The Akwa Ibom State government has not dropped plans to establish the Ibom Deep Sea Port, her pet project capable of handling about nine million TEUs of containers and very large vessels capable of carrying 13,000 containers per voyage.
Reports reaching Business & Maritime West Africa say promoters of the project met on Thursday in Abuja in continuation of fine-tuning action plans to make the project a reality in the shortest possible time.
Details of decisions taken at the crucial meeting were not immediately available but industry sources say the meeting is an indication that the project has not been abandoned as is being widely speculated.
Addressing newsmen on arrival from Abuja where he participated in the Ministerial Project Development Steering Committee meeting held to approve the procurement procedure for the deep sea port, the State Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Mr. Akan Okon, said the project has reached a very critical stage leading up to actual construction.
He stated that the high-powered meeting signaled a very critical stage in the project. The commissioner noted that with the approval given, EOI and the IFQ for the project would be issued.
The Ibom Deep Sea Port, he maintained, is a very technical project which is quite different from other projects and therefore has to follow due process to ensure an excellent port that will be appreciated by all.
He stressed that the port was not just an Akwa Ibom project but a national and African project which would earn revenue for the federal government, employ Nigerians and provide huge economic benefits for other neighbouring African countries when it comes on stream.
Okon announced that 75 percent of the work had been done pending actual take-off of the project.
“Go and find out when any project reaches the procurement stage, you can be sure that 70-75 percent of the work has been done. A lot of paper work is involved for the actual construction”, he said
Despite its strategic positioning on the state government’s economic development agenda, work on the project appeared to have slowed down considerably, particularly in 2017, when not much was heard on its progress.
The state government was said to lack the political will to properly drive the project especially in the area of adequate and timely funding despite all the gains attained by the Ibom Deep Sea Port Project Implementation Committee led by Mrs. Mfon Usoro, pioneer director –general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Secretary-General, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control (PSC) for West and Central African Region (otherwise known as Abuja MoU).
The Usoro Committee not only assembled a high-powered team of experts in maritime administration, port development and management, international finance, project development and management as well as top government technocrats but also secured a 50 year concession from the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, had said the Ibom Industrial City project will be a self-sustaining venture that will not only drive his industrialization agenda but will also generate about 300,000 jobs.
And this comes even at a time when the Lagos State government is driving its similar deep sea port projects in Lekki and Badagry.
Similarly, the Cross River State government is also strongly promoting its plans for the development of another deep seaport in Bakassi.
The concept of deep sea ports projects in Lekki, Badagry and Bakassi came after the Akwa Ibom State government had unfolded its plans on the Ibom Deepsea Port.
The Ibom Deep Sea Port will sit on 5,129 hectares of land across three local government areas of the state and was designed as an integral part of a larger 14,900-hectare Ibom Industrial City.
Driven primarily by the Akwa Ibom State government, the sea port project also enjoys the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Global Marine and Port Services (PTE) Limited, a foreign consultancy outfit which serves as transaction driver.
Strategically located to serve the West and Central African sub region including Sao Tome & Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, Angola, Congo, Congo DRC, Chad, the facility is seen as Nigeria’s emerging master stroke to actualize her dream of becoming a maritime hub in West and Central Africa.