By Our Reporter
The former Special Assistant to the Cross River State Governor; Senator Ben Ayade on Local Content, Mr. Imoh Anthony has called on the Governor to expedite action on the State Government sponsored Bakassi Deep Seaport which he acknowledged remains the last resort for the good people of Cross River Riverians.
In a chat with CrossRiverWatch, he stated this on the backdrop of “the decision taken by the Nigerian Ports Authority in introducing a flat ten percent (10%) discount for vessels willing to call at Eastern Ports comprising of Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne and Warri Port Complexes respectively without considering the peculiarities that have bedeviled these Ports which brought about the need for such an incentive in the first place.”
Disclosing his displeasure on the policies he alleges makes it “practically impossible to have Calabar River with an average draft of 5.4 meters listed as a functional Port as it stands today.”
He stated that such a condition granted by the Nigerian Ports Authority where by the discount only applies to dues payable by container vessels with at least 250 TEUs, general cargo vessels with at least 16,000 MT, combo vessels with at least 16,000 MT and RORO vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles makes it impossible to have any vessel calling Calabar access the incentive.
He recalled that there was a thirty percent (30%) rebate for some Eastern Ports before the concessioning of the Ports by the Federal Government of which Calabar was a beneficiary.
“Almost a decade after this concession exercise, all the other Ports except Calabar Port have been dredged and channel management companies have been constituted to manage their respective channels. To therefore reintroduce the incentive that was designed to be a palliative for the sufferings of Ports like Calabar and then extending same to other Ports that are no longer suffering the problems associated with the shallow channel gives an average Cross Riverian the feeling the case of Calabar Port is beyond normal thinking.” Imoh held.
He therefore called on the management of Nigerian Ports Authority to kindly review the policy which he believes has dangerous implications on the local economy of the State.
“As of today, Calabar is the closest evacuation corridor for cocoa exporters in Cross River State and part of the Cameroons.
“About 50% of the cocoa export from Cameroon is done through the State while over 45% of Cocoa exported out of Nigeria comes from the State. With such huge potentials, the State should not be begging for attention and should be considered when such decisions are to be taken.
“Effectively managed seaports are large employers of labour as they provide employment to large number of persons practicing various trade in the maritime sector. The sea ports have boosted socio-economic development worldwide and as such His Excellency, Senator Ben Ayade is right in his insistence of making Cross River State a maritime hub in Africa.
“While the action taken by the Port Authority may assist in decongesting overburdened Ports in the country, it is a disincentive that has practically no benefit for Cross River State and remains a sorry reminder to Cross River indigenes on how marginalized we have become.” He maintained.
He rounded up his comments with a call to Senator Ben Ayade to continue championing his drive to ensure the Bakassi Deep Sea port becomes a reality in the face of recent happenings in the maritime sector.