Abia” Ottti  Lays A Stronger- Foundation For Economic Rejuvenation

By Stephen Ubanna

In spite of the fact that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, facilities located at Onne, Port Harcourt, Capital of Rivers state, Calabar, Cross river state and Delta port, Warri, established to serve the interest of traders and industrialists in the south-south and south-eastern geopolitical regions, are still very  much under-utilised, Alex Otti, governor of Abia state is hell-bent on establishing a deep seaport at Owaza Community, in Ukwa West Local Government Area of the state.

,As a prelude to establishing the deep seaport and gladden the heart of the people of the state who are anxious to see such a project, Otti, described as the electric politician in political circles in the state on Saturday, September 2, 2023,  performed  the ground- breaking  ceremony  of the Abia Industrial  Innovation Park, AIIP, in the Owaza, an oil bearing Community, amidst a large turnout of people from the state and other neighbouring states.

AIIP, owaza Community, Abia State

 Officials of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Total Energies Limited and the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, and partners in the multi-billion naira Owaza deep seaport project were said to have been much ground to witness the flag off of the AIIP and the Owaza deep sea project by governor Otti. 

SPDC, and the key partners to the Owaza deep sea port project in Abia state were said to have expressed their  commitment ‘’to the realisation  of the project’’. The proposed AIIP, at Owaza Community , according to an insider  is expected to sit  on over 1,000 hectares of land expected to accommodate  a technology Information Centre, ICT, a modern Vehicle Assembly plant, Power Generating Plant, a Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, Manufacturing plant,  and Compressed Natural Gas plant. 

The Owaza Industrial Park is also expected house Tank farm, Haulage and Warehouse facilities. This is in addition to  an agricultural  storage  and processing facility  , a 5-star Hotel and a carbon -neutral residential estate.

Given an insider information  an elated Otti, who could not hide his feelings  had said  that the AIIP, to be located in Owaza Community  was meticulously  conceived by his administration  ‘’to serve as a Launch  pad  for the state’s economic rejuvenation’’ leveraging on the many advantages  its location , including  but not limited  to the oil and gas deposits, nearness to the Commercial cities of Aba and PortHarcourt, including abuundance of skilled  Labour   and a secure environment  for a smooth and uninterrupted  production  and other industrial activities in the state.

The Abia state electric politician was said to have assured he people who had trooped out in their thousands to witness the ground-breaking ceremony of the AIIP, project at the sleepy  Owaza Community  that  the state government   shall keep  ‘’to its part of the bargain by delivery on the Owaza deep seport project’’.

He did not stop there.  He had said that the  Abia state government  shall  also  work closely with the experts  and the industry regulators  to set up the guidelines  that  drastically  minimise much  damage  to the environment’’.

He may have alluded to the Okezie Ikpeazu, a former governor of the state and a member of G-5, Coordinated by Nyensom Wike, the immediate past governor of Rivers state and now minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the present administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  initially planned deep seaport project at Obeaku Community, ocean  in Ukwa East Local government Area of the state which stakeholders had  said was about 23 nautical miles to the Atlantic  in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom, home state of Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, which could not see the light of the day.

 Ikpeazu, the then governor of Abia state who could not be elected for a second term in office had projected to complete the Obeaku deep seaport project sited on 2000 hectares of land to link the state and other parts of the south eastern region  to international trade  and commerce  with the Azumiri Blue river serving as a link channel within his first term tenure but failed to do so.

 Ikeazu,  Otti’s predecessor  may have been encouraged to go ahead with the Obeaku deep sea project because the core investor  , Zeros  Energy ltd  had promised  to embark on reclamation work of the area  and dredging of the kink river to about 30 metres from Obeaku to Ikot-Abasi in the south-south state of Akwa Ibom .  

Many believe that Otti, who is an Urbanite, and who had witnessed the take=off and completion of the Lekki deep seaport in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre within four years at a projected cost of  $1.5 billion , on a Build, Own , Operate Transfer, BOOT,  basis,  by a Consortium led by  Lekki FTZ Enterprises ltd, China Harbour Engineering Company ltd, OLARAM, Lagos state government  and the, NPA,  believes that the Owaza project would become a reality.

There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the planned Owaza deep sea project in Abia state would be another failed project. The reason is not far fetched.  This is because there is no deep sea at Owaza, that could be eeffecive  dreded and used as  deep seaport in the state.

 A source at NPA, told The Value News that  the Azunimi river  which is a link to the Atlantic Ocean in Ikot-Abasi in the south-south state of Akwa Ibom  is nothing but  an Estuary  which  cannot accommodate  a deep seaport.

The source averred that there is no way the Abia state Electric politician could unilaterally decide to site a deep seaport  at Owaza Community  knowing  fully that  the relevant  factors  that are directly  related to the siting  of the project such as adequate draft,shelter from waves and sea currents, good logistics access , particular, are not present in the area

The NPA, source was emphatic that the estuary in Owaza cannot carry barges, let alone ocean going vessels laden with Containerised argoes. The message is very clear that governor Otti, should forget about the Owaza deep sea project which Surveyors and other experts had said is not Navigable and think of other projects that the administration would embark upon in the interim that would benefit the people of the state.

Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President Ohaneze, Ndigbo may not have bought into the Otti’s idea of establishing the Owaza deep  seaport,  stressing  that they are working  on realizing  the vision of having  the Azumini seaport  in the state. ocean  in Ukwa East Local government Area of the state.

Political analysts believe that the much talked about Owaza deep seaport project was a clear indication that Otti, a first Class, 1988,  Economics graduate of University of Port Harcourt,  who had contested the governorship election of Abia state thrice  before clinching it this time around on the platform of the Labour Party, LP, is deliberately  playing politics  with something as serious as deep seaport in the south east geopolitical region.   

They asserted that ‘’there is no way the Abia state government under the current Leadership of Otti, will complete the Owaza deep sea project  becuae of the paucity of funds without the approval of the Nigerian President on the rec ommendations of Adegboyega Oyetola, a former governor of Osun state and now minister of Marine and Blue Economy on the advice of Mohammed Bello-Koko, NPA, Managing Director. 

They would want the governor to concentrate his  efforts in getting the Abia traders and industrialists to patronise the ports of Onne, PortHarcourt, Calabar and Warri keep it busy and improve on its revenue  generation instead of patronising only the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Terminal Multi-services Ltd, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT , phases I&II,  and turning around to blame  the government import policy for their decision to do so.         

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