Where is the road to Lekki Deep Sea Port?
Two ongoing mega projects in the Lekki Peninsula axis of Lagos are raising serious concerns about how goods and services would be moved to and fro the facilities when completed and operational. This is because there is only one access road to Lekki, which at the moment is among the worst congested roads in Lagos.
The road which runs parallel to the Atlantic Seafront cannot accommodate normal daily commercial commuter traffic talk less when the traffic would triple. If Lekki, at the moment, presents a dead end due to a lack of access road, what would happen when the two projects become operational; when heavy-duty articulated trucks will be plying the road bearing containerized cargoes.
The question is what is the government thinking about the access road to Lekki? What are the developers also thinking about this critical challenge? What plan is there to solve this problem? Are the government and all the stakeholders going to construct a flyover to alleviate the emerging traffic challenge? Otherwise, how would the narrow Lekki road cope with the horrendous traffic that is emerging?
The $12 billion Dangote Lekki refinery Oil Refinery is a 650,000 barrels per day (BPD) integrated refinery project under construction in the Lekki Free Zone near Lagos, Nigeria. When completed, the Federal Government would earn over N145 billion as income. The refinery is scheduled to commence operation by the third quarter of 2022.
Besides the economic gain of the refinery, which is of great importance, the refinery will put Nigeria in the league of countries with such critical infrastructure, thereby removing the shame and embarrassment the country and its people have suffered over the years as a result of recurrent fuel scarcity.
Being that the refinery is integrated with a petrochemical plant, a fertilizer plant and a subsea pipeline project, the refinery is rated to be the largest in the world. Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo during a recent visit to the project described it as an incredible industrial undertaking, possibly, the largest and most ambitious on the continent of Africa.
The $1.5 billion Lekki deep seaport is being developed by Tolaram and China Harbor Engineering Company, with the Lagos State Government and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as shareholders.
The Lekki deep seaport, which has reportedly reached 96 per cent completion, is scheduled to commence operation by the end of 2022. According to the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, pressure was being mounted on the developers to complete the project as soon as possible to enable operation commence. But there is no road to move goods and services.
The Lekki Deep seaport may sound the final death nail on the decadent Apapa and Tin Can Island ports complex, otherwise called the Lagos Ports Complex. The Apapa port was the premiere and largest port in Nigeria.
Situated in Lagos State, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, the port used to be the second-largest in Africa after Durban in South Africa. But today, Apapa port has lost that position due to deplorable and virtually impassable access roads. It now ranks as the sixth biggest port in Africa. Today, the biggest port is Tanger-Med, Morocco followed by Port Said in Egypt.
It is baffling how the federal Government abandoned Apapa roads to disintegrate to the extent that going to Apapa is now hellish. Nobody dares drive his car to Apapa. The dilapidated road has been overtaken by hordes of commercial motorcyclists (okada).
The famous Apapa port provokes a national wailing and lamentation. The situation is horrific. This is a port that had all the potential to boost Nigeria’s economy. The size of a country’s port is said to be an indicator of the size of the economy. All the talk about being the shipping hub in West Africa melted with the abandonment of Apapa roads.
It is terrible and unbelievable. The road to Apapa from Mile 2 through Tin Can Island Port collapsed since 2000, and yet, more than two decades after, nothing was done to rehabilitate the road. The rehabilitation of the Costain to Apapa axis by Dangote came too late and it is not making much impact.
Trailers can no longer pass through to evacuate imports. It is a harrowing experience. It is hellish going to Apapa. Apapa is practically gone! Property owners in Apapa are disposing of them to would-be buyers. Residents are deserting the area. It is not that the roads suddenly collapsed.
In a way, the current economic situation, which has led to a drastic fall in imports, is a blessing in disguise. If imports had been coming the normal way, there is no road to evacuate the goods from the port. The diminished importation has saved Nigeria from national embarrassment?
The Lekki Deep seaport is bound to face more critical challenges. In the absence of a railway to evacuate bulk imports from the port, too much pressure is put on the roads by the heavy-duty trucks and trailers. Consequently, the entire Lekki will turn to bedlam.
There is already chaos and confusion in the entire Lekki axis. Going to Lekki is already hellish. Lekki and its environs are a nightmare. The only option left to the government to avert the impending traffic chaos that Lekki will present is to build a brand new long flyover bridge to link the area to the mainland. The Fourth Mainland Bridge which is already in the pipeline should be executed. The bridge should link Lekki to decongest traffic.
Furthermore, the government should extend the railway line to Lekki port and refinery to handle cargo evacuation. Except the issue of access road is addressed, I am afraid the new port in Lekki will face the same problems that ruined Apapa, which forced shipping companies to fold up and stop operations.
There are many seaports in Nigeria that have died due to collapsed infrastructure. Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Warri, are some examples of dead Nigerian ports in the South-Eastern part of the country. It is not clear why government cannot develop at least one of these ports to decongest overcrowded Lagos.
Indications are that most importers and exporters have abandoned the Apapa port for Cotonou in the Benin Republic. Nigeria is losing billions in revenue while the Benin Republic is reaping from Nigeria’s loss.
The challenge now is for the Federal Government to do the right thing from the outset in Lekki by providing the needed transport infrastructures. That way, what happened to Apapa would not repeat in Lekki.