‘N595.65b Lekki deep seaport courts trouble’
We are Integrated Indigo Limited, Public Relations Consultant to Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited (LPLEL), the promoters of the Lekki Deep Sea Port, and we hereby write on their behalf to express their displeasure on the lead story which was on the front page of the Guardian Newspaper of Friday, July 3, 2020, with the title: “N595.65b Lekki Deep Seaport Courts Trouble.” Our clients are deeply concerned about the conspicuous headline of this story which is not only misleading but also sensational and inadvertently portrays the project and the promoters in a negative light. This is particularly puzzling because a review of the body of the story shows that there is zero nexus to the headline.
Such a negative and misleading headline could have adverse effect on this project, which is of national and also global importance and some illustration of such adverse effect are as follows:
1.The Federal and State Government are shareholders and stakeholders in the Lekki Deep Sea Port project, and both arms of government receive regularly updates on the progress of the project. Seeing such a headline in a respected national newspaper, could raise red flags that the promoters have not been truthful in their account of the progress to date and the steps being taken to meet obligated deadlines.
2.The EPC Contractor, China Harbour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise was alarmed to see such a headline, as stability of the project is crucial for prompt and efficient completion of the construction of the deep sea port. Such headline made them question if the promoters were being negligent by courting trouble and of course, there is nothing of the sort.
3.The international equity partners including Tolaram Group and China Harbour Engineering Company will be alarmed at such negative press for the project especially now that the terms of the facility from China Development Bank are being finalized in preparation for drawdown of the debt finance of the project.
4.Other stakeholders including Nigerian regulators reached out to LPLEL in dismay because they were alarmed that a project that they had granted relevant approvals and permits is “courting trouble”, and they wanted to know if we had instigated such a headline/story. Nothing could be further than the truth in this instance.
While we appreciate the concern of The Guardian Newspapers on the need to avoid pitfalls of the past by ensuring the connectivity of the rail lines to Lekki Deep Sea Port to ease movement of cargo, we have explained at different fora that the issue of rail connectivity to the port is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Also, we have stated severally that we have the assurances of the firm commitment of the Federal Government to ensure this is done. As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari during the International Association of Ports and Habours (IAPH) African Regional Conference recently held in Abuja issued a directive to the Nigerian Railway Corporation to ensure the connectivity of rail infrastructure to all the seaports in the country.
Furthermore, the Director General of the Nigerian Shippers Council was widely reported as stating that rail connectivity for the deep sea port has been included in the budget of the Federal Ministry of Transport. On the issue of expansion of the access road to the port, we have also informed the media and general public that Lagos State Government has started the process of expanding the existing road to the port and intends to enhance the road network in the Lekki axis where Dangote Refinery andPetrochemical Plant, the Lagos Free Zone and the Lekki Free Trade Zone are located.
We have always regarded the Guardian Newspapers as a trusted and reliable Media Partner to the project. The project, through the agency, has placed several advertisements (most recent of which was a Full Page Congratulatory Advert on the occasion of the birthday of the Executive Governor of Lagos State). More so, since the commercialisation of media mentions (photo news and press release publication) by the papers, the project through the agency has continued its partnership with the Guardian through repeated patronage.
From the above, we trust that you can see why this headline has been detrimental to our client’s project, and to this end, we request that you consider our complaint and publish a retraction of the headline and story with same prominence as the publication in question. We trust that your response will be positive, and look forward to continued partnership with The Guardian Newspapers in updating the nation and indeed the world of the progress of the first deep sea in Nigeria which will revolutionize the maritime sector for the betterment of the Nigerian economy.
Abimbola, managing director, for Integrated Indigo Limited, wrote from Lagos.