The Bakassi Deep Sea Port is one of two signature projects of the Sen. Prof. Ben. Ayade’s administration, the other being the 260 km Bakassi Katsina-ala super highway which will serve as the evacuation corridor for the sea port. The Bakkassi Deep Sea Port is planned to be located at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Bakassi is a peninsula on the Atlantic Gulf of Guinea. It lies between the Cross River estuary, near the city of Calabar in the west, and the Rio del Ray estuary on the east.
Bakassi Peninsula was ceded to Cameroun through and International Court of Justice ruling in 2002 which resulted in the relocation of Cross Riverians from their ancestral lands to other settlements within Cross River State.
Since the ceding of the peninsula, the people of Bakassi have been neglected with very little done to alleviate their suffering and promote their economic wellbeing. Due to the ceding of their land, the people lost their homes, farmlands, fishing settlements and other sources of livelihood.
It is thus with great joy that we anticipate the proposed development of a deep sea port in Bakassi by the Sen. Ben Ayade administration which has the potential to turn around the economic circumstances of, bring hope and prosperity to, the people of Bakassi.
The significance of a deep sea port to economic development cannot be over emphasized. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs for the citizens, generate revenue for the state and serve as a channel of international trade between Nigeria and the rest of the world.
The Bakassi Deep Sea Port is a huge project and is proposed as a public private partnership with the Private sector driving the project. Due to its capacity to improve the living condition of the people of Bakassi in particular and Cross River State in general, we attach great significance to the Bakassi Deep Sea Port Project.
The challenges faced by the people of Bakassi require the action of all stakeholders including the international community. It is my informed opinion thus that there is a need for a buy in by the international community in this laudable project.
A PROJECT BORN OF DEEP VISION
It is clear that the proposed Bakassi Deep Sea Port is a project born of deep vision by the administration of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade. In his inaugural speech at his swearing in as Governor of Cross River State on May 29th, 2015, Sen. Ben Ayade unveiled his signature projects for the state. In his words, he declared:
“With our backs against the wall, we must dig deeper into the wells of our creativity and hew out a new pathway to greatness.” He added “Let me use this opportunity, to announce our signature projects; we shall undertake the construction of a dual carriage super highway from Calabar through Ikom and Ogoja to the Ranch Resort in Obudu and we shall also build a state sea port.”
With this declaration, the stage was set to begin a project that is sure to change the lives of the good people of Bakassi forever.
BAKASSI; A NEGLECTED PEOPLE
It will be recalled that on 10th October 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered judgment in Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria, which covers about 2000 kilometers extending from Lake Chad to the Sea.
The subject of possession of the Bakassi Peninsula was a long-standing disagreement that entailed many bids by leaders of both Nigeria and Cameroon to lay claim to the oil rich peninsula.
Against the backdrop of rival national interests, the International Court of Justice succeeded via the employment of international laws, theories and policies in declaring the Cameroons as having sole sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula. The verdict of the ICJ was passed on the basis of the Anglo-German colonial accords of 1913 and the successor legal agreements concerning both territories.
Having studied the judgement as entered by the Court, it is apparent that a lot of fundamental facts were not taken into consideration in arriving at their declaration. Most disturbing of these being the difficulties arising from the Orders contained in the judgement, particularly, the Order relating to Nigerian communities in which their ancestral homes were adjudged to be in Cameroonian Territory but which are expected to maintain cultural, trade and religious affiliations with their kith and kin in Nigeria.
While this is not the focus of this treatise, we wish to point out that the decision to relocate the citizens of Bakassi Peninsula from their ancestral lands as occasioned by the ceding of the peninsula has caused them untold suffering and pain. These people have also been neglected with very little done by the international community to alleviate their suffering despite continuous outcry by the people over the years.
It is important to note however that whilst the effect of the Courts decision is to grant sovereignty over Bakassi to Cameroon, it does not affect the right of innocent passage enjoyed under international law by all vessels, including Nigerian vessel, travelling to and from the sea to the west of Bakassi, whether on the Nigerian or the Cameroonian side of the Maroua line.
The decision by the Sen. Benedict Ayade’s administration thus to site the Deep Sea Port in Bakassi became one of the best decisions in recent times that will bring economic development to Bakassi people and help alleviate their suffering. The project will create jobs for the people of Bakassi and also create opportunity for the growth of the value chain of the project in the local government.
THE NEED FOR A DEEP SEA PORT IN CROSS RIVER STATE
By virtue of the location of Cross River State; its southern border being washed by the Atlantic Ocean, its north bordering the North Central States in Nigeria, the state is clearly the most strategic state in Nigeria were a deep sea port will serve the entire Northern states in Nigeria and other land locked countries North of Nigeria like Chad and Niger Republic.
Many will ask, why a new sea port when the state already has a sea port?
The shallow nature of the water channel of the existing port in Calabar has made it impossible for bigger vessels to sail through, thus contributing to the under-utilization of the Calabar Port; reputed to rank among the best in the country. The draft at approach of the Calabar channel is 6.4 meters at high tide and 5.4 meters at low tide. The acceptable draft for small ports is at least nine meters.
Attempts by the Federal Government to dredge the Calabar port has failed over the past twenty years. There is need thus for the state to develop its own sea port and to situate it where there is a natural deep sea port to avoid the dredging challenges faced by the present port. Bakassi provides this strategic location for situating a deep sea port in Cross River State.
Why a deep sea port?
Deep sea ports play an important role in facilitating external trade. There is no gainsaying that no country can survive without external trade. While standard ports have drafts of average of seven to nine meters, the draft of a deep seaport is in the higher range of ten to eighteen meters and above. The global scramble for deep seaports is linked to the increasing embrace by maritime architects and engineers of very large carriers, which are considered “economical vessels”.
It is common knowledge that the existing ports in Nigeria, especially Apapa and Tin Can Ports in the Lagos axis, are overstretched with the attendant inordinate delays in cargo handling and processing. With capacity for 60 million metric tonnes of cargo handling, the ports run at 100 million metric tonnes. This is expected to increase. The construction of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port will thus increase the volume of vessel traffic and cargo coming through Cross River State, decongest Lagos and Onne ports and reduce cost of doing business for Calabar-based businesses, and businesses in the Middle belt and Northern Nigeria.
THE NEED FOR A BUY IN BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
The international community is a phrase used in international relations to refer to a broad group of peoples, institutions and governments of the world. The term is typically used to imply the existence of a common point of view towards broad based issues including human rights, injustice, disasters etc. It encompasses countries of the world and their and agencies considered or acting together as a group.
It cannot be over emphasized that the challenge currently faced by the Bakassi people deserves the attention and action of the international community either collectively or individually. In my opinion, investing in the proposed construction of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port is one way the International Community can contribute to sustainable economic development and well being of the Bakassi People.
In line with this, I call on the International Community, the World Bank, United Nations, The Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), German Corporation for International Cooperation, African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa Import Export (AFREXIM) Bank and others to consider seriously the opportunity of investing grants and long term loans in the Bakassi Deep Sea Port to ensure the success of the project.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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