owned China Harbor Engineering Company. The foreign outfits own 75 per cent of the project while the balance is shared between the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). According to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ships docking at the port could be up to four times the size of vessels that currently berth at both Tin Can and Apapa ports. “This is a transformative project, a game changer”, said Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun who also harped on the number of jobs that could be created at the port. 

We commend the initiative, and we hope that there will be more of such projects based on private-public partnership. Indeed, the new multi-purpose deep seaport has come as a big relief for many businessmen and Nigerians. Although Nigeria has six major seaports, more than 80 per cent of the country’s imports are handled by just two of the ports in Lagos. Bogged down by low water death and other challenges, the Port Harcourt and Calabar Ports are still operating peripherally. Meanwhile, access to the nation’s two major ports in Lagos has remained paralysed for as long as anyone cares to remember. 

The Apapa ports have for years been a national embarrassment, a serious of threat to national security, the economy, health, and the environment. Almost on daily basis, millions of containers laden with various cargoes are stranded due largely to the inability of importers to evacuate them. Yet, for inexplicable reasons, a government seriously in need of cash deliberately allowed the revenue potential of the Lagos ports to be imperilled. 

The impossible traffic conditions saw to the crippling of commercial and industrial activities in the area and beyond, while the cost of goods from the ports are astronomical as a result of the difficulties in getting them out. Huge trade cargoes are also lost to Benin Republic, Togo, and other neighbouring countries from where they are offloaded and transhipped to Nigeria due to poor shipping connectivity, shallow draft of the port channels, and general infrastructural inadequacies.  

These pitfalls are what the new Chinese-built deep seaport are expected to correct, especially by easing congestion at the country’s ports and ensuring connections between them and the outside world. That it is done in partnership with the private sector also guarantees proper management that would result in return on investment. The whole idea is that if properly managed, the Lekki deep seaport can become an African hub for trans-shipment, and handling cargoes in transit for other destinations. As President Buhari rightly said at the ceremony, all matters related to the operationalisation of the seaport must be placed on top priority. That is the only way of ensuring that the promise of the deep seaport is fulfilled. 

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