The Akwa Ibom State government has denied political consideration in the location of the Ibom Deep Seaport and Ibom Industrial City. The state government said the choice of name and location of the projects was informed by accessibility and viability.
There has been an agitation by the community where the seaport was originally planned to be located that its name and location should not be changed.
At a community engagement meeting recently, the Oro nation (where the seaport was originally to be sited in Ibaka) presented a petition to the secretary to the state government, Emmanuel Ekuwem demanding that the seaport should not be moved from Ibaka in Mbo local area of the state.
But Akan Okon, commissioner for Economic Development said different locations were assessed by experts before the present location which transverses both Mbo and Ibeno local government areas, was selected.
Okon’s explanation followed a series of allegations by Oro nation that the ‘original’ site of the seaport at “Ibaka Bay” was moved to another location due to sentiments against the people of Oron by other groups in the state.
But the commissioner said that the explanation on the choice of the approved location has become necessary to educate and disabuse the minds of agitators and ensure a peaceful environment for the development of the seaport by the core investors. He maintained that government would not afford to be sentimental on a project of such magnitude and economic importance to the people of the state and Nigerians.
“We have been engaging and will still continue to engage the people so that they will understand that there is no sentiment attached to a project of that magnitude. The site was eventually chosen after studies and researches based on viability and accessibility.
“The studies were done by experts based on outlined business case done during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and this was before Udom Emmanuel became the governor and so there can’t be any sentiments on this,” he insisted.
Okon explained that five locations along the Oron/Mbo/Ibeno coastline were considered and at the end of studies by the experts the ‘seaside’ location was selected based on various factors including nearness to deep sea trade route, minimal environmental impact, ample space for variation and location within the industrial city.
Other factors in favour of the location according to the commissioner include minimal soil improvement, low maintenance cost, minimal social impact, low research and technical solutions, limited population and nautical accessibility.
Okon added that while the chosen location would be about 20 nautical miles from the deep sea trade route, the other locations could take up to 75 nautical miles to access the trade route.
He explained that while the seaport covers about 2,500 hectares of land, much of the industrial city covering over 14,000 hectares of land and the headquarters of the port would be located around the Mbo axis of the complex.
“Just like you have in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority is in Lagos Island while the port itself is in Apapa. So the main structure of the port is in the seaside area while the headquarters is in the Mbo axis,” the commissioner said.
On the current state of development of the facility, Okon said that the committee was awaiting the approvals of the studies that would be used for the bidding of the various aspects of the Deep Seaport and Industrial City while the project has progressed technically as projected.
While appealing for understanding and cooperation from the hosts of the project, the commissioner reminded them of the need to support the core investors and urged the people of the state to position themselves academically and professionally to benefit maximally from the project.
“It’s not about struggling for location but positioning our people practically by training and upgrading ourselves. Just like the Lagos Port, the impact of this port will be felt in the 31 local government areas of the state.
“Today we have many developments in Lagos, Agbara, and other parts of Ogun just because of the Lagos Port. In a country where about 80 percent of materials for manufacturing are imported, you can imagine the impact of such a facility in Akwa Ibom. It will create employment, generate revenue and create another industrial hub.” Okon stated.
He added that the choice of the name of the seaport was keeping with the recent standard adopted by the state government on key projects “like Ibom Air and Ibom Power.”