The recent two-day working visit of Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu to the Lagos’ newest and biggest industrial hub, otherwise known as Lagos Free Trade Zones in Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos, has, undoubtedly, rekindled investors’ hope and assured the host communities of mutually beneficial global investments in their domains. MURITALA AYINLA reports that the visit also signifies Lagos’ readiness for world-class investments
For over a decade, when it became glaring that attention had been shifted to the Lekki-Epe axis in Lagos East Senatorial District, very few people knew what was in the offing. Not everyone knew that the axis could ever be described as the next future of Lagos and possibly the heart of Lagos commercial centre.
Many had thought that the sudden and emerging interest in the corridor was due to the rapidly sprawling development of the property sector occasioned by the growing sea of super-rich estates which dotted the Lekki-Epe Expressway and its suburbs, others felt the description of the area as the future of Lagos was a mere overstatement and conjecture which would soon be out of time.
But today, it is becoming crystal clear that Lekki axis holds the future of Lagos and the possibility of quadrupling Lagos Gross Domestic Products lies in the development and indeed success of huge investments springing up in the area.
With the development of multi-billion dollar investments in the corridor, it is certain Ibeju-Lekki will transform commercial architecture of West Africa and bring about quick turnaround time in maritime and other sectors.
For the axis that hosting to the Dangote’s multi billion and 650,000-barrel per day (bpd) Integrated Refinery and Petrochemical Project, multi-million dollar Lagos Sea Port and the Lekki Free Trade Zone, one can only imagine what the future of the place will be in terms of economic impact of the investments.
But to boost the investors’ confidence on the support of the state government and that of the host communities, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his cabinet members on Friday paid a two-day working visit to the axis with a view to inspecting the level of progress made so far and assure them of the possible ways the state government could partner with them.
Speaking during his visit to the Lekki Deep Seaport which is occupying 90 hectares in the entire 830 hectares of land carved out for the Lagos Free Zone, Sanwo-Olu said his administration remained committed to delivering project, stressing that the deep seaport and other investments happening in the corridor had the potential to increase the State’s GDP in multiple folds.
New Telegraph gathered that the first phase of the Seaport project, which is being financed by a $629 million facility from China Development Bank (CDB), is at 48 per cent completion.
The Tolaram Group, the front-line investor handling the project, assured that commercial operations of the seaport would begin in the first quarter of 2023.
According to Governor Sanwo-Olu, the size of the deep seaport will allow 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.
On his part, Chief Executive Officer of Lagos Free Zone, Mr. Dinesh Rathi, said Tolaram Group, a Singaporean coy, 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.
Rathi said when the deep seaport is completed, the maritime project is expected to generate more than 170,000 direct and indirect job opportunities for Lagos residents, and would serve as an alternative in an effort to decongest the Federal Government-owned seaports in Apapa.
Chairman of Lagos Free Zone Development Company, Mr. Biodun Dabiri, hailed the State Government for its commitment towards changing the face of commerce in Africa, stressing that all statutory permits, licences and endorsements for the Lekki port project were already secured.
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. At the Dangote Integrated Refinery and Petrochemical Project, Governor Sanwo
Olu saluted the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote for remarkable progress made so far on the multibillion dollar investment on the Africa’s biggest oil refinery and the world’s biggest single-train facility.
The governor, who also visited Dangote Fertiliser Plant and Subsea Gas Pipeline Projects, was received by the President/CE Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote; Group Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects & Portfolio Development, Dangote Industries Limited, Devakumar Edwin, and the Chief Operations Officer, Dangote Oil Refinery Company, Giuseppe Surace.
He said the projects would meet the yearnings of Nigerians and also bring exciting times ahead for the government, adding that the state government will complement the efforts of the Group and other investors on the axis with adequate road network infrastructure. Responding,
Alhaji Dangote commended Governor Sanwo-Olu for making time out to visit the zones, saying that refinery and petrochemical projects will be completed by the end of this year, just as the granulated urea fertiliser plant at Ibeju Lekki corridor will commence production of fertiliser products next week.
Dangote added that the oil refinery facility was expected to generate about 230,000 indirect jobs, saying that production of petroleum products would commence by the first quarter of 2022.
He said: “First of all let me thank His Excellency for taking about five hours to be with us today. The governor has been around the area for the past two days. Really, Mr. Governor, we are very grateful for your support in making this place to be investor friendly and for all the support you have been giving.
Not only for Dangote but for almost everybody and I can assure you that this place will be the hub of industrialisation in the country going forward Harping on what the company is doing for the host community, he said: “We have deployed a lot of local skills.
As we speak right now we have about 36.000 workers here at the site and over 20.000 plus are all Nigerians and some are from this community and we are doing a lot of this fishing because it is a fishing community. For which we are buying fishing boats to give to the community. We are giving scholarships so we are really going to do quite a lot.
“This is our largest investment when you compare the entire group worldwide. So there is no way we can joke with the community. The only benefit for us is to have a win, win situation, when we give them jobs we make sure that it is worth a while to receive us here.
So they have received us well. We will keep supporting them. We will work with the government and do more than their own expectation.”
Dangote said he has plans to construct good roads in the axis in line with tax deductible arrangements based on presidential order number seven, saying the road project would commence in the next two months before they have anything in writing on paper.
Meanwhile, Governor Sanwo-Olu concluded his tour with a meeting with traditional rulers in Ibeju-Lekki where also pledged to intervene on the challenges confronting the host communities, especially in the area of electricity which has been disconnected for the past six years.
The affected towns are Magbon Alade, Alasia, Orimedu, Eleko, Osa Oroko, Ise, Akodo, Solu – all in Ibeju Local Government Area. Sanwo-Olu said: “I was taken aback when I was informed by the Local Government chairman that the communities have not had electricity in the last six years. Asked if the problem was caused by transformer, he said the issue was beyond that. I didn’t believe the story until you (the traditional rulers) are telling me now.
This is so bad. I will find out whether the issue came from Ibeju. “God willing, I will personally take full charge of the situation and ensure we solve the power problem for you. Your only task is to constantly remind the State Government through your Local Government chairman.
This is a problem we cannot neglect; we must solve it with the urgency it demands.”