Managing Director of Lekki Port and representative of China Harbour Engineering Company, the major investor of the project, Mr. Du Ruogang, has assured Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that commercial operations at the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos Free Zone (LFZ) will begin in 2023.
According to Ruogang, the port, which is being constructed by China Habour Engineering firm, is occupying 90 hectares in the entire 830 hectares of land carved out for the Lagos Free Zone, created in 2012 to enhance the economic position of Lagos as manufacturing and logistics hub in West Africa.
The first phase of the project, which is being financed with a $629 million facility from China Development Bank (CDB), is at 48 per cent completion.
After going through the project master plan, Sanwo-Olu, who embarked on a two-day working tour of the three free trade zones established in Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos said his administration remained committed to delivering the project, adding that the deep seaport and other investments in the corridor could increase the state's GDP in multiple folds.
He said: "Given the report I got and what I have seen here, I can say that the Lagos Free Zone has made tremendous improvement. We have seen the level of partnership Tolaram Group is bringing in terms of international investment and local brands on this corridor.
"I commend all stakeholders that are with us on this journey we have found ourselves. With the level of work we have seen, I'm truly excited. It is more gratifying that we are taking up this assignment with all energies required and we all can see what we can achieve when we work together.
"Since we signed a loan agreement less than 18 months ago, we have demonstrated strong capability in bringing the project to reality. This is the first quarter of 2021 and we have seen the project is about 48 per cent completed. The investors have given us the commitment on the first quarter of 2023 completion date. We will fulfill all our parts to make sure this date becomes reality."
Sanwo-Olu stated that he had been part of the conversation for the development of the free zones as Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in 2006, adding that his administration has recorded progress in bringing the project to reality.
The governor said the priority accorded to the construction of complementary infrastructure projects along the corridor was a demonstration of his government's fulfilment of its pledge to Lagos residents.
He promised the state would work with the timeline to ensure all projects mapped out in the zones are delivered.
Sanwo-Olu said the size of the deep seaport would accommodate 18,000 TEU capacity vessels, which are four times bigger than the ones berthing at Apapa seaports, thereby scaling down the cost of container transportation from any part of the world.
He said: "The interesting part is that our youths and young women will be the beneficiaries of this project. The project managers have engaged a large number of our citizens in the construction parts of the work; all personnel are not expatriates. All the technical work and technology deployed have local components to them.
"For us as a government, this is the strongest point we have made with the project. I am fully convinced that the delivery of this project will transform the commercial architecture of West Africa and bring about quick turnaround time in the maritime sector."
When it is completed, the deep seaport is expected to generate more than 170,000 direct and indirect job opportunities and serve as an alternative in an effort to decongest the federal government-owned seaports in Apapa.
Chief Executive Officer of Lagos Free Zone, Mr. Dinesh Rathi, said Tolaram Group, a Singaporean company, initiated a $2 billion investment in the Lagos Free Zone, out of which the investor committed $950 million to developing manufacturing hub in the zone.
When the deep seaport is completed, Rathi said the maritime project would generate over 170,000 direct and indirect job opportunities for Lagos residents.
Chairman of Lagos Free Zone Development Company, Mr. Biodun Dabiri, hailed the state government for its commitment to changing the face of commerce in Africa, stressing that all statutory permits, licences and endorsement for the Lekki port project are already secured.
"There is a strong guarantee that the port will be delivered before time, going by the inflow of capital investment and technical services," Dabiri said.
The governor and his entourage also visited Africa's second-largest manufacturing plant of Kellogg Tolaram, manufacturer of cornflakes, which is built in Lagos Free Zone.
The governor toured the processing unit of the firm and inspected the production chain.