By September 2018, the long awaited Ibaka Deep Seaport, now Ibom Deep Seaport will have clocked nine years in the pipeline, without a block put to the site as a sign of a serious project. The Ibom Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom state kick- started with a ground breaking ceremony in September 2009. It was the regime of Obong Godswill Obot Akpabio, the then governor of the state in his effort to create the Ibom Industrial City as an industrialization base for the state, the project was conceptualized. Before the ground- breaking ceremony a visibility study was carried out by the state government to create an industrial city called “Ibom Industrial city”. It was proposed to be an industrial hub for oil and gas and other agro industry activities backing it up with a deep seaport with a natural draft of 12.5 metres deep, which make it free of maintenance dredging and can accommodate any size of vessel. Ibaka is a fishing terminal at Mbo Local Government Area of the state. The Ibaka fishing port is the largest fishing terminal in southern part of Nigeria with a tripod water channel leading to Cameroun Calarbar in Cross River state and the Oron river in Oron LGA of Akwa Ibom State. The recent media hype on the project’s over 75% Procurement level led to our Correspondent’s taking a trip to the ancient city of Ibaka, the site of the deep seaport. It is revealing.
In January this year, the media was awash with stories of how the Ibom Deep Seaport will be a transit port for cargoes in West and Central Africa. It also tells how the Federal Government have started procurement process for the Seaport.
The story is believed to have been planted by the promoters of the project to ease tension and woo political patronage from the Oro nation come 2019.
The Ibom deep seapprt has been a controversial project for close to nine years standing without any progress.
Unlike the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos which is over 70% completion and set for full operation soon, Ibom deep seaport is still on Paper. For purpose of comparison, while the Ibom deep seaport was conceptualized in September 2009,the Lekki deep seaport concession agreement was signed on 21st April 2011, two years after Ibom Seaport has begun processes.
Today , while the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos State Government and the Lekki port LFIZ Enterprise private investors in the port has sign a contract term of 45 years to drive the seaport, Ibom deep seaport is still a mirage. Rather than get to work, the promoters of the Ibom deep seaport are engaged in media hype with no work at site, not even a block put to the ground as foundation.
In the same vain, the Akwa Ibom State government is also engage in media propaganda without any work on ground.
For instance, there is no access road to the port site, apart from the old Oron- Uyo road which passes through the Oron town to Ibaka.
Recently the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Mr. Akan Okon had told Newsmen on his arrival from Abuja at the Ibom International Airport that he participated in the Ministerial Project Development Steering Committee meeting held to approved the procurement procedure for the Ibom deep seaport.
Contrary to Mr Akan Okon’s claim that 75% of the work has been done, our Correspondent visit to the site proved otherwise as there was not even a sign post nor site clearing for the project. When our Correspondent enquires from a resident at the site, Mr. Oyom Okon, who pointed at the burbling fishing area comprising of a market and Canoe park as the site of the Ibom deep seaport, annoyingly said, “ Which site? Which seaport?” all these fishing area bubbling with people is the site, government have not done anything. “See my brother, this market and all these fishing areas is the so called Ibaka deep seaport, did you see anything here? We are going on with our fishing business, government want to use us to play politics, Akpabio did his own, Udom is doing his own too” Oyom said.
It could be recalled that few weeks after resuming office as the governor of Akwa Ibom state in 2015. Udom Emmanuel constituted a 10-man technical committee, chaired by Barr. (Mrs) Mfon Ekong Usoro, to see to the completion of the deep seaport in 2018 .
Close to three years of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration, the port site is still as it was , without any work at site.
A source from the state government inform our correspondent that, though the Mfon Usoro committee have been making efforts, but most members of the committee don’t know anything about port management as they were appointed base on political favors, instead of professional competent and also their activities are been hindered by lack of funds.
Our investigations also reveals that, some technical aspect regarding procurement and souring of investors is nearly concluded but, investors are skeptical in investing their funds into the project. It was discovered that funding from Federal and State government may stalled the project.
2019 and Politics of Ibom Seaport:
The federal government and the Akwa Ibom state government were said to have begun the Procurement process for the Ibom Deep Sea Port (ISDP), a critical milestone, which commenced early last month as investors both international and local are taking part in the process to explore what is seen as Africa’s emerging maritime port project.
The procurement process kicked off in earnest on January 8, 2018 when the Deep Sea Port Implementation Committee working with reputable international consultants released advertisement of the Request For Qualification (RFQ) which requested capable private sector investors in port Development and Operation to indicate their interests by downloading and filling the requisite forms.
