In this interview, the Vice President of China Harbour Engineering Company, Wu Di, shares his thoughts on the progress of the Lekki Deep Sea Water Port and prospects it would bring to both Nigeria and China. Wu also highlights how this project will strengthen relations between China and Nigeria. BUKOLA OGUNSINA brings the excerpts.
Can you tell us a bit about China Harbour’s Deep Sea Port Project in Lagos State, Lekki to be exact?
Lekki is close to Lagos city and they have enough vast lands for development. This port can bring a lot of opportunities for the economy. For example if the big ships come, the containers for businesses, employment will increase. There will be a lot of businesses surrounding the port. Not only this, the port will become developed in terms of power, water, roads and the city as a whole.
For the port to develop, some other areas such as businesses should work together, so that this investment can be useful. In my opinion, Lekki is actually not a port; we call it a city, Lekki town, because of the presence of the Port. And for this, a lot of businesses come in. There are a lot of opportunities for the government to develop the area and to create a lot of jobs for the locals as well as oversee businesses that will spring up around the area.
Another vital point is investment. People will come. We know that Nigeria’s GDP is number one in Africa, the population is number one. Even in Lagos, that one state is about 20 million in terms of population. This is huge, this is a big market. So, I think with all these put to consideration, there’s a lot of benefit for the locals.
In terms of the project’s benefits for China Harbour, we create a lot of opportunities from this development. We do not only focus on the port, this means that we already changed our role from being just the contractor to investor and operator together and maybe move to another place. But for China Harbour, we take this further by staying long term with the locals. We are not the normal contractors. We will work with the local people to manage the Port together, to run the business to share the benefit from the economic development.
From the project, we create a lot of opportunities together and work for the local people. Every day we work together to strengthen the relationship and know each other. We have our Chinese customer culture and Nigeria have the people. So I think this is the requirement of our leader, the President, to build friendship, create a win – win cooperation and a society for a community with a shared future. This project meets the requirement. From the government’s side we have a Port, from the company’s side it’s a very interesting project and from the peoples side the local government, local businesses spring up. And again our partners are very happy with this. No one is left out. Opportunities abound for the local people as they have a chance in this project, for the running, the operation of the containers, the businesses.
There’s a lot of report on the intensity of the progress of the work on the Lekki Deep Sea Port project. What is the deadline for the project?
Just one week ago the governor of Lagos, Mr Sanwo-Olu came to China. Our Chairman already showed the schedule to his team. We already announced during the signing ceremony of which our Chairman participated, the loan agreement in Lagos last month. We already announced we would deliver this project to the locals within 30 months. So the deadline is there, the Chairman of China Harbour announced this and we are very serious about it. Time for us is very important.
The work has already started and you can notice the breakwater has already commenced with 700 metres already finished. Once you go to Lagos you will know this. This is financed by the company. So the deadline is very important to us, we cannot wait.
Sometimes in big projects such as this, there are usually challenges. What are your challenges?
Some of the challenges we face are based on efficiency. But we feel that the government is very supportive towards us and also concerned because they realise this project can bring a lot of benefits for the country and even for the locals. They realise that and they fully support us. But I think because we still cannot start our work very widely in the area, we need more… maybe in the future. So far we are still in talks with the government which has been very supportive.
With projects such as the Deep Sea Port, you are expanding Lagos State through this and you need facilities like good road networks to make your work easier. Are you satisfied with the road networks in place?
So far the government has been very cooperative. But for this project if I understand what you mean, they are very concerned. Lagos is an example; they have a Port but why change for Lekki? The reason is the city is already occupied by the Port development. They don’t have the chance for the deep sea port. The city is already very crowded around the port, they don’t have the space. So for Lekki we will not like to see these things happen again, we need the government to pay attention to the city’s development surrounding Lekki. They have to make a good master plan for the development of the city. This is what we are very concerned about. Because Lekki starts from the port, the port is the core business for Lekki. The core of the development for the Lekki area, so every developer should be concerned about this. Without the port, there is not much there in the city. So Lagos gives us a very good lesson to learn from. We just have to remind the government to realise and not to make the old things happen again; otherwise we will have Lekki Port after ten to twenty years and then change to another port. This is not good. We would like the government to pay attention to this. We cannot copy the bad things repeatedly.
Apart from Lekki Deep Sea Port, you have also been involved in other activities, like the Abuja-Keffi road, Keffi-Markurdi road, working and opening up the spaces there. Nigeria has just about 15 per cent counterpart funding. So far in your collaboration, what would you say is the most important thing to you in the way Nigeria contributes its counterpart funding?
You mean the cooperation between us?
Yes, especially talking about the figures, the government’s quota as regards the counterpart funding. How much has the Nigerian government contributed so far?
We always think that the Nigerian government will follow the obligations; this is also because the Nigerian government has enough income and enough budget. We never worry about this. I think also besides the Port, we are interested in the Abuja to Lagos Superhighway. This project can bring a lot of opportunities for the locals. For the highway according to our experience this can touch not just lives but nearly every part of society. I think this can make things very easy and support the economy. This is our opinion and we would like to cooperate with the government to make this superhighway from Lagos to Abuja happen. So far China Harbour is the leading company for this. China Harbour is the subsidiary company for China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). For the transport infrastructure business area, we are leading in areas such as roads, bridges, harbour, ports and also the airports. The air, land and sea, in the transport infrastructure area, this is to our advantage. We used to belong to the Ministry of transport of China; we are a state owned company.
China has the technical ability to build the project and Nigeria should also be able to learn from you the skill that you are using to build for a win-win situation. Do you factor this aspect into the projects you are building in the country?
This is very normal for China Harbour. In every African country, we pay attention to this. For this we do not only build, we cooperate with the locals, not only for the lower level labour but also for the technical labour, because this is for the marketing choice also. So, in terms of capacity building, we must and we would like to do things such as these.
What is the capacity of the Deep Sea Port?
The water depth is 16.5 meters. It can accommodate 18,000 TEU container ship, with two container terminals. Its annual handling capacity is 1.2 million TEUs. In the future, once we finish this we can continue. It depends on the economic development and the situation. So it will gradually build up. For the local people we can create a lot of jobs around 3000 direct jobs from the Port. And in the future the indirect jobs will be more than 170,000. It will create a lot of opportunities for development. Sometimes I tell myself, we are not the investor, we are not the contractor, also not the operator. We are the regional economic development participant.