Nigeria: Buhari commissions ‘West Africa’s deepest sea port’ in Lagos

By Ben Ezeamalu

Posted on Tuesday, 24 January 2023 14:29, updated on Monday, 30 January 2023 11:35
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari cuts a ribbon during the commissioning of the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari cuts a ribbon during the commissioning of the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos, Nigeria, January 23, 2023. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday officially commissioned the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Nigeria's biggest -- and one of Africa's largest -- deep sea ports in Lagos, just a few weeks ahead of February's presidential polls.

The president arrived at the Lekki Free Zone in a helicopter at about 4:30 PM. An hour earlier, when he touched down at the Lagos airport, he was received by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat.

The Ekiti and Ogun governors, Biodun Oyebanji and Dapo Abiodun, respectively, as well as the former governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, were also at the airport to receive the president.

The entourage then accompanied the president to the Lekki Free Zone where he officially commissioned the deep sea port.

Speaking at the event, Sanwo-Olu said he was excited that Buhari flagged off and is now commissioning the project.

The president, who flagged off the project in 2018, did not speak at the ceremony. After the official commissioning, he walked into the marque where guests were seated to acknowledge them. He left immediately afterward.

Standard user multipurpose port

The Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited (LPLEL) is the Special Purpose Vehicle that was awarded the concession agreement for the development and operations of the deep sea port by the Nigerian Ports Authority.

LPLEL was created to develop, build, and operate a standard user multipurpose port that sub-concessioned the container terminal operations to Lekki Freeport Terminal, a subsidiary of CMA-CGM.

Phase One of the multipurpose port covers an area of 50 hectares, with two container berths and a total capacity of 1.2 million TEUs annually.

Officials gather at the opening of the new deep sea port in Nigeria's Lekki peninsula
Officials gather at the opening of the new deep sea port in Nigeria’s Lekki peninsula (credit: Tolu Ogunlesi/Twitter)

Upon completion of the final phase, the port will have three container berths, one dry bulk berth, and three liquid berths, the operators say.

Du Ruogang, the chief executive officer of Lekki Ports Enterprise, said the operators are “working tirelessly” to ensure port operations begin “in the next few months”.

He thanked the host community for their cooperation towards the completion of the project, adding that “we look forward to continuing to support and doing our part for the community.”

Inviting partners

The approach channel of the seaport measures about 11km long and 16.5m deep.

Ludovich Rozan, CMA-CGM Group’s head of Africa division, said the company has a vessel currently berthed at the seaport.

“In the next few months, we are hoping that we will be able to bring in not just CMA-CGM vessels but that of our partners as well.”

The managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, who described the commissioning as a dream come true, said the port will become a model for other seaports in Nigeria.

He said NPA as the regulator of the port has bought vessels to enable it to secure the port.

Emmanuel Jime, the chief executive officer of the Nigerian Shippers Council, said the cost of doing business at the port will be the “lowest ever”.

Ease cargo burden

Tang Qiaoliang, the chairman of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), said the port would ease the burden of cargo shipment flow as well as promote international trade in Nigeria.

“Under the framework of the China Africa Forum and the Belt and Road Initiative, we look forward to establishing long-term strategic partnerships in the infrastructure sector with the federal government of Nigeria.

“This will ultimately deepen the relations and cooperation between Nigeria and China, better serving the Nigerian people and its economy.”

Mohan Vaswani, the chairman of Tolaram, said the journey started around 2003 when former president Olusegun Obasanjo approved the development of the port.

“The journey has been challenging with so many hurdles but with God on our side, and the support of President Buhari’s administration we have persevered and today we all have something to be proud of.”

The Lekki Port Investment Holding Inc. owns 75% shareholding of the deep sea port (CHEC 52.5%, Tolaram 22.5%), the Lagos State government 20%, and NPA 5%.

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