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Governor Obaseki's Benin River Port: The facts and the mendacious Mayaki

By Ikponmwosa Osamede

Under Governor Obaseki's leadership, the Benin River Port project has gained significant traction culminating in today's success story as Edo is being celebrated as Nigeria's next trading hub. Governor Obaseki, a visionary,  understands the potential economic benefits that the port will bring to Edo State and has taken the necessary steps to ensure its success. The Port, one of Governor Obaseki's legacy projects, upon completion, will boost export earnings, create employment opportunities, expand the state's economic value chain, and open up new business opportunities in the state; and unfortunately individuals like John Mayaki are unable to comprehend this just yet due to their inability to see beyond their noses.

The Port was once a significant entry point for trade and economic development in Nigeria but suffered neglect for many years. However, after 75 years, it is now taking center stage once again, attracting investors and positive reviews from economists. After surmounting regulatory, funding and institutional setbacks, Governor Obaseki has successfully moved the project to a delivery stage. 

One of the key aspects of Governor Obaseki's approach to actualization of the Benin River Port is his commitment to thoroughness and practical considerations. This means that all aspects of the project, including environmental impact assessments, land acquisition, and regulatory compliance, are carefully reviewed and addressed. By taking these measures, Governor Obaseki is ensuring that the port development is done in a responsible and sustainable manner. This mindset is also shown in how successful the two Edo refineries; College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi; the Ossiomo power plant; and the streetlighting initiatives have been.

On the other divide where lies holds sway resides John Mayaki who has gained a reputation for his tendency to spread lies through his pen-for-hire scheme. No wonder he has faced countless rebuttals from the body of Journalists in Edo State for his false claims. He was recently ordered by Edo NUJ to apologize to Independent Television for his numerous lying sprees. He had also apologized to INEC resident Electoral Commissioner Mike Igini confessing that his articles are "fatally wrong and unable to pass credibility check."  Hence, as he has directed his mendaciousness towards the Benin River Port, no one actually takes him seriously. But for the sake of the records, it is necessary to highlight the importance of the Benin River Port and how Governor Obaseki has made it a viable project being celebrated across the country and international fora. 

Since I am not wont to engage in mudslinging, I'll quickly delve into the brass tacks. For the avoidance of doubt, here are 11 key steps Governor Godwin Obaseki has undertaken to ensure the progress of the Benin River Port development:

1. The project site was selected in such a way to avoid having to displace any community and indeed the host communities have shown tremendous support for the project

2. Governor Obaseki appointed renowned shipping mogul who was also the past President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr Greg Ogbeifun as Chairman of the Benin City River Port Project Technical Committee. The project is to be delivered using a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Maintain and Transfer (DBFOMT) model

3. Governor Obaseki is also completing the dualization of Ekehuan Road, which will be the major access route to the port when coming from Benin City

4. Training of students on maritime and shipping who will man the facility through an award of fully funded scholarships to indigenous students to study maritime courses in universities abroad. These individuals are expected to eventually return to join the workforce at the Port

5. The Project was certified by the Federal Government through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) as eligible for a PPP. Edo State Government and Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) will act as counterparts for the Project

5. The Edo State Government on Monday, August 8, 2022, hosted regulators and other stakeholders to a public hearing on the draft of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Report for the Benin River Port (BRP) Project

6. Public Display of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Report, notification of which was published in The Vanguard and The Nigerian Observer newspapers on 15th June 2022

7. In January, 2023 Edo State government partnered with the Port of Antwerp from Belgium who will be the regulator of the port on completion

8. Project Delivery Team completed the Request for Qualification which sets actions in motion to accelerate the realisation of the project. The Request for Qualification advertisement was approved by the PDT, and officially launched by the Transaction Adviser on 15th and 16th February 2023

9. Bidders for the project visited and inspected the confluence of the Benin River and Osse River, to assess the site conditions and available facilities to support the port which they deemed to be viable. The visits entailed taking a boat to the foreshores of the site at the confluence of Benin River and Osse River on Tuesday 13th June 2023, and a visit by road to the proposed Benin Port dual carriageway access road, through Ekehuan Road on Wednesday 14th June 2023

10. In July, 2023 Mota Engil Africa, which is also handling the Kano-Maradi rail project of the Federal Government, emerged as preferred bidder for the project as project is set to kick-off

11. Mota Engil Africa received 200 heavy duty machinery in the first week of July. The company’s improved stock of machinery will position it to be able to complete projects on schedule 

Features of the Benin River Port:

1. The Benin River Port is a redevelopment of the Gelegele Port, one of Nigeria pre-colonial ports which was used to facilitate trade between the Benin Kingdom and the world. The Port was where the Portuguese first had contact with the Benin Kingdom in 1472 AD

2. The project site is located at the confluence of Osse River and Benin River, making it the closest port to the sea after the ports of Lagos, at only 32km from the coastline. The Port will sit on an area of approximately 20 hectares

3. The Port is the nearest port east of the Lekki Deep Sea Port and the recently commissioned Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Complex and will serve as the most efficient port for evacuation of products and goods from both outfits. As Edo is a transportation hub with routes to every part of Nigeria, the proximity will be a major attraction to shippers. It will also reduce the sailing time of ships into the hinterland, along with the associated security risks

4. It will feature an Agro-Industrial Park (on an area of approximately 717 hectares) and will lie adjacent to the Benin Port. This unique agro-based Port encompasses a complete smart Port Community Complex for industrial processing and export of agricultural produce and other goods. It will also feature independent, clean and renewable energy installations

5. The container and multipurpose terminals of the port would house RoRo facilities to enable importation of vehicles for the thriving automobile industry in Edo, among other commercial activities that would feed from the port operations

6. The Port is to have land and marine infrastructure such as quays, yards, buildings, infrastructure services, marine bollards as well as container terminal operations and maintenance for a capacity of 300,000 TEUs per annum

7. It will have adequate land area for Trailer Park, General Industrial Park, Housing Areas, all in addition to the Port Terminal Complex itself

8. It is also to be equipped with cargo handling, stevedoring, warehousing and delivery capabilities among others

9. In the future a Railway link is being proposed from Agbor to the Port to further facilitate movement of goods from all over the country

Governor Obaseki's dedication to proper planning and execution has been evident throughout his 7 years in office. He has shown tremendous ability to bring down restrictive and retrogressive obstacles to achieve success. He has also shown capacity in bringing stakeholders together, including investors, local communities, and government agencies, to collaborate on critical projects for the good of Edo people. This collaborative approach not only ensures that all perspectives are considered but also helps to build trust and this has been evident in the development of the Benin River Port.

From the successes already recorded in the port development, it is obvious that Mayaki's efforts in trying to regain relevance by resorting to making unfounded claims is futile. No amount of diatribes will be able to downplay the achievements of the present administration led by Governor Obaseki.

Yes, Governor Obaseki has faced numerous obstacles in developing the Port. Nevertheless, he remains dogged in the pursuit for the actualization of the project because he recognizes the importance of connecting Edo State to the seas for its success and surely he will be remembered by all Edo people as the pioneer of the Benin River Port rebirth.

Ikponmwosa Osamede (Ik Osamede) writes from Benin City

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