The major ports in Nigeria have always been: Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex both in Lagos State, the Calabar Port Complex in Cross River State, the Delta Ports in Warri, Delta State and the Rivers Port Complex and the Onne Port Complex both in Rivers State.
Before the idea of the Lekki Deep Seaport, which is now nearing completion, Apapa has always enjoyed the glory of being the biggest port in Nigeria.
But, the expansive and more modern Lekki Deep Seaport located at the eastern flank of Lagos state is about to take the glory.
Lekki deep sea port is being built over a 90hectare of land at the centre of the Lagos Free Trade Zone, approximately 60km east of Lagos. It is the first of that kind of port to be built in Nigeria.
Available statistics are that, it has three container terminal with capacity for 2.7 million TEU, three liquid berths with capacity for 45,000dwt. It also has dry bulk terminal of four million metric ton a year. The deep seaport will allow 18,000 TEU capacity vessels.
We are also told that, it has a 9km-long and 19m-deep navigation channel and that, a 600m-wide turning basin will be built to allow vessels to approach or leave the port. Its owners also advertised that, a 500m breakwater structure and a 300m secondary breakwater structure will be constructed for safe handling of vessels.
We recall that, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise (LPLE) signed a 45-year concession agreement with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in April 2011, to develop, build, own, operate and transfer the Lekki deep sea port project under the Nigerian Ports Authority Act 2004.
The port is a joint venture between Tolaram Group (75%), Lagos State Government (20%), and the Nigerian Ports Authority (5%).
The port will be operated by CMA CGM Group which signed a Memorandum of Agreement with its owners in April 2018 to operate the Lekki port container terminal.
Going by assurances, the Lekki port should be operational before the end of 2022. But, as we look forward to that date, there are some fears that stakeholders have expressed. This include: security and traffic congestion.
The port is also expected to generate approximately $361 billion during the period of the concession, and also rake-in more than $201 billion in revenue for both Lagos State and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
No doubt, the Lekki port story is an inspiring example of a successful collaboration between the private sector and the public sector. Above all, it is also a confirmation of the success of foreign direct investment inflow.
But, quite worrisome is the challenge that the port is going to herald, top among which is traffic. The traffic that will emanate from the Lekki Deep Seaport is huge, considering the volume of trade and goods it will facilitate.
Even though its owners assured that the planning took into consideration existing traffic load on the major access road, Lekki-Epe expressway, we have our doubts.
Apart from the port, all the major projects in Lekki such as the Lagos Free Zone, Dangote Fertiliser and Refinery Complex and Lekki Free Zone”, are heavy and are capable of generating huge traffic.
These businesses will foist heavy traffic on all those who either live in that axis or have to drive through or even work there.
A foretaste of what is to happen has been given by a body known as the Nigeria Economic Zones Association, which some time ago expressed concern over the increased movement of oil tankers in the Lekki axis of Lagos State. This was after an oil and gas firm commenced operations. According to the association, the Free Trade Zone where the Lekki port and other high net worth businesses are coming up, has no truck and tanker parks. To the best of our knowledge, the Lekki Deep Seaport does not have a truck transit park yet.
According to the Nigeria Economic Zones Association, “this situation, if not tackled early enough, will render the whole axis not conducive for businesses, and this will negatively affect the country’s drive for economic development through the Free Trade Zone scheme.”
Sadly, there is yet no rail link to the port. Which means that, all cargoes will be evacuated by road and barges. Our worry about traffic in and around Lekki once the port becomes operational, is informed by what is presently happening in Apapa on account of the trucks that come to either load cargoes or to drop empty containers for export.
Another major challenge ahead of the imminent take-off of the port, is the access road. The long stretch of road leading to the port is far from being completed.
So we ask: How smooth will Lekki port operations be, when the road leading to the facility is far from being completed, and there is no truck park.
It has been said for the umpteenth time that the Lagos state government has secured a Right-of-Way that can accommodate a six-lane dual carriageway and a dual rail corridor.
We have also heard about the 55km greenfield transport corridor (including provisions for a rail corridor) that will connect the Lekki Port-Lagos Free Zone area directly to the Sagamu-Benin Expressway.
How pleasant would it be to have these roads, rail and other superstructure in place before the port is commissioned. But this appear impossible as everything points to the fact that the Lekki Deep seaport will be operational before the end of 2022.
Even before the port is commissioned and Dangote Refinery yet to begin production, the traffic congestion on the Lekki- Epe axis is frustrating, to say the least.
There is likely to be a geometric explosion in terms of influx of people, businesses and investment in that axis. It is a fact that inadequate port-to-city transport infrastructure may impact the huge benefits of the port and the entire Free Trade Zone.
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