By Alemma Aliu
AFTER almost two years in limbo, all is now set for the commencement of massive construction on the much anticipated Benin River Port to be situated in Gelegele, Benin City, Edo state.
There have been insinuations that the project may have been a political gimmick to deceive the people for elections since after it was announced with fanfare not much had been done.
But Vanguard Maritime Report reliably gathered that the delay was to ensure that all the preliminary actions that needed to be taken were carried out to provide conducive environment like security, feasibility and other needed conditions for the take off of the project.
“When we first talked about the seaport, many thought it would not be possible.” A government official confided inVanguard Maritime Report.
Continuing he said, “We have got a Naval Base to be there, we have got Naval Police to have a base there for the purpose of security because if there is no security, investors will not come so the Navy Base in Sapele will build a base there.
“The government also had to do feasibility study and we have also crossed that hurdle. Now, we have the Lekki Free Trade Zone, the Benin River Port is going to be a feeder port to the Lekki Free Trade Zone so there is no way it will not function. This will be the feeder port and all the containers going to east, it will be shorter to bring them here than taking them through Lagos.
” And the same company that is doing it is the same company that will develop our industrial park and it is the same company that is developing Lekki Free Trade Zone.”
The final phase for the take off of the project was concluded recently during the trip to China by the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, as he finally inked a deal with the vice president of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Li Yi, for the development of the port.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, quoted the governor as telling journalists at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, China, after signing the investment agreement that the agreement includes the building of a port on the Benin River, dredging of the river which is a channel of about 40 kilometres, and the construction of a link road to the Benin bye-pass.
He explained that the Benin River when completed, will link the Lekki Deep Seaport, help decongest the ports in Lagos State, open up Edo State to the international market by serving as a platform for import and export trade.
“The company we are working with is the largest investor in the Lekki Deep Seaport. The Benin River Port is going to be a sister port to the Lekki Deep Sea Port. We expect that up to 30 per cent cargo going to the Lekki Deep Seaport would be meant for Benin port,” he said.
He added that the construction of the Benin River Port would also provide opportunities to export agricultural and manufactured products being produced in the state.
“We are investing massively on agriculture particularly in areas like oil palm, rubber, cassava, fruits and all range of agricultural produce which need to be processed and exported outside the country.
“There are companies operating in the state and are seeking to export their products. The port will provide opportunity not only to export agricultural produce but also some of the products that are now being manufactured in our area,” Obaseki added.
“Another advantage is that once you create the infrastructure, there is the possibility that other industries would spring up in the state. This opportunity is going to rapidly help in diversifying the economy of Nigeria,” the state official explained.
The Benin Industrial Park is expected to create over 170,000 direct and indirect jobs on completion, and will be home to over 1000 companies and will generate an excess of over $3 billion annually.