By Jiang Xuan, People's Daily
Nigeria's first deep seaport was recently inaugurated in the southwestern state of Lagos. Funded, constructed and operated by the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. (CHEC), the Lekki deep seaport is one of the biggest in West Africa.
The Lekki deep seaport, which has a breakwater extending 2.5 kilometers into the Gulf of Guinea and five giant container gantry cranes, is located in the Lagos Free Trade Zone and jointly developed by the CHEC and Nigerian Ports Authority. The project was commenced in June 2020 and completed in October last year.
A 45-year concession has been awarded based on a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) contract. The port is able to handle 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units on a yearly basis.
Lagos State is an important hub of international trade in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa. For a long time, foreign trade and economic development in the state had been impeded by underdeveloped port facilities, poor cargo distribution capability and high logistics cost.
Fortunately, these problems are expected to be solved following the completion of the Lekki deep seaport.
Managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority Mohammed Bello Koko noted that the deep seaport is the first automated port in Nigeria that allows rapid customs clearance and will significantly reduce the time of cargo handling.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the deep seaport will open up new prospects for Nigeria's economic development, provide opportunities for the country's exports, especially agro-allied products in the international marketplace, and increase foreign exchange inflow.
The port will also create abundant job opportunities and thus help with poverty reduction. According to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, it is estimated that the overall economic benefit will reach $361 billion over the next 45 years.
At the inauguration ceremony of the deep seaport, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State said that the Lekki deep seaport, as the biggest in Nigeria, can accommodate the world's largest container vessels.
Previously at the completion ceremony of the project, the Governor praised the CHEC for finishing the deep seaport project on time, saying the port will create nearly 200,000 jobs for Nigeria directly and indirectly in the years to come. Unquestionably, the port will make Lagos a maritime logistics center in Central and West Africa, he added.
Itoke Community and Idotun Community are less than 3 kilometers away from the Lekki deep seaport. In the past decades, the land and houses of some residents were always flooded by sea waves in the rainy season.
To solve the problem, the CHEC, upon investigation, built two breakwaters totaling 539 meters and added an artificial beach covering nearly 800,000 square meters to the east of the port.
Shortly after the rainy season ended last year, the heads of the two communities visited the project site with fish and shrimps they caught to extend their gratitude. They said it was the safest rainy season they had in the past decades, all the land and houses were intact. "Thank the Chinese enterprise for doing this for us," they noted.
This is a epitome of the Lekki deep seaport contributing to local livelihood development. According to an employee working at the port, the port has already created about 2,000 jobs for local communities during its construction and trained a batch of local professionals. Over 80 percent of technical and management jobs at the port are taken by local people. Through systematic training and instruction, most of the local workers have acquired professional and modern work skills.
Magbon-Segun Community sits next to the Lekki deep seaport. Many young people from the Community work at the port.
"We are proud to be a neighbor of the Lekki deep seaport," said Dawuda, head of the Community adding that the Community has completely changed thanks to the port. Today, the clean and beautiful beach there is attracting large number of tourists and the spare houses in the Community have all been rented.
The operation of the deep seaport has advanced integrated development of the region. Free trade areas, an oil refinery and other projects are well underway. The construction of a new international airport is also expected to be started this year.
Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers' Council, said the Lekki deep seaport is of vital significance for Nigeria in achieving economic prosperity and will completely change the image of Nigerian shipping industry. It will drive the country's growth and change the shipping and economic pattern of Nigeria and even the Central and West Africa at large.
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Cui Jianchun said the deep seaport is expected to become a new engine of economic development that will empower the whole country, and is of huge significance for the development of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.