By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
The Cross River State Government has signed a construction agreement with Chinese state owned company; China Harbour for preliminary works on its Bakassi deep seaport.
The deep seaport is one of the signature projects of the administration of Governor Ben Ayade and despite being delayed, he said that the multi billion Naira project is intended to serve the north central and north eastern parts of Nigeria.
“This is not a Bakassi deep seaport, this is a northern port because all we are trying to do is to cut down travel time,” said Mr. Ayade, Thursday in Calabar at the ceremony to sign the agreement where he lamented that the state has been cheated in “the system called Nigeria.”
“The state has been treated unfairly in the Nigerians project through several ways of marginalisation and unjust treatments,” said Ayade who maintained that the state is now “A weeping child of he nation” after the ceding of the Bakassi peninsula which effected the loss of 76 oil wells and led to her delisting from the 13 percent derivation formula.
He said this informed his administration’s decision to create an alternative revenue source of which; “the Bakassi Deep Seaport is strategic for security and economic reasons.”
“The Bakassi Deep Seaport will create a new narrative in merchandise and International trade in efficient port management system,” Ayade said and expressed hope that the state will become an investment hub following the completion of the power and signature projects.
Also, Ayade who posited that the signing of the agreement signalled the commencement of work as well as compensation for a people who have lost their land, urged both the north central and north eastern parts of of the country to key into the projects and take them as their own because of the short distance it would take to access the port than going to Lagos.
The port when completed is also expected to serve the Republics of Chad and Niger. The state in February had told some federal lawmakers that it will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chad republic to use the port.
Earlier, the Managing Director of China Harbour Engineering Company, Mr Zhang Wenfeng, assured the governor that the company will deliver high quality of work, assuring that they won’t disappoint the state and the country.
Mr. Ayade had said the project will be delivered in 18 months but regulatory issues and other concerns have stalled the commencement of the project.
This made Mr. Ayade accuse federal authorities of playing politics with the future of Cross River State and even threatened to revoke the certificate of occupancy of the National Park over the delay in approving the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Superhighway which will serve as an evacuation corridor for the deep seaport.
However, the federal government recently approved the appointment of a transaction adviser for the project.
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