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[EDITORIAL] Lekki Deep Sea Port: Creating Another Apapa Port Monster 

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The Lagos State government is currently embarking on an industrial revolution that is meant to position the state as not only a mega city, but industrial hub in the West African sub- region.The Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) is an ambitious industrial project that signposts the readiness and determination of the state government to join the big league of industrial cities of the world.Conceived by the former administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and launched in 2004 with partnership of China- Africa  Lekki Investment Company, the Free Trade Zone presently sits atop humongous 16,000 hectares of land, expanded from the initial 3000 hectares.An additional 800 hectares are said to have been added by the former Ambode’s  administration.
The Zone has so far attracted 116 investors with additional 100 who have expressed their willingness to join the fray, waiting in the wing.More than 16 of the investors have since commenced operations.Among the 116 industrial concerns in the zone are the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Dangote Refinery and Lekki airport, the top three  business concerns that are expected to make  the biggest impacts on the support infrastructural facilities in the axis.
The nigeriamaritime360.com is excited and  fascinated by the emerging industrial revolution going on at that axis of the state and we commend the state government for the concept and the determination of the successive administrations to make the dream a reality.Despite the enormous economic opportunities which the project possesses, we are  however disturbed by the unprecedented traffic crisis which these projects may likely unleash on residents in the area.Our concerns are heightened by the fact that in the euphoria of the emerging prospects of industrial hub status the projects may confer on  the state and the economic benefits which both the Federal and Lagos State government stand to reap, they have forgotten to integrate an articulate, structured and modern intermodal transport system of water, rail and road networks that would suck the unprecedented flurry of human and vehicular activities that the zone will engender.We must however commend the state government which has exhibited an early understanding of the likely  traffic crisis that the project may  cause and has commenced plans to nip it in the bud.
Former governor Ambode and the Chairman of the Lekki Free Zone Development Company, the body which oversees  the activities and operations in the Zone, Abiodun Dabiri, firmly agreed on the propriety of opening up the axis.
In 2018, the then governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode agreed  that by the time  Lekki deep sea port, Dangote Refinery and the Lekki Airport commence operations, the single road linking the zone to Epe will not be sufficient .We are aware of the efforts of the state government to open arterial roads in the area to support the anticipated human and vehicular traffic from the zone.We also commend the proposed injection of about 30km of multiple carriage ways of road network, pedestrian walkways , coaster roads and other facilities to ease movement in the axis.But this platform dare say, that, these are not enough.
These facilities,  as commendable as they are, would pale into insignificance when the Lekki deep sea port commences operations, possibly this September.A tripartite arrangement among the Federal Government represented  by the Nigerian Port Authority(NPA),  Lagos State government and Tolaram Group which is the lead investors,  the Lekki deep sea port is reputed to be the biggest and deepest port in the country which may attract jumbo vessels like WAFMAX with high volume of containers.Built on over 90 hectares of land with the projected 2.7million TEUS per annum, 600 meters of turning circles and  16.5 metres draught, the vehicular traffic, especially the container traffic, which the port is expected to generate, will be too much to handle for the glittering network of roads the state government hopes to construct.They  may soon cave in thereafter  under the heavy pounding of the articulated vehicles bearing containers in and out of the Ports.The situation will also be compounded by the petroleum -laden trailers from Dangote refinery as well as other articulated vehicles bearing Fertilizers from its Fertilizer plant and other vehicles from its petro-chemical plant, all situated in the refinery which is reputed to be the single largest business concerns in the world.Add these to the number of passengers which the Lekki Airport is expected to generate, the level of traffic chaos at Apapa port access road  would be a child’s play to what will be unleashed on the Lekki Axis by the time these three gigantic projects join the others which have started operations in the Zone.We now ask, what impact would the 30 km arterial roads do to withstand the pressure of the unprecedented vehicular movement which the port and the refinery generate?This platform is therefore, calling on the Federal Government to complement the efforts of the Lagos state  government by providing efficient rail network in the area.
The Government should avoid the Apapa port mistake which was solely reliant on road transport  due to poor and inefficient rail system.
Hassan Bello,  the erstwhile Executive Secretary of  Nigerian Shippers’ Council re-echoed the warning  in in 2018 in  Lagos when he noted that the Apapa traffic gridlock will be insignificant compared with what may likely happen at the Lekki Axis if government does not connect the port to efficient rail system.
We couldn’t agree less with him.
Anything short of modern standard gauge rail line that will connect the port to the hinterland to ferry the containers will result to a monstrous traffic snarl in the area.
However, it is sad to know that the federal government may not been keen in heeding our call as Rotimi Amaechi, the outspoken former Minister of Transportation, had revealed that Buhari government is broke and may not be able to carry out such rail line linking the Lekki seaport.
Shortly before he resigned his appointment from Buhari government after his failed presidential bid, Amaechi has advised the promoters of the port to embark on linking the project with rail line because government is broke.
“As a Minister of Transportation, I imagined a lot of things that I could have implemented.
“I imagined that the Lagos-Calabar rail line would start from here, that was my imagination, but, the Lagos-Calabar rail project needs $11.1 billion funding but, there were no such funds at the moment for the project”,
Amaechi confession has now put paid to the expectation of industry stakeholders who advised and recommended that to avoid the recreation of the notorious Apapa gridlock at Lekki deep seaport, the facility, as a matter of expediency, must be connected with a rail line.
According to them, this is necessary in order not to further exacerbate the already congested Lekki-Ajah road.
However, the  erstwhile Minister advised the port contractors to invest in the rail sector, adding that the government will either do tax reduction or do something to help them.
”Another advice I could give is if they want to invest, they can invest in rail and then the government will either do tax reduction or do something to help them. 

“If we get the 11.1billion as it is, we would probably have to divert the rail line, because Lagos-Calabar rail line actually goes into Lagos city, we can divert it to come to the seaport in Lekki,” he had then stated.

In the absence of rail line, the promoters are now contemplating deployment of barges.

We shudder at the thoughtlessness and lack of plans by the Federal Government over this vital issue of rail linkage to the Lekki seaport.

The implication of this failure is better left to be imagined.

We are however saddened by the high prospects of creating another road monster, deadlier than Apapa gridlock, at Lekki deep seaport.

© 2022, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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