The Federal Government has challenged promoters of the Lekki Deep Sea Port to facilitate speedy completion of the project.
President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off the construction of the Sea Port in Lagos on Thursday.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2020.
According to Osinbajo, the Port is projected to become one of the largest sea ports in the region, adding that it would serve as hub for port operations in the whole of West Africa.
He said: “It is a landmark project for several reasons. The promoters of this project are targeting about 1.5 million TEUs (Twenty Equivalent Units) container capacity annually, which they expect to grow to about 2.7 million and 4.7 million TEUs when the project commences.
“With this feat, this sea port will become one of the largest in our region and serve as a hub for ports operations in the whole of West Africa.
“There is no question at all that the project will be the largest in sub-Saharan Africa and possibly, the largest in Africa.
“I’m also told that the promoters also plan to dredge the port channel to about 16metres draft, which is not currently obtainable in any sea port or any port for that matter in the country.
“This, in itself, is an indication that ships of larger sizes will now be able to visit the port and greater efficiency and economies of scale will generate significant revenues for the Nigerian economy, with government earning a significant portion of it,” he said.
According to him, a second reason it is a landmark event is with respect to the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and its emphasis on supporting game changing infrastructure projects directed at making major impact on trade and commerce.
“We are developing the Lekki Special Economic Zone as a model special economic zone, specifically targeting exports. The development of this deep sea port is mission-critical to the achievement of the important objective of creating this special economic zone.
“So, the third reason is the commitment of our economic philosophy to private sector leadership of our economic development.
“This project is essentially private sector driven — the Toleram Group and China Harbour are of course the lead private sector participants in this project.
“And like we have heard, their commitment to this project is total. I commend them for driving this project this far.
“The Nigerian Ports Authority and the Lagos State Government are the public sector partners. The business of government is, in our view, to contribute by way of equity when necessary to project of this size, but more importantly, to create the enabling environment for the private sector.
“Let me say that we must move ahead to ensure the speedy completion of this project. There would be problems as I’m sure you must have experienced some. But be assured that the Federal Government and the Lagos State government will be with you every step of the way to ensure that we give all the support that is required, ” he said.
Speaking in a similar vein, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi assured promoters of the project of adequate Federal Government support.
Also speaking, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos Sate, represented by his deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule said that the Lekki port was a golden egg waiting to positively impact in the economy.
Ambode said the project was a testimony of government’s commitment to growing the economy and aligning the country with the industrialised countries in the world.
“Data shows that the maritime industry has the potential of becoming a major revenue to the GDP of Nigeria.
“This port when delivered in 2020 will have modern features that will ease pressure on Apapa and Tincan port as it has capacity to berth larger vessels. This port will impact greatly on the development of the Lekki Free Trade Zone.
“This journey started in 2007 and has been pursued with doggedness. The Lagos State government has equity stake of 20 per cent in the Lekki Deep Sea Port.
“This is a show of our faith in the viability and our trust in the capability of the Toloram group to deliver the project. This project will have great impact on our local, national and international economies.
“It has been estimated that this project will facilitate an injection of 2.23billion U.S dollars for construction and fixed assets into the country. This projected to over a 45-year concessioning period have an aggregate impact of about 3.61 billion U.S dollars on the Nigerian economy,” he said.
Ambode called for more private investment to complement the provision of infrastructure, saying the government could not bear the cost alone.
He also solicited for the support of the federal government in all ramifications to partner in the project.
In his remarks, Mr. Navin Nahata, CEO Lekki Sea Port, one of the promoters of the project, said that the project had demonstrated that Nigeria is an investment destination.
He promised to put in all efforts to deliver the project by 2020.
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, said funding for the Lekki Deep Sea Port project is structured at equity and debt ratio of 20:80 respectively, “and in line with the commitment of the Federal Government to promote private sector investment, the Nigerian Ports Authority has a fully paid 5% minimal investment, enough to give it a stake, to give the investors comfort and enable it perform its oversight technical regulatory functions without being unduly hindered by commercial considerations.
“The other 95 percent interest is owned in a 18: 8 ratio by the Lagos State Government and the Tolaram Group respectively. Of the 75 percent owned by the Tolaram Group however, the Federal Government holds a further 15% shareholding to the value of $107.78 million converted into shares from a pre-2002FG grant to promoters of Tolaram Group toward financing the Viva Methanol Project.
“The vision of the Nigerian Ports Authority is to provide the enabling environment for Nigeria to have the best ports in Africa and the event here today gratefully oves us closer to that reality.
“The fact is that Nigeria, being the largest importer and exporter of cargo in the West African sub-region, requires deep sea ports, which can receive large vessels like the Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC), Panamax and Post Panamax vessels. This Big ships move cargo more efficiently than smaller vessel and are the new preference of ship owners. A nation as endowed as ours without facilities to receive ships like this thereby cuts itself short.
“As statutory regulators of ports in the country, the NPA is committed to providing the technical support and regulatory environment that would see to the timely completion of construction work and ensure efficient operations and management of the port upon commissioning.
“We will work with all stakeholders to see the Lekki Deep Sea Port becomes a world class facility and an enviable edifice that can stand the test of time, become an institution that will be the pride of all stakeholders and encourage more of such investments in the country.
“As we work toward revamping the decaying port infrastructure we inherited and encouraging new investments in the sector, we are confident that projects such as this foretell the renewal possible in our port infrastructure, the resurgence of our economy through the gateways that our ports are and the creation of a modern, agile, technically competent and competitive workforce that will make our nation proud.
“I want to recognise the commitment of President, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President MuhammaduBuhari, the Federal Executive Council especially the Minister for Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as well as the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode to this project.
“I also thank my colleagues at the NPA and other stakeholders whose concerted effort has given us the leap that brought us here today. With the zeal that I have seen in all of us, it is evident that we are poised to take Nigeria’s maritime industry to its right place on the global map.”