Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, has underscored the essence to national security of the Bakassi seaport in the State, as well as the Super Highway, a road he plans to seamlessly connect the State to other parts of the country.
ExpressDay learnt that this was the crux of his closed-door parley with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa on Monday, when he went to present “a clear idea of how far we have gone with our signature projects”.
Speaking with State House correspondents afterwards, Ayade said the President had been supportive of the State’s efforts to diversify from dependence on oil revenue, especially on the ‘Nigeria Beyond Oil’ project.
The Governor pointed out that the seaports and superhighway would provide a solution to decongest Lagos seaport, serve as alternative access to agriculture and other industrial products from the North, and help check insecurity in the northern parts of the country.
His words: “The super highway came in as a frontal issues for discussion. The super highway and the deep seaport go together as a twin project. Basically speaking, in the nation, we have only one maritime corridor in this country and that is Lagos state of all the viable ports.
“But with the congestion of Lagos Port, there is a gradually movement as a strategic government policy to see how some of the eastern ports can begin to have life and have cargo coming in.
“It is good to announce also that the existing federal government port, NPA Calabar is beginning to receive light vessels with a tonnage of less than 6,000 tons coming into Calabar. But that is completely different, the message and the trust is that the Bakassi deep seaport, with an evacuation corridor to northern Nigeria, is the strategic way forward for this country.
“The major deposits outside of hydrocarbon in this country is in northern Nigeria. The solid minerals deposits from tantalite to tantalum to bauxite to coal and all those rare metals are found in the northern part of Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to evacuate all of that through the roads to a near 2,000 kilometers to ship out of Lagos. Obviously, we have a massive wealth hidden under the ground.
“And the only way the northern part of Nigeria can have the full benefits of their God given wealth in terms of solid minerals deposits, is only when we have the access and the keys to the Atlantic as a major source of export.
“Today, vessels come into Nigeria and discharge goods and they have nothing to take back because, we have an import dependent country, we have very little to export other than crude oil.
“So against that background, an alternative port like the Bakassi deep seaport with the six-lane evacuation corridor, stretching from Bakassi to northern Nigeria terminating at Benue State becomes the most imperative, urgent thing that as a government we must see through.
“That project is not a Cross River project, it is a northern Nigeria project. Because, in Bauchi state alone the amount of tantalum you can pick abruptly, which means of you go to a particular belt, you can pick tantalite off the ground.
“But today, we have 20 container loads of tantalite in Bauchi but it’s evacuation requires a port. Niger, Chad and all of this other countries in the northern parts of Nigeria are completely landlocked. They have written to Cross River State on the Bakassi deep seaport, whose phase three is going to be 20 meters drive, it is urgent, it is critical and they want to take bonded warehouse in the Bakassi deep seaport.
“So, Mr. president understands indeed that coming into life, the Bakassi deep seaport with an evacuation corridor to north is like taking the Atlantic Ocean to northern Nigeria. It is a strategic way of putting an end to the insurgency, militancy, kidnappings and the Boko Haram issues.”