•Inaugurates rice mill, bestaf lubricant plant
•Chinese envoy says it’s sign Nigeria’s investment climate can be trusted
•170,000 jobs to be created at new sea port
Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Eromosele Abiodun, Segun James, Peter Uzoho, Gilbert Ekugbe and Oluchi Chibuzor in Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, performed the historic inauguration of the Lekki Deep Sea Port located at Itoke village, Ibeju-Lekki, in Lagos State, and observed the first offloading from CMA CGM Mozart at the quay.
The project, an investment in excess of $1.5 billion, is a joint venture between the federal government, through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos State Government, Tolarams Group (owners of the Lagos Free Zone), and China Harbour Engineering Company.
At the ceremony, Buhari led Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State; Minister of Transportation Muazu Sambo; Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Ciu Jianchun; top government officials; and traditional rulers to witness the offloading from the container ship, sailing under the flag of Malta.
Speaking at the occasion, Sanwo-Olu said, “Mr President, we are happy this is happening in your time. It all started in your time and it’s been completed in your time.
“We are excited that the size of the vessels that will berth at the port would be four times the size of vessels that currently berth at Apapa and Tin Can Island Port.
“We are excited that in your own time, something fresh has been birthed in this country and it is going to generate thousands of direct and indirect jobs.”
Sambo noted that the inauguration of the project was made possible by the expedited manner the president handled all requests made by the Federal Ministry of Transportation concerning the Lekki Deep Seaport.
The minister stated, “The very fact that the letter of intent between the proponents of Lekki Deep Seaport and its financial partners was signed as recently as April 2019 and by January 2023 the wide-ranging impact project is already being commissioned is a testament to the tenacity of purpose of the Federal Ministry of Transportation through the Nigerian Ports Authority.”
He thanked the president for approving the ministry’s extraordinary request to designate Lekki Deep Seaport as Customs Port and approved Wharf and its publication in the Federal Government Official Gazette in record time.
Sambo said, “With seaports being under the Exclusive Legislative List, the Nigerian Ports Authority’s provision of a sinking fund for Lekki Deep Seaport federal government’s equity contribution gave this project the necessary statutory cover and financial guarantee in line with the law.
“Completing a project of the magnitude and impact of a deep seaport in a record time of 45 months shows the effectiveness of tenacious ministerial supervision, strict regulatory oversight and strong presidential backing.”
Sambo described the project as one of the major legacies of the Buhari administration, adding that over 170,000 jobs would be created as operations commence.
In his goodwill message, Jianchun said the landmark gateway project jointly built by five parties from four countries was a fitting example of a good business model.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria stated, “This project is a joint venture between China, Nigeria and Singapore, and is run by a French company. The model of ‘five parties from four countries’ is a way of taking advantage of the wisdom and strength of all parties.”
He pledged that China would promote the business model to pursue a win-win outcome, particularly, in support of the growth, development and progress of Nigeria.
He added, “The government doesn’t need to worry about the existence of guarantees or debt risks. It also shows that the investment climate in Nigeria can be trusted. We have every reason to be confident in Nigeria’s future development.”
Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Professor Adesoji Adesugba, recalled that when the construction of the port began in June 2020, with the flag-off by Mr. President, very few Nigerians believed that it would become a reality, especially with the challenges of COVID 19 ravaging the country and the entire world at the time.
Adesugba said, “Therefore, we should all be proud as Nigerians that this has not only become a reality, but a free zone has built and completed the largest sea port within four years, which will reposition Nigeria as a regional hub globally for maritime business.”
He pledged that NEPZA would continue to give Lagos Free Zone and, indeed, all free zones licensed under it, the institutional support required to sustain the project and all other projects in the free zones.
Adesugba stated, “We are ready to lead in partnering with agencies at national and sub-national levels and the private sector to provide the needed support for this investment to thrive.
“Particularly, we will partner with the Nigeria Customs Service to perform its role effectively in order to achieve the objective of making this project stand as a testament to the legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We must not allow the momentum generated by the commissioning today to wane. All hands must be on deck to sustain this reality.”
Speaking earlier, Managing Director, NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the Lekki Deep Sea Port would be the deepest and most modern port in Nigeria, with a depth of about 16.5 meters, adding that it would be able to bring in bigger vessels and more cargoes.
Bello-Koko said, “Therefore, economics of scale would set in and we believe that the cost of doing business in this country will be lower compared to other countries and it will also provide employment opportunities and it will be more efficient. It will also be a model for other upcoming deep sea ports in Nigeria.”
He stated that NPA would be the regulator and be responsible for providing marine services, adding that the authority has gone ahead to purchase the necessary equipment that will ensure safe and secure berthing of vessels at the port.
Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, said a lot of issues affected the country’s economy, saying the maritime industry remains the surest path to rapid growth and economic development.
Jamoh said the Lekki deep sea port would inject nothing less than $361 billion into the economy, while creating over 190,000 job opportunities for the country’s youth.
Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, said the council had the responsibility of monitoring and ensuring that there was efficacy of service at the port.
Jime said, “Today, when we set our mind to achieve something, all that is required is to have a committed leadership. That is what the president has demonstrated.
“Lekki deep seaport represents a dynamic change as far as the maritime domain is concerned. This is a port that is fully automated. The implication of that is that for once we are going to have a port that will ensure not only that things are conducted diligently but also seamlessly.”
Chief Executive Officer, Lekki Freeport Terminal, operated by CMA Terminals, a subsidiary of the CMA CGM Group, Mr. Denrick Moos, stated that in addition to its state-of-the-art infrastructure, Lekki port would become a new generation container terminal, a game changing infrastructure in Nigeria and West Africa.
The port is Nigeria’s first deep seaport and is equipped with 13 quay cranes for a capacity of 2.5 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) on a 1.2 kilometre quay with a depth of 16 meters, it will operate vessels with a capacity of up to 15,000 TEUs and become one of the largest in West Africa.
Chairman of Lekki Port, Mr. Biodun Dabiri, expressed gratitude to the president and his team for giving all the necessary backing that ensured the project came to fruition.
At the Bestaf Lubricant plant owned by Sayyu Dantata, the founder and CEO of MRS Holdings Limited said the plant, with the capacity of producing 1,700 different products, will contribute to foreign exchange generation for the country through products export, as well as meet the needs of neighbouring countries.
The 200m litre lubricant plant covers the whole value chain of lubricants.
Buhari arrived at the Bestaf facility about 6.15 pm and performed the symbolic tape cutting exercise in company with Sanwo-Olu and Chairman of MRS and Bestaf Group, Mr. Sayyu Dantata, among other dignitaries.
The president did not make any comment when he came into the hall for the unveiling ceremony, where guests were waiting for his arrival.
But Sanwo-Olu, who made a short speech explaining why Buhari did not deliver an address at the event, said the Bestaf facility was the third commissioning exercise performed by the president that same day. The governor said the president had a very busy itinerary for the day.
Sanwo-Olu said the president was excited that Lagos continued to remain the economic nerve centre of Nigeria and that the assertion had been confirmed by all the three projects inaugurated, especially, the lubricant plant.
The governor, who described the $450 million lube plant as an integrated first class factory, stated that it would boost youth employment, generate a lot of revenue, reduce the country’s import dependence, and generally help the economy.
He added that the president was excited that the captains of industry in Nigeria had, despite the global pandemic challenge, continued to rise above all odds in making Nigeria a destination of choice.
Sanwo-Olu said, “I’m sure you’ve all noticed that his (Buhari’s) itinerary has been extremely packed very full. This is his third commissioning in Lagos this afternoon and he has expressed his best wishes to all of you.”
Earlier, in an interview with journalists, Managing Director of Bestaf Trading Company, Mr. Andreas Wielsch, said with the lubricant plant, the company would be able to produce about 50 per cent of Nigeria’s annual lubricant consumption of about 364 million litres.
Wielsch stated, “If you assume in 2021 what was the size of the country’s lubricant market, it’s roughly 364 million litres per annum. We at Bestaf can produce 200 million litres of lubricant per annum, which means we already can produce 50 per cent of the consumption of the Nigerian market.
“We are not only looking at the Nigerian market, but the whole West African market.”
Wielsch said the company invested between $300 and $450 million in the construction of the facility.
Buhari, also yesterday, inaugurated the Imota Rice Mill, conceptualised and completed by Sanwo-Olu.
The Imota 32 metric tonnes per hour (MTPH) rice mill in Lagos is expected to provide over 250, 000 jobs, both directly and indirectly.
The project has an annual paddy requirement of over 240,000MT to produce 2.5 million bags of 50Kg rice per annum. Sanwo-Olu said the project was conceived as part of efforts to support the rice revolution in the country.
Buhari, who performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting, arrived the premises about 5.29pm and left around 6.00pm without speaking at the event
Sanwo-Olu explained, “Imota Rice Mill is an effort by Lagos State to support the country’s rice revolution.”
The Imota Rice Mill, which is a 2 x 16 metric tonnes per hour (MTPH) stands on an area of 8.5Ha land.
Buhari would today inaugurate the historic first phase of the Blue Line of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit in Marina and the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History at Onikan roundabout.