The federal government has been called upon to move in quickly and rescue the fast-dilapidating infrastructure at the N11trillion oil and gas port at Onne, near Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
Making the call in Port Harcourt, the executive director of Orlean Invest, one of the major oil companies in the region, Mr Damir Miskovic, said the once fastest growing oil and gas hub in Africa is now wobbling under the huge weight of decaying social amenities and neglect from the authorities.
Onne Port is one of the three ports concessioned to Orlean Invest by the federal government. Others are Calabar, Warri and Lagos ports.
"For one, Onne Port, in spite of its economic significance, does not enjoy power supply from the national grid," Miskovic told newsmen in Port Harcourt. "Its 20 megawatt power requirement is provided by generators at huge costs to the companies. Secondly, the access roads from Port Harcourt are virtually non-motorable in some areas."
He explained that today a journey of less than 50 kilometers takes more than two hours, thus compromising safety, wasting invaluable man-hours and limiting the urge of investors and customers alike to reach the professional services and economic opportunities at Onne.
"A modern oil and gas port that serves the entire Gulf of Guinea with an investment of well over N11trillion, made by over 170 leading companies, surely deserves better access roads, power and other critical infrastructure," he said.
Onne Port was conceived as a terminal for light vessels to take some of the traffic pressure off the Lagos port. With the stimulus of the concessioning agreement between the federal government and some visionary investors, including Orlean Invest, the parent company of Intels, the port blossomed into a huge economic powerhouse, providing service for oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Guinea.
Miskovic notes that Onne Port is home to over 170 registered companies, and many auxiliary service providing organisations, creating such an enviable bond between oil companies and service providers that has culminated in the creation of accelerated discharge and dispatch for vessels, a one-stop shop servicing and maintenance.
He argued further that the port provides a convenient and cost-effective platform for the operations of government port agencies and an exemplary business hub whose current investments are in excess of $6 billion.
"Over the years, the Onne Port companies have created no less than 28,000 jobs, with Orlean Invest alone currently providing over 4,000," he said.
Miskovic said the Onne Port should naturally be in the heart of the Nigerian authorities, considering what it represents to the world. With its two terminals, Onne Port is the heart of the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.
He pointed out that the free zone has become "the largest in the world, measured by physical area, number of client or volume of investments".
In 2006, Invest Orlean was awarded the concession for Onne, Warri and Calabar ports for 25+25 years.
"It is worthy to note that as a result of the confidence the Nigerian government has, in the company through its satisfactory operations coupled with the government's aim of industrialising the county, set up needed infrastructure; the president (Jonathan) gave support for the development of the free zones, including Lagos, operated by the company."
Orlean Invest's concerns in the four free zones, Miskovic stressed, span a total of 8,000 meters of jetty, 3,700,000sq meters of industrial area, 250, 000sq meters of Quay Apron, 200,000sq meters of warehouses and 79sq meters of offices.