Why we can’t link Lekki Deep Sea Port with a rail line now – Amaechi

Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was at the Lekki Deep Sea Port under construction, recently to ascertain the progress of work, he spoke to SULEIMAN IDRIS on the sideline of the tour.

Your view on what you have seen so far?

I am not a technical person, for me as a lay man, what I see is paramount and what I want to see is a sea port, have they improve from the day we came? of course they have. The first day we came here, there was nothing on ground, it was just a small house up there, we looked at it and move away, the second time we came the Vice President came to lay the foundation stone, another second house there built, but today I can see the key walls are taking shape, the breakwater, I am sure they must have got to the end.

Now I want a situation where by the time we come back, I don’t know when now, we would start seeing them putting some levels of finishing touches to the project. Let assume we come by December, that is in six months time, we would like to see enough progress that we warrant us to declare that yes, we have done our best.

Let look at this project in terms of its benefits to the different facet of the maritime economy?

Firstly, the fact that we are able to move ships of 16m to berth here is commendable. Currently what they do is ship to ship transfer from deep in the water. We want to stop that by ensuring that vessels can come directly to the port and discharge goods, we want to see that cost of goods are reduced, because honestly apart from crime that makes our insurance premium to go high, the fact is that we lack infrastructure. I like to quote my colleague Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola who said ‘at 17 years, your father bought you a suit to wear and you are still wearing the same suit at age 30’.

So we have those two ports built in Apapa maybe in the 50s, 60s and 70s, we need to move forward and that is what we are doing here, this is what is call progress. We believe that by the time we complete Bonny port, Ibom, Warri and others, we can beat our chest and say we have more standard sea ports.

The Chairman of the Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited made an appeal for the construction of a railway network to this facility, what do you intend to do?

Whether we like it or not, you can’t move goods out of the sea ports without a rail system. It is easier, better and it will reduce what we now refer to as the Apapa gridlock, it is a new name Nigerians are now use to. If we don’t improve on the transportation system to make efficient, we will have the same thing we are currently witnessing at Apapa sea ports. Whosoever may be the next minister, remember I told the management earlier today that extending the rail system here might not be a priority now, but that does not mean that it is not important.

Is it possible during your tenure considering the time frame of this administration?

Let us first get the sea port, and then the next thing will be how to encourage the construction of the rail network. This is Epe axis, I am sure that the coastal rail will pass through that axis, if the coastal rail has not gotten to Lagos by the time we are leaving, we can divert it. Rather than it going to Apapa, it can actually come this way but we must get a Presidential approval for that because I have told the Permanent Secretary that the reason why you have the Lagos-Calabar is because we want it to come from the sea port but there are sea ports in the whole of the south south zone of the country. When you remove Apapa and Tin Can ports the rest four are in the southern berth so the rail line may actually not need to come to Lagos except if there is the need for it to come to Lagos and drive it into Lekki port and then link it up at Ijebu-Ode where we expect the Lagos-Kano line to cross whereby anybody going either way can continue their journey. If you are going to the south or the north you join your preferred train.

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