SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
There was jubilation in Gelegele Community of Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo state last Tuesday following the arrival of the Chinese firm, China Habour Engineering Company (CHEC) Ltd, the contractors engaged by the Edo state government, for the construction of the Gelegele Seaport project. The senior officials of the company arrived the ancient city last Tuesday to commence preliminary development.
The Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki had three weeks ago in China, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of Gelegele Seaport between the Edo State Government and China Habour Engineering Company (CHEC) Ltd. Though there had been tension in the community between the Benins and the Ijaws since the announcement for the construction of the Port by the state government, but Obaseki had warned that government would deal decisively with any body trying to derail the realization of the project which according to him, will not only create jobs for the youths of the state but will open the community and the state at large to development and economic prosperity.
However, the Executive Director of the company, Mr Jason Wang, led the team of engineers from the Chinese firm to begin the execution of the project with the development of a masterplan for the project, feasibility study and an in-depth assessment of the Gelegele Seaport Report submitted by the Engr. Greg Ero-led Technical Committee on the Actualisation of the seaport, to the state government. Saturday Vanguard observed that when residents of the riverine community sighted the investors, it was celebration galore as they urged the governor not to relent in his effort.
Exactly 21 days ago, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd., the renowned marine engineering and port development company which constructed over 90 percent of the seaports in China, signed an MoU with the Edo State Government to develop the Gelegele Seaport. Saturday Vanguard learnt that the company with over 90 branches and operating in about 100 countries across the world commenced operations in 1994, handling various projects in Nigeria including Calabar, Warri ports and most recently, the $1billion Lekki Deep Seaport. During the meeting with Governor Obaseki and other senior officials of the Edo State Government, Wang explained that apart from the Gelegele Seaport, his company will also carry out other infrastructural projects including access roads and rail projects as well as the dredging of 35 nautical miles of the seaport.
Obaseki who expressed his joy over the arrival of the Chinese firm in the state, welcomed the members of the CHEC team and stressed that the speedy implementation of the MoU shows the commitment of both parties to the actualisation of the project.
“We signed the agreement exactly 21 days ago and our Chinese partners are here today to commence preliminary work on the project. This shows the seriousness of both China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd., and Edo State Government. It also shows that we have chosen the right partners. 90 percent of the ports in China were built by this company. In terms of experience, there are not many companies in the world that can match CHEC.
The governor stressed that another unique advantage of the partnership was that the Chinese company will help to raise the financing as they have done for many other projects in Nigeria, including the $1billion Lekki Deep Seaport that they have helped to finance at an interest rate of 2.5 percent with facility from the China EXIM Bank.
“We are excited to be working with people like you. Under this project, we want to build road and rail access. We want to use this access to build a toll road from Benin to Okpella. You have taken the project very seriously and we want to assure you that we have the political will to execute this project,”. The governor further hinted that the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has assured that all the approvals needed for the project will be given at the federal level.
The MOU for the Gelegele Seaport project was followed by the sealing of a deal with another Chinese Consortium for a 5,500 barrel per day modular refinery in Edo State.
The Chinese consortium is made up of Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China (PCC), a world-leading modular refinery company; Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation (SIPS) which is a subsidiary of Sinopec, the top Chemical giant in the world and African Infrastructure Partners (AIP), a Nigerian Infrastructural company. The first phase of the project will be ready within twelve (12) months after all the necessary approvals are granted by the regulatory authorities according to the state government.
The MoU signing ceremony for the refinery took place at SINOPEC headquarters in Beijing, China, and was witnessed by officials of the Nigerian Embassy in the Asian country as well as staff of SIPS Nigeria, a major local fabrication company, with a branch in Edo State. Speaking at the event, Governor Obaseki, expressed his delight at the local content component of the deal, which will ensure that Edo citizens are trained in welding, refinery operation and fabrication works to enable them participate in the construction of the refinery as well as its operation, post-commissioning.
The governor assured that the refinery construction will provide jobs for several unemployed Edo youths including the Libya returnees who are being evacuated from the crisis-ridden North African country. Obaseki added that the modular refinery will solve the problem of inadequate petroleum products in the country and will turn Edo State to the preferred source of petroleum products considering the gateway status of Edo State to other parts of the country.
He expressed deep appreciation to the management of PCC and SIPS reiterating that with their support, Edo State was well on its way to becoming a hub of skilled manpower for the oil and gas industry and give boost to Nigeria’s local content policy. “With the federal government of Nigeria’s commitment to support communities in the Niger Delta states to set up modular refineries, the SIPS fabrication yard in Benin City is expected to be very busy handling the fabrication jobs of modular refineries in the Niger Delta Region,” Obaseki said.
He pledged further that his administration will provide community support to the project, and assist in securing all regulatory approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities such as the federal ministry of petroleum resources.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the Consortium is committed to delivering phase 1 of the project within 12 months of receiving the required regulatory approvals. In addition, PCC also agreed to finance the Demonstration modular refinery up to 70 per cent, thereby assisting in scaling the financing hurdle that has militated against the development of modular refineries in Nigeria. According to Obaseki, the project will be executed in two phases; phase 1 consisting of 500bpd demonstration refinery and phase 2 consisting of a 5,000bpd capacity refinery. The PCC will also serve as the Operations and Management company that will manage the refinery before transferring it to the local investors.