In the form, investors who are interested in partnering with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State Government in developing the Seaport as a Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate and Transfer (DBFMOT) investment through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) are requested to provide their Corporate Profiles including Ownership Structure, business history, development/operational capabilities and evidence of financing strengths
They are also expected to provide evidence of experience of developing and operating similar projects including greenfield port terminal projects and Free Trade Zones particularly in Africa, preferably in Nigeria.
In addition, such investors are also requested to provide evidence of partnerships or relationships with large shipping companies and port operators worldwide, showcase the experience and expertise of their key management and operations personnel on similar projects as well as experience and familiarity with local context, among others.
Interested investors are expected to submit their responses to the RFQ latest by March 16, 2018 and thereafter only qualified investors will be invited for further discussion preparatory to commencement of requisite infrastructure for operation.
Already, an all encompassing infrastructure master plan for the entire Ibom Industrial City (IIC) which has the deep seaport as its fulcrum is being developed.
The master plan is expected to encompass internal and external road network development to take care of traffic within the Industrial City and outside the area including inter-state transportation infrastructures which would ensure free flow of goods into and out of the port area.
According to Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro, Chairperson of the Port Implementation Committee set up by the state government,the infrastructure development master plan has considered urban design best practices aimed at factoring in growth potentials for the communities in the immediate environs of the IIC, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and create an enabling environment for the natives to benefit from.
She noted that the IIC is truly going to be of international quality in terms of standards taking into consideration economic, social and environmental studies, infrastructure planning, physical planning, spatial planning and architectural designs Global Maritime and Port Services Pte Ltd (GMAPS) of Singapore is the Transaction Advisor, while PwC, Nigeria, is the Project Manager for the IDSP project
The Ibom Deep Sea Port has a new delivery date of 2019 which stakeholders presently see as a fluke.
There are indications that the Implementation Committee work schedule has been hampered by inefficient funding by the Akwa Ibom State government which is its major promoter with the federal government lending its support.
The IDSP is arguably one of the most promising Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure initiatives in Africa because of the unique/unparalleled investment opportunities it offers international seaport developers/operators/investors as well as its potential for driving inclusive economic growth in Nigeria and the West and Central African sub-region.
It is sad that for nearly nine years of conceptualizing the Ibom Deep Seaport, nothing had happen at the site of the project. Skeptics are seeing recent hype in the project as another plan to get the peoples vote in 2019. Many have also accused the state governor, Udom Emmanuel of towing the Akpabio line of deceiving the Oro and indeed the Akwa Ibom people with a seaport, he never plan to build.
FG Concept of Deep Seaports:
The Federal government in its new drive for infrastructural upgrade in the maritime industry proposed the development of two deep seaports at Lekki, in Lagos State and Ibaka in Akwa Ibom State. In September 2012, the minister of transport, Senator Idris Umar inaugurated the Ibaka deep seaport project Development and Steering Committee (PDSC). The committee was to oversee the development of the seaport. The minister further stated that the economic and investment projects of the Ibaka deep seaport is enormous when computed. He said that the port location which is an integral part of the Urban Industrial City (ICC) and an important milestone in the development of Akwa Ibom State offers investors unparalleled opportunities on maritime and oil and gas related productions. A site to accommodate dry docking facilities for supper tanker vessels and offers low cost access to both offshore, oil and gas fields.
The minister went ahead to announce members of the PDSC committee members to include Dr. Lorwuese Via Shima from the federal ministry of transport as chairman, the secretary to the Akwa Ibom State government and the special assisitant to the Akwa Ibom state governor on technical matters as the members. Others were, Biodun Borha and Engr. Rufai Mohammed (NPA), a representative of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Mallam Dikko, Special Assistant to the minister of transport as member and secretary respectively.
The term of reference given to the committee were, to pilot the initial process for the actualization of the deep seaport, to liaise with the stakeholders, federal ministry of transport, Akwa Ibom State government, Nigerian Ports Authority, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission and investors to coordinate all procurement process in collaboration with Akwa Ibom State government, federal ministry of transport and Nigerian Ports Authority in line with public procurement Act 2007 and to carry out any assignment or instruction as may be given to the committee in pursuance of the project.
Unfortunately, the minister did not give the committee any time frame neither did he said the project will be commission in 2015 as brandished by governor Akpabio, then.