The Akwa Ibom State Government has justified its decision regarding the site of Ibom Deep Seaport and Industrial City, saying the site was selected due to its viability and accessibility and not on sentiments or politics.
The Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr Akan Okon discloses this at a session with journalists in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital yesterday.
A section of Oron people had alleged that the original site of the seaport at Ibaka Bay was moved to another location due to sentiments and politics against the people of Oron by other groups in the state.
At the session, Okon explained that a team of experts assessed different locations before they agreed on the location that covered both Mbo and Ibeno Local Government Areas (LGAs).
Okon said the explanation on the choice of the approved location was necessary in order to educate and disabuse the minds of agitators and ensure a peaceful environment for the development of the seaport by the core investors.
He insisted that the state government would not afford to be sentimental or play politics on a project of such magnitude and economic importance to the people of the state and Nigerians.
He said: “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 research based on viability and accessibility.
“The studies were done by experts based on outline business cases 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 stated.
The commissioner further explained that five locations along the Oron/Mbo/Ibeno coastline were considered and at the end of studies by 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 choice location, according to Okon, include minimal soil improvement, low maintenance cost, minimal social impact, low research and technical solutions, limited population and nautical accessibility.
He said 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 noted that while the seaport covered 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 stressed.
On the current state of development of the facility, Okon said the committee was awaiting the approvals of the studies that would be used for the bidding of the various aspects of the Seaport and Industrial City while the project has progressed technically as projected.
While appealing for understanding and cooperation from the hosts of the project, Okon urged the people “to position themselves academically and professionally in order to benefit maximally from the project.
“It is 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 Governments 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% 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.