By Adetokunbo Abiola
From the very beginning, the Rotimi Akeredolu administration has stated its determination to build a seaport in the state, and it did not hesitate to explore the possibility of getting partners for the project.
According to a feasibility study, the 75-kilometre Ondo State shoreline is a challenge for the development of a deep-seaport, so partners are welcome.
In fact, the administration has promised to patronize any company that can develop the state’s seaport.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu stated this, while receiving the management team of Transnet National Ports Authority in his office in Akure sometimes ago.
He described port development as a business with complicated nature that should be exclusive to companies with experience and passion.
The Governor said partners must be ready to make the seaport attractive, to stand the test of time and compete favourably with other seaports across the globe.
The motivation for the seaport project is clear, with the governor saying recently the administration is doing things for the generation to come. The administration believes that there should be a beginning, so it has started, and there seems to be is no going back. It is undaunted by the number of years the state will spend towards the building of the port.
It is not surprising Ondo wants to build a seaport, as it possesses a wide ocean front and the longest untapped coast line in Nigeria of 180 kilometers, bigger and larger than that of Lagos, giving the state the potential of earning billions of dollars, as Lagos does.
Besides, bitumen deposit is found in Ondo, Lagos, Ogun, and Edo States in Nigeria. According to experts, bitumen is one of the richly deposited mineral resources in Nigeria and in some Africa countries, just like crude oil.
Ondo State, having the largest deposit of the mineral, wants to commence with plans of making the state net exporter of bitumen and agricultural produce through its own port.
Akeredolu has made this submission at different fora over the past few months.
Akeredolu has pointed out that Ondo State, where a larger deposit of tar sand/bitumen is, will champion the building of a sea port on behalf of its people.
He further said the venture will create not only employment for the people of the state and the nation at large but will also lure prominent local and international investors.
In January 2017,after a closed-door meeting with the President, Akeredolu (SAN) told State House correspondents that the state needed the Federal Government to take advantage of the natural resources in the state, to underscore the need for partners for the seaport.
He said: “We are asking that the country takes advantage of the natural resources in Ondo State. We have a seaport, which is very germane to our export activities, in particular, and our mineral deposits, which we have in large number. We need to have a deep sea-manning port. Ondo State is well suited for it.
“So, we impressed this on Mr. President on what we believe will be a lasting legacy, if we are able to accomplish it in his own time.”
On the volume of mineral resources for export, Akeredolu said: “No. You just look at the volume of natural resources we are exporting through any port in Nigeria.
“The total volume, which is still not so high; the moment it gets high, we will need a deep seaport where we will even have a modern ship berth. We do not have anywhere in this country today where big ships can berth, not in Lagos or Calabar.
“That is why what you see is that so many of the ships will berth in the high seas while the smaller ones will be used to take the goods there or bring the goods from the ship. That is why we need a deep seaport where the biggest ships in the world can berth, and that is in Ondo State.”
So fars, the Ondo State Government has signed consultancy services agreements for the project, and the governor said that the deep sea port being proposed by the state government would link the state to the international community.
Akeredolu stated this in Akure at the signing of the consultancy services agreement for the conduct and preparation of feasibility study and conceptual master design for the port.
Mr Paul Van Eulem, the Managing Director of Maritime and Transport Business Solutions (MTBS), signed for the consulting team, while Akeredolu, who was represented by his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, signed for the state government.
The governor said thousands of jobs would be created through the project.
Akeredolu, who described the state as the most peaceful in the Niger Delta, pledged that all stakeholders would be carried along in the execution of the project.
Eulem, on his part, said MTBS would carry out a feasibility study which would last 10 weeks as well as provide the plan and design for the project.
He stated that the proposed port would ease pressure on Lagos port and be financially viable. Eulem, who said MTBS was well established in building sea ports across the world, promised that the company would invest its vast network and knowledge into the project.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Business Development, Mr Boye Oyewumi, commended the governor for his efforts to industrialise the state.
Oyewumi, who is also the Chairman of Ondo State Investment and Promotion Agency (ONDIPA), said the project would mark the beginning of the state’s industrialisation process.
“Ondo State is working by making the sea port development a reality. “Finally, we are there, work has started and we already have 45 consultants on the field working day and night and the Dutch consultants will also join them to do the port feasibility. “This signifies that the people of Ondo State and the South West in particular must get ready because there is a revolution coming.
“When you have a deep sea port, an industrial city and a Free Trade Zone all on the same site, then everyone would know we are ready for business.
“There is no part of this country that has those facilities domiciled in the same place as we are planning it here,” he said.
The ONDIPA chairman said that the project would be executed in phases and would take between 10 and 20 years to be completed.
Mr Gbenga Edema, the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC), described the project as a landmark initiative in the process of developing the state.
Edema thanked the governor for being committed to his promises of developing the coastal area. He stated that OSOPADEC was responsible for creating a conducive environment for business to thrive.
Right now, Akeredolu has kicked off other steps to actualize the beginning of the seaport through a feasibility study of the proposed site.
He said that the proposed $ 1.3 billion Multipurpose Deep Sea Port in the state would create job opportunities for 20,000 people in the Ilaje coastal areas of the state.
He said the feasibility study had been completed and forwarded to the Nigeria Port Authority, NPA. He said these in Akure during the presentation of the report of the consultants to the state Executive Council and stakeholders of the coastal communities.
He said: “The port will offer between 7000 to 10,000 job opportunities while the Free Trade Zone FTD will offer between 9,500 to 10,000 employment opportunities. “
We are doing things for the generation to come. I have always believed that there should be a beginning. We have started, there is no going back.
“I was privileged to travel with President Buhari to the Netherlands. We went on a boat and visited the ports. I told him, if anything like this must happen in Nigeria, it must be in Ondo State. Not only that, the President has said it most of the times that he knows that Ondo is the right place for a deep-sea port.
“We should not play politics with everything. It is not our making but providence has put us where we are today. Where we are today, is the best place to have a deep-sea port.
“Ours, as a state, is to prepare the ground and show the feasibility and bankability. Can Ondo State do it? No, Ondo State cannot build or own a port. But there are many people who are willing to invest.
“The Chinese, Dutch, and others are interested because this will be a West African port not just for the country. It is not that we are looking for money to build a port but we are looking for investors and they will invest here.”
Last month, Akeredolu disclosed the Federal Government plans to build Deep Seaport in the coastal region of the state before the end of the year, saying this would help to decongest the gridlock on Lagos seaport.
The government intends to name its own edifice Port Ondo, as hopes are high this administration will leave a giant legacy through the much-touted sea port.
Needless to say, partners are queuing in to buy into the port project, which is capable of catapulting the state into the rank of the most industrialised in the country.
For example, during its visit to the offices of the state governor sometimes ago, the management team leader of Transnet National Ports Authority, Dr Kana Motunbor, promised to develop the seaport through public-private partnership.
Dr Motunbor noted that the port would not only transform the state but would equally provide direct and indirect employment for thousands of youths within and outside the state.
For the Akeredolu administration, it will have the enviable legacy of being the one that transforms Ondo State from an agrarian and civil service state to an industrialised one, putting it on par with states like Lagos.