The commencement of operation at Lekki Port has been postponed again. This is the third time the government will be deferring the operation at the port.
The port was initially scheduled to commence in 2015 but the former Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, in 2016, stated it would be commissioned in 2019.
But as widely known, the $1.65 billion port was never commissioned. According to recent development, commercial activities at the Lekki Port will not start until 2022. This was disclosed by the Technical Director of Lekki Port Enterprises Limited, Steven Heukelom, who said the first commercial vessel would berth two years from now.
Heukelom said, “After operational readiness, delivery, testing, and commissioning, the port will be ready to receive its first vessel.”
Currently, the Lekki Port’s breakwater is reportedly about 50% complete. The Lekki Port is situated on 90 hectares of land at the centre of the Lagos Free Trade Zone. It will be the first deepwater port in West Africa.
Reason for series of postponement: Reasons for the postponement are not clear. As largely known in the political space in Nigeria, most ongoing projects met by new government are often paused, stopped or delayed by the current government; an example is the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The Lekki Port project was announced during former Governor, Babatunde Fashola’s tenure. Nairametrics reported in 2013 that the project would be a huge step for Lagos, a state already known as the commercial hub of Nigeria, and one of the largest economies in Africa.
While it was reported that Lekki Port would debut in 2015, it, however, didn’t. In 2016, when the former Governor Ambode announced that it would finally be ready in 2019, many thought the end was near. The project, however, remained uncompleted until the end of his tenure last year. Now, the Lekki Port will not be ready until 2022 which is the end of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s first term.
Significance of the Lekki Port: The Apapa port has been a major problem for businesses. The traffic gridlock and delay of unloading at the Apapa Port has cost several companies millions of dollars while some have lost clients due to delay in shipment.
So, the Lekki Port is expected to be a succour to the Apapa Port operation. It is proposed to have 1.5km long breakwater, 6km long approach channel with 19.5m draught, 670m diameter turning circle and 1.5km long quay wall. According to a Nairametrics report, the Lekki Port will increase capacity in the first stage to 1.5 million containers yearly, graduating to 2.7 million and ultimately 4.5 million in about five to seven years of operation, to make up for the current huge capacity gap.
The economic impact is also a plus, as the Lekki Port will contribute more than $200 billion to the government while also creating close to 163,000 new jobs in the economy. Note that Lagos State Government signed a $629 million facility with the China Development Bank (CDB) for the completion of the Lekki Port project.
Heukelom, who disclosed the operational period for the Lekki Port during a tour of the facility, challenged the Federal Government on infrastructural facilities as regards road network which has been a major concern for businesses at the Apapa port.
“Only the private sector cannot address this challenge. We are challenging the government to line up infrastructure and organise the traffic in this axis,” he urged.
Reacting to the issue of the road network, the Relationship Director, Adesuwa Ladoja, disclosed that a national rail project discussion was ongoing with the Federal Ministry of Transportation in order to avoid the Apapa situation. She added, “These issues will be solved in an optimal manner. Proper plans have been put in place to ensure everything comes out fine. Already, we have seen big multinationals investing in the zone.”