- Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko
By Anthony Nwachukwu
Ahead the commencement of operations at the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has warned that the immense benefits expected from the huge investment would be stalled by the lack of rail and roads connectivity to the hinterlands.
While the promoters had busied themselves over the years with the necessary approvals, funding and execution of the nation’s novel deep seaport project, the federal and Lagos State governments have been busy with ego trips to the facility as their achievements, with none committing to the necessary cargo evacuation process.
Bello-Koko, who spoke Thursday in Lagos during a retreat by the League of Maritime Editors, said the absence of multimodal and intermodal connectivity for cargo evacuation would be “an albatross for the optimisation of the benefits of the project investment as well as the efficiency of the port operations.”
In his presentation, “Lekki Deep Seaport: Gains, Challenges and Potential Threat to Lagos Port,” Bello-Koko said the absence of hinterland connectivity “is considered a fundamental flaw of the planning process.
“It is important to note that the port is segmented into two: the aspect of maritime space and hinterland connectivity for cargo evacuation. While attention has been on maritime space, there is complete neglect of hinterland connectivity at Lekki Port.”
Lamenting the absence of rail connectivity at Lekki Port, he stressed that “even the road connection is grossly inadequate. The only way out is to embrace barge operations in the short run.
“This does not foreclose the need for multi-modalism and inter-modalism that should guarantee the fluidity of cargo evacuation and ultimately efficiency of port operations.
“There is no doubt that operationalisation of Lekki Port would be a game changer not only for NPA’s operations but Nigerian economy at large. It is therefore important that necessary logistics infrastructure be put in place to optimise the benefits and guarantee positive impacts.”
As a way out, he said “it may be necessary for the NPA management to create requisite synergy with relevant bodies towards addressing observable operational constraints.
“It would equally be necessary to engage in advocacy to sensitise various stakeholders on their respective roles in actualising the provision of these critical infrastructures.”
Similarly, Spokesman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Dr. Bolaji Akinola, imagined what movement along the Lekki axis would be like when operations commence, as a return trip from Ikoyi to Ibeju-Lekki presently takes about six hours.
According to him, “the Lekki Port without rail evacuation is a disaster in waiting for traffic operations along the Lekki-Epe Expressway.
“I go to the Pan Atlantic University (PAU) in Ibeju-Lekki from Ikoyi once a week. Every time I go towards that axis, I spend three hours on the road, stuck in traffic, and another three hours coming from Lekki to Ikoyi.
“This is currently the situation even when we don’t have large number of trucks on that road because Lekki Port has not commenced operations.
“By the time Lekki Port commences operations and about a thousand trucks besiege Lekki roads, traffic along that corridor will be a disaster.“
Unless cargoes are evacuated through other means like barges, the commencement of Lekki Port, which will invite large number of trucks to that corridor, will lead to another gridlock along that axis.”