By Stephen Ubanna
Hopes of Completion of construction of the $1.5billion Lekki deep-sea port project started in 2017 as a gateway for for Containerised vessels of up to 8,000, 20ft equivalent units, TEUs, dry and liquid bulk cargo vessels, in a contract awarded to the Lekki Port Enterprises Limited, LFTZ by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, appears to have brightened.
LFTZ, whic is a joint venture of Tolaram Group, which owns 75%, Lagos state government, 20% and NPA, which owns 5%. It was said to have also engaged the services of Louis Berger, a US, based Company to serve as the Project Management Consultant. The scope of the contract includes design, construction and Commissioning of all the marine and land landslide facilities.
Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, a former Managing Director of NPA, was said to have supervised the award of the Contract to LFTZ, which was said to have signed a 45-year Concession agreement with the Authority in April 2011,to Build, Own, Operate and Transfer, BOOT, the project to the Authority based on the NPA Act, of 2004. The Company had molbilised on site barely six years of signing the Contract with NPA.
The Lekki deep seaport project, according to informed maritime sources is believed to be one of the largest private sector investment in the nation’s maritime sector developed on non-recourse project finance basis with majority of the financing for the project being sourced internationally, Particular, from the state owned, China Development Bank .
Given that much of the funds for the project are being raised from China Development Bank, may have informed why China Harbour Engineering Enterprise, CHELE, a subsidiary of China Harbour Engineering Company, CHEC, was contracted, to take up the job of the design, construction of the marine and Landslide infrastructure for the Container terminal and other utilities. Already, CMA and GCM, Shipping Line , had signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Lekki Prt Enterprises, LPE, in April 2018, barely one year after mmobilising on site to start the Construction work on the deep-sea port terminal.
Appearing on the 90 hatres of land project site on Saturday, July 10,2021, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation, who was said to have been accompanied by Mohammed Bekllo-Koko, the acting Managing Director of NPA, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary, Nigerian shippers Council, NSC, and other top officials of the ministry, to assess the level of progress of work recorded ,was said to have been satisfied that the contractor handling the project is working according to plan in order to deliver on schedule.
Abiodun Dabiri, the Chairman of the Lekki Deep seaport Enterprises limited, LFTZ, may have seen the ministerial visit as an opportunity to give him a low down on the progress of work and to reassure him that the Lekki deep0seaport terminal would commence operation on the fourth quarter of 2022.
Dabri, the LFTZ, Chairman, was said to have told the minister and his entourage that the ‘’dredging and reclamation of work of the port had reached 67.49%, while the landslide infrastructural development has reached 33.70% completion’’ and the Quay Wall has reached 50.39% . Dabiri, FLTZ, Chairman, may have gladdened the heart of Amaechi the Transportation minister, NPA, NIMASA and NSC, officials as well as other key officials of the ministry, when he gave his words that at the end of the third quarter of 2022, the construction work on the $1.6 billion would be complete while Commercial operations will commence on the fourth quarter as planned.
Amaechi, who could not hide his feelings, however, would want LFTZ, which had won the Concession for the Lekki deep seaport project would not want the Company to allow it drag the Completion of the construction work for the project to drag into the fourth quarter of 2022. Appealing to the Company to ensure that that the port become operational by mid 20222 he noted that the government could no longer wait to start earning the expected revenue from the facility and open it up for creation of job opportunities for the people.
Many believe that officials of the LFTZ, may have been forced to fast track the work on the multi-dollar project, because of the ministerial support that was said to have been provided to the Company over the last four years in order to deliver on the mandate for the world-class deep- seaport expected to work with the best in-class equipment that would ensure a seamless operations that would comply with global environmental protection standard.
The ministerial support for the Completion of the multi-million dollar Lekki dee-seaport project, may not be unconnected to the 70,000 indirect and direct jobs that are likely to be created. This is in addition to the anicipated annual $158 billion revenue that the Lagos government, NPA, and other government agencies, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FRS, would earn through taxes, duties and royalties. It is being speculated that the Lekki deep-sea project will contribute an aggregate of $361 billion to the nation’s economy on a yearly basis when it fully Commence operations in the fourth quarter of 20222, as planned by the Company.
Describing it as the first and the deepest seaport to be constructed in the sub-saharan African region, it is expected have other facilities such as a 60km and 14.5km –deep approach channel, quay wall, cargo handling cranes and three 19-metres liquid Jetties. Dabiri, the LFTZ, Chairman, disclosed that when completed‘’it would serve as a transshipment hub in the region’’.
Given that the multi-million Lekki-deep seaport project is under the supervision of NPA, Bello-Koko, the Authority Managing was said to assured the minister that the agency would do everything within his powers ‘’to ensure the smooth take off of the port operations upon Completion of Construction by LFTZ.
He noted that that the Authority has already commenced the process of acquiring all the necessary marine equipment including tug and mooring boats to service the deep sea boats that might be calling at the port with their Containerised vessels and other dry and liquid bulk cargo vessels.
The speed at which LFTZ, is working on the Leeki deep seaport project, may encourage Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, to work on the ministry of Trade and Investment, Lagos state government, as well as a Private consortium of APM Terminals, Orlean Investment , Oando, Terminal Investment Limited, TIL, and Macquarie, to rekindle their interest on the Badagry deep seaport project proposed to be about about 620 hectares of dedicated port facilities.
The Badagry deep-seaport, which may not be different from the Lekki project is also expected to have Container Handling facilities, dry bulk, liquid bulk, rollo n-roll off and general cargo facilities,including oil and gas operation support facilities also have a 480 hectares of industrial and Logistic Park Zone.
Jamoh, may have reechoed what Dibiri, the Chairman, of LFTZ, had said about the Lekki deep seaport project, in 2020, over the Badagry deep seaport, which is the second to be conceived and built in Lagos state alone, when he visited De-Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1, the AKran Of Badagry, that ‘’it is a strategic step towards the development of the country as a global maritime hub’’.