Governor Ben Ayade is a happy man. And Cross River is in festive mood sort of. This is not about the epochal annual carnival Calabar. The world class tourism fiesta comes up every December. It is about the Bakassi Deep seaport. A Catholic knight and a versatile scientist, Professor Ayade’s joy has its locale in his “baby”, the Bakassi Deep seaport which recently received a seal of presidential approval.
The Bakassi Deep seaport project is dear to the governor. He wants to deliver it before leaving office in 2023. Leaders are either cheered out of dais or booed out of it. Ayade is a candidate for the former.
The whole gamut of the impactful infrastructural and economic height Cross River has attained in the last four years speak volume. The Bakassi Deep seaport promises to be the icing on the cake. When the governor embarked on that gigantic seaport project, he knew he was threading on the threshold of history. He knew he has limited time to deliver. Though massive and capital intensive, the lighting pace of events around the projects signify grit determination to deliver on record time.
The Bakassi Deep seaport is primed to change the economic and maritime narratives of Nigeria nay Cross River. It appears those who hold the levers of power in Abuja are agreed on this. And it is fit and proper they do. Essentially, in Abuja few days ago, President of the federal republic, Muhammadu Buhari formally recognised the imperativeness of the port vis avis its commercial viability. The president did not hesitate to give a nod.
This came in the mould of issuance of Outline Business Case certificate, OBC, for the project by the Federal Government.
The certificate was presented on behalf of the Federal Government by the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to Sir Ben Ayade at the ministry’s Abuja office. The salient significance of this is manifold: It takes the project to the next stage.
Secondly, with the Presidential seal of approval, the possibility of federal government standing in in the gap for Cross River by partnering the state to ensure the project comes to fruition looks reassuring.
Thirdly, the OBC issuance makes the Bakassi Deep seaport project the first anywhere in the world to receive the document within a short period of being conceptualised. The urgency of the port is not lost on the federal government. Hear Amechi: “What they (Cross River) have got right now is the OBC. We will take the next move to verify all the necessary instruments that we need and then proceed back to the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission for the FBC before we go to the cabinet for approval.
“But the most important thing is that we are speeding it up so as to enable those states who want to invest in seaports and others to go ahead and do so.”
And Sir Ayade’s enthusiasm: “Work started there more than six months ago when we got the EIA approval which allowed us the legal right to get access to the ocean.
“But right now with this OBC certificate, we are going to be dealing directly with the concessionaires towards arriving at the specific location, data and commencement of actual work plans. But that can only come with the FBC.”
Matching words with action is key. And one believes the fervour of interest the federal government has shown on the project so far will remain unwavering just as Ayade remains unwavering to seeing it come to fruition.
Essentially, there are plenty of grains of truth in what the governor has been saying about the project; namely that the Bakassi Deep seaport, looking at the totality of its framework, its structure and location, is a Nigerian project rather than that of Cross River. And that when completed, the Bakassi Deep seaport will bring Northern Nigeria and countries in the sahel-Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso- closer to the Atlantic ocean than does any other port in Nigeria.
And this is why: Cross River, by the the virtue of its proximity to Central Africa along the Atlantic coast, and navigating through the Indian Ocean, the Bakassi Deep seaport is nearer to ships sailing to Nigeria than they are to the Lagos ports.
The Bakassi Deep seaport is in the class of it’s own. With 21 metres draft, the port will be Nigeria’s deepest port on completion.
The internationally accepted maritime standard port depths required for large vessels and containers-carrying vessels to berth is between 18 metres and 19 metres. As of now, no port in Nigeria has that depth. Experts affirm that Nigeria currently boast of only river ports and no Deep seaports. The Bakassi Deep seaport, when completed will fill that void.
The drafts of the Apapa and Tin Can Island are between 14m and 14.5m respectively, the Warri Port is 7.6 metres, the Calabar Port 6 metres while the Rivers Port is 8 metres. These, again bear testimony to the need to see the Bakassi Deep seaport birthed to fruition.
As a Nigerian project, the Bakassi Deep seaport requires accelerated action. It calls for a concerted effort devoid of the vagaries of politics and politicking. This has been the case so far and we thank President Buhari for this.
One hopes that with the issuance of OBC, the Bakassi Deep seaport Project is within inch of realisation.
Onyemaizu is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ayade on Print Media