Port Harcourt — Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, says the Bakassi deep seaport, when completed would accelerate the easy evacuation of solid minerals in the Northern parts of the country and other landlocked countries within the Sahel region.
Governor Ayade, who disclosed this after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, to seek his support for the project in fulfilment of his 2015 promise to the state, regretted that the country has only one maritime corridor, which is Lagos port.
Ayade assured that Bakassi deep seaport would help to decongest Lagos port, adding that the Bakassi seaport which is a twin signature project with the 276km super highway, are of strategic significance to the northern part of the country
While describing the seaport as aa strategic evacuation corridor to Northern Nigeria, Ayade said the north is blessed with solid minerals and evacuating them by road to Lagos port was over 2000km, whereas the Bakassi deep seaport to the north was just 276km.
He lamented that vessels come into Nigeria and discharge goods, but have nothing to take back because Nigeria is an import dependent country with very little to export, other than crude oil.
“This explains the urgent need for an alternative port like the Bakassi deep seaport with the six lane evacuation corridor, stretching from Bakassi to northern Nigeria, terminating at Benue State. It becomes more imperative and urgent, therefore, that as a government we must act. The superhighway and the deep seaport go together as a twin project.
“Basically, we have only one maritime corridor in this country and that is Lagos ports. But with the congestion of the Lagos ports, there is a gradual movement as a strategic government policy to see how some of the eastern ports can begin to have life and have cargoes coming in.
“The Calabar port is beginning to receive light vessels with a tonnage of less than 6,000tons. But that is completely different, the message and the thrust is that the Bakassi Deep seaport, with an evacuation corridor to Northern Nigeria, is the strategic way forward for this country.
“The major deposits outside of hydrocarbon in this country are in Northern Nigeria. The solid minerals deposits from tantalite to tantalum to bauxite to coal and all such raw metals are found in the northern part of Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to evacuate all of that through the roads to a near 2,000 kilometers to ship out of Lagos.”
Governor Ayade also disclosed that three neighbouring countries have already written the state government, to set up bonded warehouse within the seaport.
He described the port project as an African regional project and Northern Nigerian project, the governor stated that the Bakassi Deep seaport, when completed will solve shipping and maritime headache of neighbouring landlocked African countries in the Sahel.
“That project is not a Cross River project, it is rather a Northern Nigeria project. Because, in Bauchi State alone, the amount of tantalum you can pick abruptly, which means you go to a particular belt, you can pick tantalite off the ground.
“Today, we have 20 container loads of tantalite in Bauchi but its evacuation requires a port.
“Niger, Chad and all of these other countries bordering the Northern Nigeria are completely landlocked. They evacuate gum Arabic and all their hydrocarbons including cotton and the rest through Cameroon, which is over 2,000 kilometers. A very difficult terrain.
“These countries have written to Cross River State on the Bakassi deep seaport, whose phase three is going to be 20 meters draught. It is urgent, it is critical and they want to take bonded warehouses in the Bakassi deep seaport.”
The governor also disclosed that the President understands that the coming to fruition of the Bakassi Deep seaport, with an evacuation corridor to the north was like taking the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Nigeria.
“Nigeria needs to create an alternative corridor so that we can decongest Lagos ports. A major alternative port needs to exist and close to the North and that will link the eastern flank.
“Calabar is the closest and with the new super highway that cuts travel time from seven hours to 1:45minutes, it is the best option to go with a cargo rail running by the side.
“That is the strategic master plan which is even contained in the master plan of President Buhari‘s Nigeria beyond oil,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and his Imo State counterpart, Hope Uzodinma, are among those accompanying the President to attend the ongoing 33rd ordinary session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.