Andrew Okoja, a retired rear-admiral and chairman of Maritime Concession Company Limited has gone to court to claim that the original concept that gave birth to Ibaka Deep Seaport project is his intellectual property
| By Pita Ochai | Dec. 17, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT
IBAKA deep seaport is one of the most ambitious projects of Governor Godswill Akpabio administration in Akwa Ibom State. The multibillion Naira project is designed to help fully harness the oil and gas business in the area, and turn around the economy of the entire south-south geopolitical zone of the country. But three years after it was conceived, the project is yet to crystallise into a reality, thereby causing anxiety among people in the state. The huge project is to be executed in conjunction with the federal government and private partnership.
When Realnews visited the site of the Ibaka project in Mbo local government recently, what was evident was already cleared site without any activity. But Mike Etuk, director of information, Akwa Ibom state ministry of information, was very confident that the target date for the completion of the project would still be met despite the delay. Etuk said that the delay was to enable the government carry out the proper processes needed for its execution.
According to the information director, the Ibaka integrated deep sea port is part of the Ibaka/Ibom industrial layout to be established by the state government. He said that the speed of the project would now be fast – tracked to meet the 2015 date of completion since the presidency has set up an implementation committee for the project. “It is going to be a sea port that is not compared to any in this part of the world. It will be able to accommodate so many ships that the Lagos ports have not been able to accommodate,” Etuk said.
One of the challenges that may also hinder the commencement of the project is perhaps a recent court case initiated by Andrew Okoja, a retired rear-admiral and chairman of Maritime Concession Company Limited. In the suit, Okoja claimed that the original concept that gave birth to the project was his intellectual property. The retired navy officer has also petitioned the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, in a letter dated August 10, 2012, through his lawyers, Falana & Falana’s Chambers, demanding for statutory intervention of the agency on the matter.
The petition, signed by Adedotun Isola-Osobu, cited Section 5(N) and (0) of the Procurement Act 2007, which empowers the Bureau to prevent fraudulent and unfair procurement and where necessary, apply administrative sanctions; review the procurement and the procedure for the award of contract to every entity to which the Act applies. The petition urged the director-general of the BPP to look into the issues raised with a view to preventing an unfair procurement of Okoja’s concept/project. Okoja also claimed that he developed the concept while undergoing a Senior Executive Course at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, in 1993, for the development of a deep seaport in the Eastern Sea borne of Nigeria.
But Etuk dismissed Okoja’s claim as unfounded. He said the retired navy chief has no case against the state or the federal government. “All the project designs were done by the best in the field selected by both the state and federal governments. I wonder which concept he is talking of initiating and the violation of the copyright of the intellectual property he is claiming when the federal and Akwa Ibom state governments used the best hands to design the project,” he said.
That notwithstanding, the anxiety over the project is palpable. Speaking to Realnews recently, Edim Ante, president, Supreme Council of Oron Youth, lamented the delay in the commencement of the project. Ante wondered why the government was not serious about the project considering its numerous benefits to the people, and the economy of the country. He advised the government to fast-track the construction of the seaport project because it would address many problems facing the state when it becomes operational. Ante also believed that the project would help to reduce societal problems such as crimes, violence and youth restiveness through the creation of employment opportunities.
Indeed, Akpabio has envisaged that the deep seaport would create more than 100,000 jobs for the country’s largely unemployed population. The land mass which stretches to about 129 kilometers is designed to be a self-sustaining industrial city. The area designated for the project has the longest coastline with a depth of between 15 and 18 meters water channel and 129-kilometer stretch of land. It has some of the best port features that could be found anywhere in the world.
The perennial dredging problem common with most sea ports would be unknown to Ibaka sea port because its water has a natural depth to sustain big vessels. The port is also designed to serve countries in the Gulf of Guinea. Apart from the port, the area is designated as an industrial area with independent power plants, a refinery and other related industries.
Perhaps in order to fast track the project, the federal government on September 18, this year, inaugurated the Project Development and Steering Committee of the port. Idris Umar, minister of transport, while inaugurating the committee, assured that the federal government was committed to the commencement and successful completion of the project. According to him, the port project is to be developed under Public Private Partnership, PPP. It would also accommodate cargoes generated through international maritime trade.
Umar said the location of the port was an integral part of Ibom Industrial City, which offers investors unparalleled opportunities for maritime as well as oil and gas related productions. The site, he said, would in addition, accommodate dry docking facilities for super tanker vessels and offer low cost access to off shore oil/gas fields.
The project was specifically designed to transform the eastern region into a maritime, energy, industrial, logistic and commercial hub of international repute. Akpabio has given an assurance of the commitment of his administration to provide the necessary infrastructure for the smooth take-off of the project. Last October, he handed over the certificate of occupancy, C of O, for the 5,129 hectares of land and the master plan of the project to Omar Suleiman, the then managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, during which he expressed satisfaction that the inherent potential in Ibaka as a deep seaport would now be realised.