The Ibaka deep sea port, a project that has being on ground for over five years, but Despite the Akwa Ibom state government promise to deliver the project to the people of Akwa Ibom by 2015 nothing serious has been seen to have been done by all parties involved.

The proposed site for the Ibaka Deep sea port as at the middle of October 2013, which serves as harbour for local fishermen rather than the deep sea port the government proposed.

Godswill Akpabio
Akwa Ibom State Governor

When the Akwa Ibom state government under the leadership of Godwill Akpabio announced that by 2015 the conceived Ibaka deep sea port in Ibaka, a riverine community in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State would start receiving ocean liners, the joy of the residents in the state especially those living around the proposed site knew no bound, they were happy that the reality of the project will open up the economy of the state, create more jobs, and even increase the standard of infrastructure in the state.

But five years down the line after the declaration, the project that was believed to be co-owned by the federal, state and private investors- according to investigations, the federal government owned 30% stake, the state government owned 30% and the remaining 40% was to be shared among private investors- there is nothing on ground to back the claims of the governor as the state of the community still remains the same, with the dream of becoming a commercial and industrial hub of West and Central Africa remains mirage.

Though, Governor Akpabio himself confirmed that the infrastructures for a deep sea port is huge, saying the state is prepared to offer assistance to NPA at whatever point it will be needed. He added that his government is fully ready to partner with the Organisation to ensure that the necessary infrastructure for effective take-off of the port is provided.

“Whatever support that may be required to ensure that a big ocean going Liner comes to the port by 2015 will be provided by the state government.

He however promised to within one month award contract for the dualisation of the port main access road to link the East –West road with a view to making it more intermodal. But five years after the project was conceived, it has been a project on the pages of newspaper rather than on reality.

In achieving this, the governor had earlier promised to partner with the Federal Government to provide a multi modern transport system that would be built to include rail lines linking Port-Harcourt and Calabar The governor said, “The area designated for the project has the longest coastline and just five kilometers away from the capital city. With a depth of between 15 and 18 meters water channel and 129 kilometers stretch of land it has some of the best port features that could be found anywhere in the world.

“With Ibaka deep seaport, we will have a seaport that will not require perennial dredging. Investors will be in business for a very long time without bothering about dredging.

“The port will serve all countries in the Gulf of Guinea. The peaceful nature of the community and availability of undeveloped land will make the area a self-sustaining industrial city when the port is completed. In addition to the port, the areas will also habour independent power plants, refinery and industries.

“It sounds great and unbelievable but achievable. It will employ 100,000 Nigerians, strengthen our country’s position in oil and gas sector in the world. It will be the nation’s gateway to the rest of the world through the Gulf of Guinea.”

Also, Governor Akpabio handed over the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the land for citing of the seaport measuring 5,580 square meters to the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Engr. Omar Suleiman a few weeks ago. “Time means everything. I’m already on my second term and there’s no third term. I can’t wait to see this project realised. I share the passion and I see that passion in Suleiman,” he said.

However, in the speech of the former Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Engr. Omar Suleiman he said the Ibaka deep seaport project will transform the state into a commercial and industrial hub of West and Central Africa when the authority finished with the construction.

Moreover during a recent tour of the proposed site of the deep seaport, integrityReporters gathered that there was nothing happening in the area rather it was local fishermen sighted doing their business with fear which they said was occasioned by the announcement of commencement of construction, according to the fishermen, sea pirates have increased their activities in the hitherto serene area occupied by fishermen, making life unbearable for them as they don’t go fishing often for fear of attack.

There was nothing to show that project of that magnitude is to be sited in the community, also there was nothing on ground to show that government is proposing to dualise the road that lead to the proposed seaport even as the main road that lead to the proposed sea port is in a deteriorating condition with no plan for a rail or other transport system.

Also, the Ibaka community are kicking saying despite the vast area of land taken from them, no compensation has been paid, neither has an alternative site been provided for their fishing activities.

According to the Ibaka Youth Leader Okon Udotong said they are demanding N10 billion from the government as compensation. He noted that a naval base, Forward Operational Base (FOB) that was built they paid then N45 million as compensation.

He also chides politicians for turning the project into a political campaign issue to get votes from Ibaka people, adding that it would not be a surprise if they capitalise on it in the rundown to the 2015 elections.

Udotong said: “In 2008, the Governor came to announce that there will be a seaport here, but since then, he has not come back. It is only Robinson Uwah, a member of the House of Representatives that came with some people recently and was asking of the land that was given to the government for the seaport. I took them there and he mobilised us to clear the bush.

“Government always deceives Ibaka people because during the electioneering campaign, they will come to use it to confuse our people to vote for them. During the last election, they said that a deep seaport will be built in Ibaka, because in Ikot Abasi and Ibeno, there are only small channels, which only Mobil ships go into. There is no deep sea there, but here, we have big ships that come in because we have deep sea.

“Government should also compensate us before they begin to build the seaport, so as to secure our cooperation with them, but as things are, the government is not serious with the project. If the government decides to really take our land to build something that will generate revenue for them, they ought to compensate us, as it was done when the airport was built in Okobo here in Akwa Ibom State. The land owners of the airport were paid compensation. The Navy base that was built here, we were compensated. They gave us N45 million.

“The land government wants to take for the construction of the seaport is more than 1000 hectares, therefore, they should compensate us with at least N10 billion,” he added.

Maritime chief fingers Customs, NAFDAC, SON as mastermind of ports corruption

The Managing Director, Shibab Services, Mr Babatunde Shittu has accused importers, clearing agents, Customs and some other government agencies, such as National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) as brain behind corruption at the nation’s ports.

The MD said when it comes to corruption; agents were at the receiving end as they are seen to be driving graft at the ports.

He said, “They (stakeholders) are all partners in business because the agents cannot do it alone. The importers cannot do it alone. Also, the agents cannot do it alone because they have to support or consult the Customs who have the power of final release of the consignment from the ports. Looking well at it, it is a joint effort of every one of them; they are in business together.”

He noted that agents cannot be said to be dubious because the agent is working for someone. He said: “Agents alone cannot be said to be dubious because the agent is working for someone. Most of the importers are more dubious than the agents because the agents dance to the tune of the importer.

“Some importers bring in consignments, devalue the invoice and want the agent to work with that invoice. The importer already wants to cheat the government in duty and at the end of the da, the agent is only a tool in the hands of the importer. Nobody will see the importer; they only see the middleman that is running around, that is the agent.

“For instance, an importer gives an agent a job worth N100,000, but says he can only pay N50,000 knowing well that N50,000 cannot cover the job, but some agents jump at it and collect the money, but after sometime, they will come back for more money. “The importer would be forced to give the agent the money because you do not want your cargo to remain there.”

Shittu pointed out that some importers who have done the valuation already and only want to use the agents to bribe the Customs and to bribe their way to get their consignments out of the ports adding that the agents and importers should be blamed in this case.

He called on the relevant government agencies to collaborate with all the sectors in the industry to make ongoing port reforms successful. He also charged leaders of the various associations and agencies to work with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to change the fortune of agents.