REIF hails NPA for suspending $2.6Bn deep seaport project


* Want project relocated to Rivers State

* Say 10% discount has created boost in eastern ports

By Codratus Godson

Investors in Port Harcourt have commended the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) for suspending the $2.6Bn deep sea port project, but they have called for its relocation to Rivers State. The investors also said the recent 10 per cent discount awarded to vessels ready to go to other ports (east) has already caused a boost in the Port Harcourt port.

Speaking on the matter, the president of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), Ibifri Bobmanuel, said the members had made many appeals to the maritime authorities in Nigeria to decongest Lagos by bringing other big-impact projects to other parts of the country.

In an exclusive interview at the Polo Club in Port Harcourt last weekend, Bobmanuel said: “We have taken keen interest in the statement made by the NPA saying they had cancelled the $2.6Bn contract which was to situate the second seaport in Lagos. We had cried against it right from the beginning. We were against the reason behind it being because we said they have major projects in Lagos. It would not make economic sense to locate all such ports in that same environment.”

He said the south-south and south-east zones still have a huge potential when it comes to port-related activities or maritime activities because as far back as 1912, Port Harcourt was actually the first destination for a deep seaport in Nigeria. He said the NPA was working skeletally on this. Now that the project is back on the card, it should come to Rivers State.

The REIF boss is also a board member of RRDL, a special purpose vehicle for major investments, especially in the maritime sector, that are geared toward development of the south-south and east. He said REIF would be working with the NPA to work out a proposal for the investment consortium and see how they could tie up and expand the basis so that this project comes into fruition in this part of the country. We need to form a common synergy on this, he stated.

He equally commended the NPA on the 10 per cent discount offered to vessels going to other sea ports. “This has given some kind of impetus to activities around other seaports in the country (especially in the east). We have noticed new wave of activities. You could narrow that to the issues surrounding the drought. Five years ago, we had different meetings on the seaports in Port Harcourt and in that facility, I made it clear that that seaport had no issue with drought.”

He said many administrators such as governors and ministers have continued to blame drought issues for the setbacks in the Port Harcourt port but said they may not have been given proper briefing.

He said with a mere policy stroke, many ships are calling at the Port Harcourt port, saying more are about to join. He wondered how it could have been drought issues when ships have started coming. He said he has taken delivery of goods in Port Harcourt as container vessels now come to Port Harcourt.