By Tony Iyare
Ordinarily, the fruition of the $2.6 billion Badagry Deep Sea Port project is a cause for jubilation. We should really be rolling out the drums and popping wine for opening another port outlet to take off the heat from the heavily congested Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports which handles 85 per cent of the country’s non oil imports. It will also further alleviate the country’s ports, which are on the verge of exceeding their cargo handling capacities, and address the country’s annual container traffic, which is expected to grow to 10 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units by 2030. Bashir Jamoh, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, says the Badagry Deep Seaport project is a strategic step towards the development of Nigeria as a global maritime hub.
According to the NIMASA DG, “Nigeria is strategically located at a significant point in the Atlantic Ocean, with about 853 kilometres coastline, which gives us a geographic advantage to become a maritime hub for not only the West and Central African region, but also the entire maritime trading world. And with over 70 per cent of cargo bound for West and Central Africa destined for Nigeria, we also have a huge commercial advantage.
“The Badagry Deep Seaport, planned to be Africa’s biggest and most advanced seaport when it becomes operational, would help to maximise this extraordinary maritime potential. This is more so given the strategic place of Badagry in the region.”
Suitably located in Badagry which lies between the lagoon and the ocean, the Deep Seaport project is being executed through a public-private partnership overseen by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, and Lagos State Government, as well as a private consortium of APM Terminals, Orlean Invest, Oando, Terminal Investment Limited, TIL, and Macquarie. Hadiza Bala-usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said the promoters of the multi-billion dollars Badagry Deep Seaport Project, made payment of $500,000 commitment deposit into an escrow account last September to signify their commitment towards the port project.
The deep seaport which is located in the Gberefun area of Badagry, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, about 55 kilometres (34 miles) west of the Apapa and Tin Can Island Port complexes, is proposed to consist of about four kilometres of quay and approximately 620 hectares of dedicated port facilities. It will also include facilities for handling containers, dry bulk, liquid bulk, roll-on-roll-off, and general cargo, as well as oil and gas operations support. The port will also have about 480 hectares of Industrial and Logistic Park Zone.
Explaining the rationale for the building of deep sea ports in the country, Bala-Usman says that in line with the change in the dynamics of the shipping industry, larger vessels were now calling at seaports worldwide.
According to her, the large vessels required a draft of 17meters to 18meters and it was not possible to dredge a channel of five meters to 17meters.
“So what we need to do now is to prioritise having those deep seaports that will have the required draft for larger vessels.
“Our ports are river ports, and we need to move on to have deep seaports. In that area, we are working with Lekki deep seaport. We have signed the necessary papers, and they are in the process of completing their payment as regards their financing terms. They have built the breakwater. We are hoping that it will be a milestone achievement. We also have other proposals like the Ibom deep seaport and the Ibaka deep seaport,” she further reveals in an interview with The Punch.
As this vital project takes shape, we need to make hay to avoid stoking the current hellish nature of living in that axis. My deep concern is a commitment by the Federal, Lagos State and the Ogun State Governments to ensure seamless passage not just for the volume of goods envisaged to be generated from the port activities but also for residents and commuters plying that axis.
This axis is home to businesses, landmark projects, hotels and fun places that were informed by beautiful ideas which unfortunately have become moribund because of dilapidated roads and infrastructure. Although strenuous efforts are on by the Federal and Lagos State Governments to put the Lagos-Badagry expressway, a major international gateway into shape with contractors working at different points, easing passage in that axis which is currently like a war zone, should tap aggressively into rail and water transport to reduce the weight on the roads and lengthen their lifespan. The Ogun State Government should also be an active partner in paving and making accessible all the roads and alleys leading to the Agbara/Ota industrial axis which is its largest cash cow.
It’s quite refreshing to note that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has resolved that all ports must be linked by rail to enhance movement of huge cargo. Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi projects the daily movement of 30 tons of cargo by rail between the Apapa ports and Kano. The coming on stream of the port in Badagry will likely churn out more cargo. Any rail lines linking the Badagry Deep Sea Port should be conceived to connect the Agbara-Ota industrial axis which is home to about 500 companies. This can easily be connected to the western, central and eastern lines. Frankly, we need to renew the policy earlier pursued by the Colonial Goverment, to connect all major industrial clusters in the country by rail.
Apart from paving and opening up several link roads, the streams and rivers which criss cross several communities should not be solely left in the hands of sharks who use rickety and unhealthy boats to move people. The Lagos and Ogun Governments need to work in concert, to move in not only to clear the weeds on these numerous rivers and streams but also supply stronger and safer boats to ply these routes.
The Deep Sea Port project should not be a pain in the neck for residents and commuters but a springboard to re-ignite socio-economic life in the area. We need to rejig the Badagry axis, make it easily accessible and put aglow its numerous fun places and entertainment spots that made any visits to the historic town memorable.