By Stephen Ubanna
For much of Last year Godwin Obaseki, the People’s Democratic, PDP, governor of the south -south state of Edo state had initiated moves to meet with Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Agency, NIMASA over the Edo River port Project but that was how far he could go.
Greg Ogbeifun, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Starzs Marine and Engineering Limited, the first privately indigenous Ship Repair Yard in Nigeria and who incidentally was a former President of the Indigenous Ship owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, as well as the Chairman of the Technical Committee to build to build the Edo River Port was said to brought the duo closer.
Only recently, the NIMASA, boss, had led a team to the’’ hear beat of the nation’’ state, on a visit to the Edo state governor in Benin city, The governor who was said to have used the opportunity of the NIMASA boss visit to seek for partnership with the agency to develop the Edo River Port.
He may have drawn the attention of Jamoh, to the Project, when he stated that ‘’it is critical and strategic to Nigerian’s economy, and soliciting for partnership with the agency’’ to bring the project to reality’’.
The governor had said that the Edo River Port Project was not being developed to compete with the traditional ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, or the south eastern ports of Onne, Rivers port, Calabar or Delta ports, Warri, but would be involved in the transportation of goods from the major ports to other parts of the country.
He may have won the heart of the NIMASA helmsman , who is worried about the Apapa gridlock when he informed him that ‘’one can connect the south east and south west states from Edo within two hour, meaning that in six hours gods from the Lagos ports would be everywhere in the country.
The Edo governor who believes that the actualisation of the development of the River Port would attract investors to the state. He cited the likely areas of investment: shipping and the export free zone that would serve as a doorstep to the people and the neighbouring states of Kogi, Ondo and Delta to do their importations and exportations. Many people believe that this would reduce the pressure on the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin can Island as it would be created for the Youths.
Obaseki , who could not hide his feelings,, had was said to have told Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director Gneral,, during the visit that the state government will relocate the Project to a place in the state where the country has the largest and richest offshore gas reserve, insisting that’’ the energy existence would drive whatever amount of industrialization that needs to be in the state’’.
He may have shown that the state government was serious towards the development of the Edo River port project with the engagement of a Transaction Adviser, which has been mandated to design and start the process of Fund raising this year.
In kick starting the Edo River port Project, the business-minded Obaseki had met the 15 Communities and stakeholders , to ensure that the project which would be developed through Public-Private partnership, PPP was not disrupted dring Construction. Recall that previous Administrations in the state, including the former Administration of Adams Oshiomhole, who was a one-time Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, wwere said to have spent billions of naira on the proposed Edo River Project but that was how far, they could go.
He may have shown that the era of rhetoric over development of the Project is over by developing the key security structures such as functional marine Police base, purchasing gunboats and providing accommodation for the security personnel as a way to encourage NPA and NIMASA, to Collaborate with the Edo state government to develop the river port.
Maritime experts believe that Jamoh, the NIMASA, helmsman’s, recent visit to Governor Obaseki of Edo state, would turn things around as the long neglected Edo River port would been given all the necessary attention it deserves to ensure its Completion to facilitate the transportation of goods from the Lagos to other parts of the country without any fear of harassment of Bandits or the Islamic Fundamentalist, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, on the road.
The NIMASA Director General may have gladdened the heart of Obaseki, the Edo state governor, when he noted that the governor’s understanding of the benefits of shipping that may have informed why he has decided to ensure that the state government develops the Edo River Project. He was said to have expressed the agency’s readiness ‘’to ensure that the state explores the opportunities of the Blue economy’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of the Edo state governor, when he promised that the agency was ready ‘’to sponsor indigenes of the state who are below 25 years of age to Greece on fully funded scholarship to study Maritime related courses. The NIMASA, Director General, may have made the south-south governor to understand that’’ that ‘’human and infrastructural capacity development are key to the growth of the nation’s maritime industry’’.
He noted that the agency’s drive ‘’to develop the Blue economy in partnership with the Littoral states including Edo, ‘’is aimed at achieving a diversified economy for the country’’. The NIMASA Director General had told the Edo state government officials during the visit that ‘’shipping is the alternative to oil’’, stressing that , ‘’if fully developed, it would produce three quarter of the nation’s Crude oil earnings from the nation’s oil sector per annum’’.
Edward Osagie, an Assistant Director, in the agency, Public Relations Department, in a Statement issued had said that that this is the reason why ‘’ the agency has engaged the Littoral states in the country ‘’to develop strategies that would help to maximizing the potentials of the maritime sector in the next ten years as member countries of the United Nations, UN, target the end of the use of fossil fuel’’.
An Appreciative Jamoh, was said to have given kudos to Obaseki, on the Edo River port Project, has assured him that’’’ it would be a revenue booster for the state as he has identified Kano and Gombe, as states that had invested in dry port Project , despite not being littoral states.
Note that Osaki, is the third governor to have met with Jamoh on a one-on –one. The first of such littoral states governor to visit the NIMASA CEO, in his office in 2021, was Senator Duoye Diri , who was said to have appealed to the Jamoh led agency for support in ‘’riding its waterways of Pirates and sea thieves and build a healthier marine system in the state’’.
The Bayelsa, govenor may have drawn the attention Jamoh to the plight of the people of the state when he said all the eight Local government areas in the state could only be accessed through water and which was an open invitation to NIMASA, to support.
The maritime posterboy also had metseverally with Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos state either at functions or presentation of gift items to the state to upport the Administration and which may have provided opportunities for the duo to discuss on maritime issues.