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Nigeria’s ambitious port plans to link north to south

By Eromo Egbejule, in New York
Posted on Thursday, 3 October 2019 13:00

If the port of Apapa (pictured) could be relieved, Lagosians would rediscover their smile. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Nigeria is constructing a series of new ports over the next few years, as it looks to boost revenue and diversify economic progress nationwide.

Earlier this week, the Cross River state government received an Outline Business Case certificate (OBC) for its Bakassi Deep Seaport project. The OBC allows Cross River state to move onto the next phase for approval by the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission. Thereafter, cabinet approval is needed before construction can begin.

  • When complete, the port will, according to Cross River state Governor Ben Ayade, also service the northern part of the country, thanks to a new highway also under construction in the southern state.
  • “The Bakassi Deep Seaport is the only port in Nigeria that has an evacuation corridor,” Ayade told reporters recently. “So you have a port in Bakassi with a six-lane superhighway taking you direct[ly] to northern Nigeria. So, what Cross River is trying to do is take the Atlantic Ocean closer to northern Nigeria.”

While presenting the certificate, transport minister Rotimi Amaechi underlined the need for speeding up the process, “so as to enable those states who want to invest in seaports … to go ahead and do so”.

  • The China Harbour Engineering Co. is already onboard as a core investor of the Bakassi Deep Seaport.
  • The 20-metre-deep harbour will cost around $500-$800m, according to Global Construction Review, and will be built via a public-private partnership (PPP).
  • Elsewhere in the Niger Delta, the Bayelsa government says that the Agge Deep Seaport, which is being built on 15,000 hectares of land, will be operational from 2020.

When completed, both the Bakassi and Agge ports will offer support to the two congested Lagos ports and the Onne West Africa Container Terminal in Rivers State.

For years, the country’s two most functional ports have been in Lagos.

Consequently, the megacity — which is the smallest of Nigeria’s 36 states by landmass — has become the country’s most populous. Its 20 million people are trapped in endless daily traffic.

In November 2018, the Dangote Group estimated that over the course of the year it lost $41m to the gridlock on the roads leading out of Apapa, a local government area in Lagos where a number of ports and terminals are situated. Its construction arm is now fixing the roads to the congested ports which had for decades, been in a state of disrepair.

Bottom line: New ports for Nigeria will speed up development in the Niger Delta and free Lagos from all of the economic burden it has been choked by for more than half a century. All eyes are now on the execution.

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