The Lekki deep seaport billed to commence operation later this year is a major landmark infrastructural development that has the potential to massively impact commercial activities in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The project is coming at a time traffic gridlock in and around the Apapa port is at an all-time high and is expected to help reduce the burden.
Apapa port, which currently takes delivery of about 70% of the entire nation’s sea cargo, has continued to face serious traffic challenges with pressure from tankers and containers constantly plying the route, making life a living hell for residents in the area.
However, the traffic nightmare may not be over yet, as Lagosians living around the Lekki-Epe axis may be in for a harrowing experience once the Lekki deep seaport becomes operational. If necessary precautions are not taken, it may just be a situation of rechanneling the gridlock in Apapa to the Lekki-Epe area.
Vital stats about the project
The Lekki deep seaport is being developed by Tolaram and China Harbour Engineering Company on a 45-year build-operate-transfer agreement with the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as shareholders in the project company.
It is situated in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, located in the southeastern corner of Lagos State, facing the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Lekki Lagoon to the north.
It shares proximity with other projects such as the Aliko Dangote-owned oil refinery – the largest oil refinery in Africa – a fertiliser plant, petrochemical plant and a sub-sea gas pipeline project.
Upon completion, the Lekki deep seaport will feature three operational sub-concessions for the container terminal, liquid terminal, and dry bulk terminal. The container terminal is expected to have a 1,200-meter long quay, three container berths, and a storage yard with more than 15,000 ground slots.
Loopholes in the project
Despite its potential to bolster Lagos and Nigeria’s economy, it is ironic that one of the problems it is meant to solve (traffic decongestion) is the same one it might also be plagued by.
It is instructive to note here that while Apapa has multiple access roads leading in and out of it, Lekki does not have such a luxury, and as such, one can only imagine how this will pan out when the project is completed.
Although both the Lekki deep seaport and the Dangote refinery are expected to commence operations later this year and should naturally elicit delight, the issue of accessibility and the road network, specifically in and out of the area, is already a cause of concern for many.
Without a good road network, rail, and sea transportation that would ensure cargoes and containers are properly eased in and out of the new seaport, that corridor would be a disaster for road users.
About 7,000 trucks are projected to ply the Lekki-Epe corridor daily as operations commence at the Lekki deep seaport, the Dangote refinery and other businesses. It is important to note that Dangote Refinery plans to transport 30% of its products via road.
Residents of the Lekki-Epe area say commute times are already getting longer with ongoing construction works on these projects.
Currently, the section of the road from Sangotedo to Ibeju Lekki, which has been built since 1980, is almost impassable.
The attempted reconstruction and enlargement of the Lekki-Epe Expressway, which as at the time it was built, was not intended for the massive traffic it is already seeing.
The 49.4 kilometres road and another 20 km coastal road expected to serve as the gateway to the Free Trade Zone have since stalled. Sections 1 and 2 (0-15 kilometres) were constructed, but sections 3, and 4, which are about 15-49 kilometres, and the coastal road have since been abandoned.
Rail line to the rescue?
The Lagos Integrated Rail Transport System, developed in 2006, ought to be a good support infrastructure.
The rail system has seven lines, which includes the 26 kilometres Green Line expected to run from Marina to the proposed Lekki Airport. This ought to be alternative transportation that will help ease the road burden, but it is still only a project on paper.
The Blue Line from Okokomaiko to Marina started in 2008 and should have been completed in 2011. But the project is yet to be completed, let alone starting new ones.
This means that the new projects do not even have a commencement date, putting the Greenline in limbo.
And with the election year just around the corner, Lagosians may have to wait even longer before this gets to see the light of day.
Politicking and the resulting succession also greatly influence infrastructural projects since an incoming government may decide to shelve or move in a different direction.
One would have expected adequate and far-reaching plans to be implemented from the inception of the Lekki deep seaport project, considering the attendant impact on vehicular and human traffic.
It is sad to note that successive Nigerian governments, both at the state and even federal level, have always haphazardly approached critical infrastructure projects without proper planning, thereby resulting in such a lack of cohesion at the end of the day.
It is not too late for adequate measures to be put in place. The Lagos state government must urgently take a look at increasing the road network leading in and out of the Free Trade Zone and fast track the construction of the Greenline.