The Bakassi Deep Seaport Project received a further boost Friday, with the submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) by the Federal Government appointed transaction adviser, Feedback Infrastructure Limited to the Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade.
Making the presentation to Governor Ayade at the executive council chamber, Government House, Calabar, Managing Director, Feedback Infrastructure Limited, Engr. Nnachi Onuoha said the exercise of producing the OBC was quite demanding, just as he added that the outcome was thorough.
According to Onuoha, “Nigeria is a country with about 200 million people and still counting. We only have one trade port in Nigeria which is the Apapa port? So, the Bakassi Deep Seaport will be the second trade port in the country because every other port are oil terminals.”
Continuing he said: “If you recall when we had the first meeting here, we were talking about a 12-meter port, then to 15-meter port in terms of draft but after the necessary studies including geophysical and technical studies, we realized that we had no option than to achieve a transnational shipment by doing a 20 meter port. And this seaport will be the deepest seaport in Africa upon completion.”
He said working on the Outline Business Case “was demanding but we did a very detailed and thorough work that can be compared with any other OBC globally. Available records show that average time for an OBC was for five years but we are proud to say that within 18 months, Bakassi Deep Seaport OBC is ready. Today, we have something we can take to the market and investors will be falling on us to invest.”
On the overall benefits of the Bakassi Deep Seaport to the country, the lead consultant opined: “The entire South-East states are land locked and we need an opening point to these places, we have no other option than to galvanize the big pockets and the high networth individuals to converge here to see to the realization of the seaport because it is a viable economic project.”
In his response, Governor Ayade thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his support for the project which he demonstrated by flagging off its construction alongside the 275 kilometers superhighway.
He also expressed gratitude to the Federal Ministry of Transport and other agencies of government, that have so far granted about twelve approvals for the project.
According to Ayade, the presentation of the OBC by the consultant, including the receipts of 12 other approvals by relevant government agencies, means that the actual construction of the port will soon commence.
The governor stated that the emphasis placed on the selection of a competent consultant for this job “was critical. The selection in line with international best practice and process was very transparent under the supervision of the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Federal Ministry of Transportation.”
On the necessity for the Bakassi Deep Seaport, Ayade explained: “The Bakassi Deep Seaport comes to balance the distortion in our economic equilibrium as a country because the North and South of Nigeria are so blessed but the evacuation of resources from the North has been challenging. We have over 2,000 kilometers to take a product from its source to a port and that prohibitive cost makes it unattractive for commercial agriculture in the northern part of Nigeria.”
Continuing he said: “The Bakassi Deep Seaport will be the only port in Northern Nigeria because the location is bringing Atlantic Ocean closer to our brothers up north. Very strategic location with massive solid minerals deposits, wonderful arable land with very good yield, yet our industrial production is at comatose, exploitation of solid minerals is prostrate occasioned by the difficulty and cumbersome nature of exportations.”
On why he has not channeled his resources to dredge the existing Calabar Port, the governor disclosed that “the existing Calabar port is an inland port which is 97 kilometers away from the open sea with a draft oscillating between four to ten meters and in some places two meters.
“For you to dredge 97 kilometers from two meters to 14.5 to allow for bigger vessels, you definitely need the whole money on earth which is between $200m and $300m just for dredging which must be done often, thereby making it prohibitive in terms of capital and maintenance. So, the choice of taking the port close to the deep sea allows us the flexibility of having a functional port which is located by the mouth of the great Qua River. So, by implication, we will have a deep seaport that will be constructed at the cost of a river port.”
On the commitment of the state to the project, Ayade said: “We have a deep vision and we are committed to this project. We want to remind the federal government that this will be the only port that has a dedicated evacuation corridor, the 275 kilometer superhighway. The superhighway is no longer a concept, not project plan, it is an ongoing project.”
On the funding of the project, the governor disclosed that in his many “interactions with the consultant, I recall him saying and reassuring me that, once we are done with the OBC, the issue of funding this port will not be a challenge as we will have people falling over themselves seeking to fund it because funding is the last problem for the seaport. Now that the OBC has been submitted, and after due scrutiny by relevant authorities for final issuance of OBC, before the Full Business Case (FBC) is given, we already have a core investor who is a core designer who has done the geophysical survey and provided the baseline data for the actual location of the port which is China Harbour.”
Continuing, Ayade said: “We made a choice of China Harbour because they are the number one deep seaport construction company in the world today. They did the design and a pre-feasibility study which has been forwarded alongside a 3D footage,” adding that “If you get to the site of the superhighway, you will see the massive construction work going on day and night.”